Advocacy & Issues 06/07/2022 Moving Beyond Hunger At Community Food Centres Canada, we believe that the federal government is integral to eradicating poverty and food insecurity and improving the health and well-being of Canadians living on low incomes. Through our work in over 160 communities across Canada, it is clear that food insecurity is not a food problem; it’s a money problem. To this end, CFCC has called for the federal government in broad terms to: Set targets and improve reporting on food and income security; Invest in income policies; Invest in social programs; and Ensure equitable progress From: Beyond Hunger, 2020 Our analysis below includes what works well in the new budget, what we will keep an eye on, and what we’ll be advocating for in the next year. What we like about Budget 2022 (with some caveats) One of the key recommendations from our Beyond Hunger report was for the federal government to invest in social programs to improve day-to-day affordability for Canadians. Budget 2022 delivers in key areas that will make life more affordable for many. The Government of Canada is laying a strong foundation that will provide a social safety net for generations to come. Tackling Housing Affordability One of the largest expenses for families and individuals is housing. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), affordable housing is when an individual or family spends 30 per cent or less of their income on housing. In today’s housing market — without government interventions — this is no longer a reality. Budget 2022 makes key investments to fund homelessness prevention, fund new co-operative and affordable housing, require deeper housing affordability, accelerate rapid housing solutions, and support expanded homeownership. Preventing homelessness Specific investments to prevent homelessness and address chronic homelessness include: $475 million in 2022-23 to provide a one-time $500 payment to those facing housing affordability challenges through the Canada Housing Benefit $562.2 million to enhance the Reaching Home program that prevents and reduces homelessness $62.2 million to launch a new Veteran Homelessness Program that will provide services and rent supplements to veterans experiencing homelessness Addressing affordable housing Budget 2022 makes key investments, coupled with some program changes, to develop net-new affordable housing. Highlights include: $4 billion to launch a Housing Accelerator Fund aimed at creating 100,000 net-new affordable housing units in five years $1.5 billion to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative to build approximately 6,000 new affordable housing units for those most in need, with 25 per cent being allocated to women-led households $1.5 billion through cash and loans to create 6,000 new co-operative housing units Reforming the Rental Construction Financing Initiative to require at least 40 per cent of the financed units to provide rent equal to or lower than 80 per cent of the average market rent in their local community Combatting financialization of housing In addition to building net-new housing, protecting existing affordable housing is important. Too many Canadians are being squeezed out of affordable housing so that landlords or investors can see larger profits. Many are living in housing that is in disrepair or does not meet their growing needs. Budget 2022 tackles the financialization of housing which is driving up rents, invests in capital repair to preserve housing, and helps families and individuals retrofit their homes to address pressing needs. Housing in Northern and Indigenous communities Northern and Indigenous communities are facing even greater challenges with housing affordability and availability. Advocates have been calling for a specific Indigenous Housing Strategy for years. Budget 2022 commitments include: Co-development of an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy with $300 million allocated over five years $4 billion over seven years to close Indigenous housing gaps $150 million for affordable housing development and associated infrastructure in the North Need for stronger, affordable rent supports The housing investments made in Budget 2022 are significant and have the potential to help thousands of Canadians living on low incomes meet their housing needs in the years to come. However, while the Canada Housing Benefit is working well to help those that are at immediate risk of homelessness or to exit homelessness, with stagnant incomes and rising housing costs, thousands of rental households in Canada are still struggling. Given the housing crisis we are in and the fact that 30 per cent of Canadians are in housing they cannot afford - Budget 2022 could have done much more to provide immediate relief for renters. Committing to equitable health supports We have seen, time and again, families and individuals make tough decisions — often sacrificing their health and well-being to be able to put food on the table or pay rent. There are some promising advances in this budget and we look forward to seeing implementation. Dental care The creation of a Dental Care Program for Low-Income Canadians is a significant step forward in improving the health and well-being of many. Commitments include: $5.3 billion over five years, starting in 2022-23, and $1.7 billion ongoing, to provide dental care for low-income Canadians The program will begin in 2022 and provide care to those under 12 years of age and expand to under 18-year-olds, seniors, and persons living with a disability in 2023, with full implementation by 2025 Families with incomes less than $90,000 would be eligible for a portion of their dental costs being covered Families earning less than $70,000 would be fully covered As this program rolls out, implementation is key. We hope that families or individuals are not expected to pay upfront for dental care since it would result in a significant barrier to the program’s success. Even with the promise of reimbursement, many do not have the means to pay out of pocket. A National Pharmacare Program One in five Canadians has trouble affording their prescriptions, and three million people simply do not take their medications because they can’t afford them. This can have life-threatening consequences and also affect day-to-day quality of life. It can also result in major costs to the healthcare system when something goes wrong. Individuals should not have to ration medication or go without because they do not have adequate income. We are pleased to see Budget 2022 commit to establishing a National Pharmacare Program with a clear timeline of tabling legislation by the end of 2023. Following the legislation, the Canadian Drug Agency will be tasked to develop a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan. This program is an important pillar to ensuring good health for Canadians. Once implemented, in our view, this has the potential to be as transformational in peoples’ lives as was the adoption of Universal Health Care. Given this, we are disappointed that this program is not advancing more quickly. We will be following this program development closely with an aim to ensure that it is barrier-free and easily accessible to those who need it most. Establishing a pilot program to address period poverty When living on a low income many individuals make sacrifices to make ends meet. The unfortunate reality for many women is that they sometimes need to make tough choices to afford menstrual products. We are pleased to see Budget 2022 take steps to address the stigma many girls and women face due to period poverty. A commitment of $25 million over two years to establish a national pilot project to make menstrual products available to those who need them most is a welcome investment. Next steps on a National Childcare Program Budget 2021 allocated $30 billion over five years to implement the National Childcare Program, and as of now, all provinces have signed on. Based on feedback through the agreement negotiations, Budget 2022 allocates an additional $625 million in infrastructure funding to support the development of new child care spaces. By the end of 2022 there will be an expected 50 per cent reduction in child care fees and it is expected that the average cost of child care will be $10 per day by 2025/2026. Based on current childcare costs, the National Childcare Program will save families hundreds of dollars per month. This is a clear win. What needs further action and attention Employment Programs & EI Reform Budget 2022 invests in several programs that aim to proactively address potential job losses due to the changing economy. The budget funds targeted job programs for people underrepresented in the labour market. We are pleased to see programs to improve labour market participation and address underemployment for equity-deserving groups. Highlights include: Creating a union-led table to provide advice on how to transition mid-career individuals in at-risk sectors to new jobs Investing $272.6 million over five years to implement an employment strategy for people with disabilities Investing $115 million over five years to support foreign credential recognition in the healthcare sector This budget also commits to EI reform and will report on the next steps in the coming months. CFCC made a submission during the consultations on EI reform and we will look to what is tabled and continue to advocate for: Qualifying hours to be reduced to 300 hours; Expanding eligibility to ensure all workers, including the self-employed, gig workers and migrant workers can access EI; Ensuring people who are working numerous jobs and lose one can access EI; and Increasing benefit rates to 75 per cent, and 85 per cent for low-wage workers. National School Food Policy Budget 2022 commits to working with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners, and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to explore how more Canadian children can access nutritious food at school. Given thousands of families living on low incomes struggle to put meals on the table, school nutrition programs are an important program to improve children’s health. We urge the government to move quickly to implement this program. What’s missing and what we’ll be advocating for As related above, Budget 2022 made some important steps to provide a strong social safety net for Canadians. However, while Budget 2022 has committed to fund important social programs, unfortunately, it leaves behind those in deepest poverty — single working-age adults and those living with disabilities. We will continue to call on the government to provide income support to these populations that are so clearly being left behind. Here’s how. Ongoing support for single working-age adults Of the 3.7 million Canadians living in poverty in Canada, 32.9 per cent are single adults between the ages of 18 and 64.1 This means that single working-age adults experience poverty at nearly three times the national average. Despite these dire numbers, there has been limited government support for these individuals. At the federal level, the income supports available to working-age singles are not only inadequate but paltry compared to those provided to children and seniors. Instead, this group is left to rely on unacceptably low social assistance rates and an increasingly precarious labour market. CFCC’s 2022 budget submission called for the federal government to expand the Canada Worker Benefit to those working-age adults that are currently unattached to the labour market and to significantly increase the benefit amount. We are disappointed that this group has yet again been forgotten, and we will continue to push for much-needed income support for working-age adults. A commitment to the Canada Disability Benefit In Canada, there are 2.7 million Canadians who live with a severe or very severe disability and are more likely than others to be unemployed. Thirty percent of people with a disability live below the low-income measure. The majority of these Canadians rely on provincial disability programs that do not provide them with sufficient income to meet their basic needs and/or the additional costs associated with their disabilities.2 In CFCC’s federal budget submission we called on the federal government to commit to fund the Canada Disability Benefit in the next year. While the federal government has committed to design, introduce, and implement a Canada Disability Benefit Act and Canada Disability Benefit for low-income working-age persons with disabilities, Budget 2022 was silent on both. Together with our partners, CFCC will continue to push for urgent action to ensure that people with disabilities receive the support they need to live without poverty. Funding for Free Access to Tax Filing While steps have been taken by the Canada Revenue Agency to provide additional support to individuals to file taxes, more needs to be done. CFCC called on the federal government to improve free access to tax filing for people living on a low income. We did not see a commitment in this regard. We will continue to advocate for funding to support community-based organizations to help individuals navigate the tax system and ensure everyone gets the supports they are entitled to. Equitable Progress CFCC is calling on the federal government to ensure that the programs and policies it develops reach those that need them most. Canada’s troubling history of colonialism has had a multi-generational impact on Indigenous communities resulting in many living in deep poverty. Systematic racism and discrimination have also led to a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals living in poverty. Every new policy and budgetary promise must include an equity lens and work in tandem with communities to ensure that new policies do not further systemic racism and continue to harm — rather than serve — Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour communities. This will be central to the advocacy of CFCC and our partners in the coming years. In conclusion All Canadians deserve to live with dignity. We believe that the federal government is key to providing income support and social programs to all Canadians in need, providing a minimum income floor that no one can fall below. This budget has made some important strides, but more needs to be done to ensure all Canadians enjoy the same opportunities and are able to live their lives to the fullest. 1Statistics Canada (2021). Low income statistics by age, sex and economic family type. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1110013501. 2 Morris, S., Fawcett, G., Brisebois, L. and Hughes, J, (2018). A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017. Canadian Survey on Disability Reports. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm.