Canadian Social Research Links

The National Council of Welfare

Last updated February 6, 2017

[ Go to Canadian Social Research Links Home Page ]
Caledon Institute of Social Policy's Welfare Incomes report Rescue Campaign to save the (Sept/Oct 2013)
(This link will take you further down on the page you're now reading)

February 6, 2017

R.I.P. Leonard SHIFRIN
October 2, 1939 - December 14, 2016

Friends are invited to visit the Beechwood National Memorial Centre, 280 Beechwood Ave. (east of Vanier Parkway) Ottawa, Sunday, February 12 after 2 p.m. followed by tributes and words of remembrance at 3 p.m.

By Gilles:
I knew Len Shifrin through his work going back to the late 60s with the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery and by reputation as the person who re-energized a flagging National Council of Welfare around the same time. He was an inspiration to me and to many other people involved in social research, and I decided to copy and paste his biographical notes (below) written by a family member for the information of those who knew him in person or by reputation and who are too far away to receive local obituary notices. I also wish to extend my sympathy to Louise Dulude and Len's other family and friends on his passing. Len was known and respected across Canada, so I decided to include the complete obituary.
Here it is.

"Leonard Shifrin (Len to his friends) was born in Toronto and died at home in Ottawa of a heart attack. His parents, lawyer Albert Shifrin and Rose Shulman, were both active in the Jewish community, from which Leonard drew important lessons about leadership and the responsibility to help less fortunate people. After studying law at the University of Toronto, Leonard worked for two years (1966-1968) in his father's law firm and then moved to Ottawa, where, as assistant to Health and Welfare minister John Munro, he resuscitated an inactive National Council of Welfare to make it an effective anti-poverty tool that produced dozens of respected reports on poverty and related social policy issues. In 1975, in order to spread his anti- poverty message more widely, Leonard resigned as director of the National Council of Welfare and joined the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery. For the next 25 years, he wrote a column that dealt in equal parts with social and economic issues, in which he argued that economic policy should not be designed without taking its social impacts into account. This approach was then unique and 17 major Canadian newspapers carried his column, including the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and Winnipeg Free Press.

Following a major heart attack in 1995, Leonard gradually retired his column and engaged in other activities. One consisted of interpreting the results of opinion surveys carried out in 30 countries by the Angus Reid (later Ipsos Reid) World Monitor in the late 1990s. After the Monitor ceased its operations, Len produced several reports in the early 2000s for the Canada Pension Plan Review Board, which heard appeals from rulings concerning CPP entitlements. One of these reports examined the wide disparities across the country in the rulings of appeals panels. Len proposed a code of national standards that was accepted in full but was discarded when the government changed and the goal of fairness was replaced by one of keeping payouts as low as possible. Leonard is survived by his lifelong companion and wife, Louise Dulude, who wrote the first major Canadian report on Women and Poverty for the National Council of Welfare. Leonard is also survived by his brother Jeffrey and his spouse Connie Zhang, and by nephews and niece Jonathan, David and Rebecca, the children of Jeffrey and his late wife Janis Langer."

Click this link to sign the guest book and offer your condolences.

National Council of Welfare, R.I.P. (1969-2012) <===this link is dead since the end of September 2012.

Since the Government Organization Act of 1969, the National Council of Welfare has served as advisory group to the federal Minister responsible for the welfare of Canadians - in 2012, that's the Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - regarding "any matter relating to social development that the Minister may refer to the Council for its consideration or that the Council considers appropriate."

In its 2012 budget, the Harper Government™ slashed the complete budget of the Council (~$1 million/yr.), thus effectively shutting down all operations of this respected social policy watchdog organization.

[ For more background information about the demise of the Council and its website,
jump further down on the page you're now reading

Where to find National Council of Welfare Reports:

1. From the Internet Archive:
This link takes you to a bilingual splash page with links to the mostly-complete NCW website (incl. most NCW reports in English and in French) as it appeared in April of 2012.
The Internet Archive

2. "Welfare incomes"
This is a collection of links to the complete Welfare Incomes series of reports (from 1989 to 2009 +2011 update), maintained by Library and Archives Canada, except for "Welfare in Canada : The Tangled Safety Net", which was the first report in the series and whose link appears immediately above.


On the passing of a good friend and an inspiration to me and many others:

KERSTETTER, Stephen Arlington
November 8, 1943 - May 27, 2013
Obituary (posted by Steve's family)

Steve was born in Bethlehem, PA, USA and worked as a teacher in India with the American Peace Corps before coming to Canada in 1971. He worked as a journalist in Winnipeg and Ottawa and was the director of the National Council of Welfare before retiring to Vancouver in 2000. Steve was a beloved father, grandfather, brother, uncle and partner. He travelled often, exploring the west coast, as well as visiting his children when they lived in Alaska, Florida, England, France and Spain. He loved music, playing both the guitar and piano, and sang with several groups. He was a wonderful painter and took inspiration from the landscapes of his adopted home, Vancouver. Even after he retired Steve remained a committed campaigner to end poverty, particularly for children. Steve left us far too soon but we are thankful to have known and loved him.

A celebration of Steve's life was held at Brock House in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, May 30th.

Vancouver Sun

May 29, 2013


Steve's Facebook page:


First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition


By Gilles:
I first met Steve since the late 1980s, soon after he joined the National Council of Welfare as researcher here in Ottawa. The work that I was doing in Health & Welfare Canada --- maintaining a compendium of provincial-territorial welfare rules and regulations --- was a useful resource for the Council in supporting its role as advisor to the Minister (of Health & Welfare), so Steve and I had frequent contacts over the years regarding social assistance questions.
I even had the privilege of working with Steve for a year (on secondment) starting in 1996 at the National Council of Welfare. His passion for, and his dedication to, social justice were inspirational and infectious.
He was a good friend and mentor.
I'll miss him terribly, and I know that many people in the BC social justice community who knew him and his work are also grieving the passing of a great social champion.


A sample of Steve's work:

Rags and Riches : Wealth Inequality in Canada (PDF)
By Steve Kerstetter
By Steve Kerstetter
December 2002

The rest of this page is organized (mostly) in reverse chronological order
with the most recent addition at the top...

Welfare Incomes
Crowdfunding Campaign Update:
October 18, 2013
The purpose of this campaign was to help raise funds for Welfare Incomes that had been published regularly since 1989 by the National Council of Welfare.

Target for this campaign : $20,000
Amount raised so far : $20,608 (103% of target)
Number of days left in this campaign : 0
Number of supporters : 258
[ Note : To see the list of contributors, click the link below and then, on the next page, click "Activity" near the top of the page. ]



Caledon Institute of Social Policy / Data Rescue
October 17, 2013
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to our Data Rescue campaign to save the Welfare Incomes report. We are very pleased to announce that we exceeded our target of $20,000 with a total of $25,500 in donations to the crowdfunding campaign as well as cheques sent directly to the office.
We greatly appreciate not only your financial contributions but also your words of encouragement in support of our work. Welfare Incomes is alive and well and will be made available within the next few weeks. Thank you for helping us keep alive this vital source of national information.


Saving Welfare Incomes : Caledon Institute of Social Policy
- info about the Welfare Incomes campaign (video and text).

Caledon Blog

Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Established in 1992, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy is a private, nonprofit organization with charitable status. It is supported primarily by the Maytree Foundation, located in Toronto. Caledon is an independent and critical voice that does not depend on government funding and is not affiliated with any political party.

A crowdfunding platform built for charities


- Go to the Social Research Organizations (I) in Canada page:


More information about the report and the campaign:

Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Launches Data Rescue Campaign

(via email from Ken Battle of Caledon)
September 12, 2013
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy is pleased to announce the launch of our Data Rescue crowdfunding campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to help raise funds for the report Welfare Incomes that had been published regularly since 1989 by the National Council of Welfare.

In 2012, the federal government announced – with no warning – that it was dismantling the National Council of Welfare and cutting all its work, including Welfare Incomes.

After much deliberation, we decided at Caledon that we need to keep alive this vital source of information. We had developed the original methodology and knew how very difficult it would be to reconstruct credible numbers. We need to sustain Welfare Incomes, which provides credible evidence to make the case for decent incomes and for welfare reform.

Please watch our video:

Data Rescue - Caledon Rescues Welfare Incomes (duration 2:32)

...and help us by contributing $20 (or more if possible) to our Giveffect campaign:

And please forward this notice to friends and networks, send a Tweet and/or post this link to your Facebook.

Together we can preserve this powerful weapon in the war on poverty. Thank you!

Ken Battle
Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Established in 1992, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy is a private, nonprofit organization with charitable status. It is supported primarily by the Maytree Foundation, located in Toronto. Caledon is an independent and critical voice that does not depend on government funding and is not affiliated with any political party.

Related link:

Welfare Incomes, 2009 (PDF - 6MB, 117 pages)
This was the last complete report on welfare incomes released by the Council.


COMMENT (by Gilles):

I wholeheartedly encourage you to make a donation to support Caledon in its endeavour to rescue this project of the now-defunct National Council of Welfare.

It's important to keep the Welfare Incomes project alive, in my view, because it's the only report to my knowledge that compares welfare incomes not just across Canadian jurisdictions, but also with measures of adequacy such as After-tax Low Income Cutoffs, the Market Basket Measure and after-tax incomes.

Welfare Incomes is a collection of 17 reports going back to the mid-to-late 1980s and reporting on annual welfare incomes in each province and territory for four different case types. Each of those 17 reports was rigorously verified (in draft form) by *all* provincial and territorial governments for factual accuracy before the report was published.

There are two reasons why I support Caledon's crowdfunding campaign:

1. Welfare Incomes is a valuable resource for both government officials responsible for the administration of Canada's social programs (sharing best practices, comparing relative welfare "generosity " across provinces, etc.) and for social justice and other advocacy groups in their ongoing mission to keep federal and provincial governments' feet to the fire. It's called accountability, and it matters to me. If governments won't support the continuation of this project, Caledon is to be congratulated for and supported in their commitment to rescuing it for social researchers of every stripe.

2. "As the watering hole gets smaller, the animals start eyeing one another." (Anon.)
Let's face it --- the Harper Government™ has vacated the field social program information and most related funding, and the provinces appear to have gone back to doing their own individual internal analyses of what's going on elsewhere in Canada in matters relating to welfare. Revenue sources for non-governmental groups doing social research have long dried up for the most part, and many such groups have turned to social networks seeking funding for their project(s). A recent arrival in the field of crowdfunding, Giveffect, is a promising new approach to raising funds for projects: "Giveffect is a #NextGenDonor crowdfunding platform designed exclusively for charitable campaigns & causes."
I'm anxious to see how successful the Caledon campaign will be.
Giveffect isn't the silver bullet solution for all situations, but it's definitely another helpful resource.

Check their website:


Related link (from last week's newsletter):

Giveffect : A new way to keep the war on poverty alive
By Carol Goar
September 4, 2013
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy turns to crowdfunding to raise money and reach younger generations.

Toronto Star


I've made a donation to keep Welfare Incomes alive.
Won't you?


Related links:

Welfare in Canada : The Tangled Safety Net
(PDF - 2.7MB, 131 pages)
This was the Council's first report that included interprovincial welfare rate comparisons.
All information was vetted by provincial/territorial officials before finalizing the report.
The model and the methodology have remained constant for every subsequent edition of the report (with the exception of the Person with a Disability category, which was added in as of the 1989 edition).


Publications Canada search results page for "Welfare incomes"
This is a pretty complete collection of links to the Welfare Incomes series of reports

From the
Caledon Institute of Social Policy:

Ensuring the Welfare of ‘Welfare Incomes’ (PDF - 60K, 10 pages)
By Sherri Torjman
April 2013
This paper is the text of a speech on the “Role of Evidence in Policy-Making” delivered at the 2013 Queen’s Policy Forum held in Kingston on April 26, 2013. The paper discusses the importance of the Welfare Incomes reports and why the Caledon Institute decided to step in to save this work when Ottawa announced the dismantling of the National Council of Welfare.
Welfare Incomes and the early Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net have served as foundational platforms for many Caledon proposals to reform the income security architecture in Canada . Welfare Incomes is based on a methodology that was painstakingly developed over time and would not be easily replaced. The rescue of this work is especially important in light of the recent loss of many vital sources of data in this country.

December 10, 2012

The National Council of Welfare closed its doors and shut down its website at the end of September 2012.
Enquiries were made at Library and Archives Canada (responsible for archiving all federal govt. reports) to see when & where the NCW site archive could be found. A URL was provided, but the database search engine was defective, and L&AC promised to create a new collection in AMICUS for the Council's reports.
At some point I expect that the NCW collection will be posted at this link.


National Council of Welfare reports

NOTE : Try selecting a title from the list below and doing a Google search on the complete title.
If you're lucky, someone or some organization will have saved a copy and posted it on their website

* The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty (2011)
* Solving Poverty Roundtable (2008)
* Time to Act: First Nations, Metis and Inuit Children and Youth (2007)
* Solving Poverty: Four Cornerstones of a Workable National Strategy for Canada (2007)
* Report on the Poverty and Income Security Questionnaire (2006)
* Income for Living? (2004) [Market Basket Measure]
* Welfare to Work Roundtable (2003)
* The Cost of Poverty (2002)
* Justice and the Poor (2000)
* Children First (1999)
* Preschool Children: Promises to Keep (1999)
* A New Poverty Line: Yes, No, or Maybe? (1999)[“market basket” of goods and services]
* Child Benefits: Kids Are Still Hungry (1998)
* Talk is Cheap: Banking and Poor People (1998)
* Profiles of Welfare: Myths and Realities (1998)
* Healthy Parents, Healthy Babies (1997)
* Child Benefits: A Small Step Forward (1997)
* Gambling in Canada (1996)
* Improving the Canada Pension Plan (1996)
* The 1995 Budget and Block Funding (1995)
* Legal Aid and the Poor (1995)
* Incentives and Disincentives to Work (1993)
* The 1992 Budget and Child Benefits (1992)
* Danger Looming: Funding Health and Higher Education (1991)
* No Time for Cuts: The Canada Assistance Plan (1991)
* Health, Health Care and Medicare (1990)
* Women and Poverty Revisited (1990)
* Fighting Child Poverty (1990)
* Pension Reform (1990)
* The GST and the Poor (1990)
* Help Wanted: Tax Relief for Canada’s Poor (1989)
* The 1989 Budget and Social Policy (1989)
* Social Spending and the Next Budget (1989)
* Child Care: A Better Alternative (1988)
* Tax Facts (1987)
* The Impact of the 1985 and 1986 Budgets on Disposable Income (1986)
* Giving and Taking: The May 1985 Budget and the Poor (1985)
* Poverty on the Increase (1985)
* Opportunity for Reform (1985)
* Pension Reform (1984)
* Sixty-Five and Older (1984)
* Family Allowances For All? (1983)
* The June 1982 Budget and Social Policy (1982)
* The Working Poor: People and Programs (1981)
* Women and Poverty (1979)
* Bearing the Burden, Sharing the Benefits (1978)
* The Working Poor (1977)
* Jobs and Poverty (1977)
* The Hidden Welfare System (1976)
* One in a World of Two’s (1976)
* Support/Supplementation: Who Will Benefit? (1976)
* Guide to the Guaranteed Income (1976)
* Poor Kids (1975)
* Organizing for Social Action: Three Canadian Experiences (1975) [Winnipeg family allowance, Quebec foster care, and Saskatchewan legal aid].
* People’s Need to Grow: Beyond Services and Beyond Jobs (1974)
* Prices and the Poor (1974)
* Incomes and Opportunities (1973)
* The Press and the Poor (1973)
* One Child, One Chance (1973)
* Poor People’s Groups (1973)
* Guaranteed Incomes and Guaranteed Jobs (1972)
* Legal Services Controversy: An Examination of the Evidence (1971)

Welfare reforms in Canada:

* Another Look at Welfare Reform (1997)
* Welfare Reform (1992)
* Tangled Safety Net: Welfare in Canada (1987)

Welfare Incomes reports for : 2009 - 2006 and 2007 - 2005 - 2004 - 2003 - 2002 - 2000 and 2001 - 1999 - 1998 - 1996 - 1995 - 1994 - 1993 - 1992 - 1991 - 1990 - 1989 - 1987 (The Tangled Safety Net: Welfare in Canada)

Poverty Profiles for : 2004 (data tables only) - 2002 and 2003 - 2001 - 1999 - 1998 - 1997 - 1996 - 1995 - 1994 - 1993 - 1992 - 1991 Update - 1980 to 1990 - 1988 - 1985

Poverty Lines for : 1989 - 1988 - 1987 - 1986 - 1985 - 1984 - 1983 - 1982 - 1981
Poverty in Canada: 1980 Preliminary Statistics (1980)


A Pension Primer (1999, 1996)
A Guide to the Proposed Seniors Benefit (1996)
Social Security Backgrounders (1994)
A Pension Primer (1989, 1984)
Bookkeeping Handbook for Low-Income Citizen Groups (1973)
Directory of (1000+) Low-Income Citizen Groups in Canada (1973)

Links to a few more recent reports that were part
of the NCW website:


1. Profile of a Federal Fiscal Measure: A Descriptive Study of the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) (PDF - 68K, 8 pages)
April 2012
This statistical profile presents an overview of the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) elements and recipients in 2008. Using basic customized data information on WITB recipients, provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, it examines who received the WITB in 2008 broken down by those household types used in our Welfare Incomes series and broken down by WITB configurations, since calculations in Quebec, British Columbia and Nunavut differ from the federal model.

Version française:

Profil d'une mesure fiscale fédérale:
Étude descriptive de la prestation fiscale pour le revenu de travail (PFRT)
(PDF - 68Ko., 8 pages)

2. A Snapshot of Racialized Poverty in Canada (PDF - 1.6MB, 17 pages)
January 30, 2012
This special edition of Poverty Profile presents a statistical profile of racialized people living in poverty in Canada. Using data from the 2006 Census, it examines a variety of demographic and socio-economic characteristics such as age, language, immigrant status, education, employment and income. It also compares data from this group to non-racialized persons living in poverty.

* A Snapshot of Racialized Poverty in Canada : Statistical Tables
Data tables show breakdowns for selected variables for Canada, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Version française:

Un aperçu de la racialisation de la pauvreté au Canada (fichier PDF)

Un aperçu de la racialisation de la pauvreté au Canada : Tableaux (fichier PDF)

National Council of Welfare
(NCW) (dead link)

UPDATE on the
National Council of Welfare (NCW) website archive
October 19, 2012:

The October 14 issue of the Canadian Social Research Newsletter
included an update on the final outcome of the website of the National Council of Welfare (NCW). In that update, I passed along a URL sent to me by someone at Library & Archives Canada (LAC) to an archived version of the site (including its dozens of reports).
Here it is:
SPOILER : The home page and some secondary pages on the site work well, but you can't access most of the Council's reports because the search feature doesn't work in the archive copy. Because the site has no "Browse Reports" feature (i.e., a static page with a list of all online reports with their respective links), users must use the search feature to access any reports (except for those in the "Communities" section). I've sent an alert re. the search feature issue to the LAC contact person, and I'm hoping that this glitch will get ironed out in the near future.

I'll be updating this page as soon as that search feature on the NCW site archive is functional, i.e., as soon as the NCW's reports are accessible.


Related correction:

In an earlier newsletter, I posted the following:

"Here's the complete NCW website* as it appeared in the fall of 2011:
Internet Archive "
* NOT.

An intrepid newsletter subscriber informed me last week that the content links (to the reports) at the above URL were all dead.
By the time I checked it myself, the link to the home page itself was dead.
The error message reads:
"Bummer. The machine that serves this file is down. We're working on it."


How to Find NCW reports:

1. From the Internet Archive:
Complete list of NCW publications up to March 2009

2. From the Government of Canada Publications website

The Government of Canada Publications website [ ] has electronic versions of many of the Council's reports going back about 20 years.

1. Go to the Internet Archive National Council of Welfare (NCW) Publications List (above)
2. Select a title from the list and copy it (CTRL+C).
[If the title has a link, click on it to access that report via the Internet Archive.]
2. Paste the title (CTRL+C) into this search box:
On the search page, be sure to click "View only publications available for download or order."
3. Click the Search button.

For example, here's the search result page using "Welfare incomes" as search string:
Click the link for the year of the report you wish to obtain, and (on the next page), click the link beside "Electronic Document" for a full copy in PDF format.


Another challenging aspect of this archiving initiative : the staff cuts earlier this year at Library & Archives Canada. I don't have official numbers, but I recall reading that LAC would suffer a 50% reduction in person-years. That doesn't bode well for the future of federal government archives in Canada...

The National Library of Canada (Wellington Street, Ottawa) has paper copies of all NCW reports,
which may be useful for anyone who happens to live in or near the National Capital Region.

National Council of Welfare
reports on welfare reform in Canada:

Over the years, the Council has produced many reports on poverty and welfare, but there are three that stand out in my mind as milestone reports on the history of welfare in Canada, at least since the 1980s.

1. 1987
Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net
(PDF - 2.7MB, 131 pages)
November 1987
Tangled Safety Net examines the following issues in Canadian social assistance network of programs:
* Complex rules * Needs-testing * Rates of assistance * Enforcement * Appeals * Recommendations
This report is the first comprehensive national analysis of social assistance programs operated by the provincial, territorial and municipal governments. These programs function as the safety net for Canadians and are better known by their everyday name ‘welfare’.

Version française :
Le bien-être social au Canada : Un filet de sécurité troué (PDF - 3Mo., 138 pages)
Novembre 1987
[ NOTA : Si vous trouvez un lien vers ce fichier en français, veuillez communiquer avec moi pour le partager.
Merci! ]


2. 1992
Welfare Reform
(PDF - 2.8MB, 61 pages)
Summer 1992
This report is an update of the 1987 Tangled Safety Net, but it presents information by jurisdiction rather than by issue - covers all provinces and territories.

Version française:
Réforme du bien-être social (PDF - 3,5Mo., 63 pages)


3. 1997
Another Look at Welfare Reform
(PDF - 6.75MB, 134 pages)
Autumn 1997
- an in-depth analysis of changes in Canadian welfare programs in the 1990s. The report focuses on the provincial and territorial reforms that preceded the repeal of the Canada Assistance Plan and those that followed the implementation of the Canada Health and Social Transfer in April 1996.
[Proactive disclosure : I did the research for, and wrote the provincial-territorial section of, this report while I was on a one-year secondment to the Council. Gilles ]

Version française:
Un autre regard sur la réforme du bien-être social (PDF - 8Mo., 148 pages)


Companion document to
Another Look:

Overview of Provincial (and Territorial)
Welfare Reforms in the 1990s

October 1998
Fifteen pages of research notes used in the production of Another Look at Welfare Reform.
HINT: There's a WEALTH of information on provincial-territorial welfare reforms in these pages that didn't make it to the final report!


National Council of Welfare
Established in 1969, the Council is an advisory group to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (originally the Minister of Health and Welfare Canada). The mandate of the Council is to advise the Minister regarding any matter relating to social development that the Minister may refer to the Council for its consideration or that the Council considers appropriate.

October 6 (2012)
The National Council of Welfare closed its doors and shut down its website at the end of September 2012.
For more information, see


Context and Background

From the
Toronto Star:

Federal budget 2012: Ottawa axes National Council on Welfare
By Laurie Monsebraaten
March 30 2012
Anti-poverty groups are shocked, but not surprised, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty axed the National Council of Welfare in Thursday’s budget. The independent, federally-appointed body was created by an act of Parliament in 1969 to advise the Minister of human resources on poverty in Canada. But since the Harper government was elected in 2006, it has ignored the council’s research and advice on how to address growing income disparity across the country, activists say.

The official demise of the National Council of Welfare:
Not with a bang but a whimper...

April 27, 2012
[By Gilles]
When I learned that the 2012-2013 federal budget had announced that the National Council of Welfare (NCW) [ ] would close its doors by the end of March 2013*, I felt, like many others in the Canadian progressive social research community that we'd lost a friend and an ally in the quest for evidence-based social policy in Canada. I knew that the Council had special status as an advisory body because its mandate was enshrined in the departmental statute of the day, meaning it had its own section in the National Department of Health and Welfare Act. Why does that confer special status, you ask? Because a statute must be tabled, debated and voted upon in the Parliament of Canada before it can be amended or repealed. Oh well --- at least the repeal of the statute would be debated in the House of Commons, I thought, and that debate would be recorded in the parliamentary record. Not so. The repeal of the Department of Social Development Act and the demise of the National Council of Welfare are buried in Division 51 of Part 4 of Bill C-38 (see the link immediately below). Because Bill C-38 covers so many multi-billion-dollar items, it's highly unlikely that anyone in the Opposition would take the allocated debate time to raise the issue of the Council, a mere million-dollar annual line expenditure.
Farewell, National Council of Welfare.
Social progressives everywhere grieve your passing.
* October 2012 update : the NCW website was taken offline at the end of September 2012.

The Bill that killed the National Council of Welfare:

BILL C-38, 2012
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget
tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures
First Reading April 26, 2012
Excerpt from the Summary (at the beginning of the file):

"Division 51 of Part 4 amends the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act to add powers, duties and functions that are substantially the same as those conferred by the Department of Social Development Act. It repeals the Department of Social Development Act and, in doing so, eliminates the National Council of Welfare."

Parliament of Canada

Comment (by Gilles):
If you find the reference in the above excerpt to both the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act and the Department of Social Development Act a bit confusing, welcome to the club. That's because the same Department changed names and mandates several times from the mid-1990s to 2012. Here's a link to a brief history of the name changes in this department that was known for decades (until 1993) as the Department of National Health and Welfare:
Back to the Future?

Related link:

Federal budget 2012: Ottawa axes National Council on Welfare
Laurie Monsebraaten
March 30 2012
Toronto Star

From the
Caledon Institute of Social Policy:

June 29, 2012

Information is under attack in Ottawa.

* In 2010, the Harper Government™ announced that it was axing the long-form Census.
* Key social statistics are gone:.
--- The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey or PALS (the major source of national information on persons with disabilities and the supports they require to live independently) is being replaced, but the disability community hasn't yet been told what the new resource will be.
--- Social Security Statistics: Canada and Provinces, fantastic resource for historical statistical analysis of Canadian social programs over 25 years, has simply disappeared.
--- Ottawa has jettisoned the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) which gathered priceless information on changes experienced by individuals over time, such as movement in and out of poverty.
--- The National Council of Welfare (advisory body to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development) was abolished.

The last cut noted above places in jeopardy the future of two of the Council’s most important series – Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile.

Caledon to the rescue!

The Caledon Institute of Social Policy will take over the task of gathering and analyzing the welfare and low income data in the two series. This vital information will form the first elements of a new Caledon product, the Canada Social Report.

Caledon is uniquely qualified to take over the Council’s welfare and poverty data. Twenty-five years ago, Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman (then Director of the National Council of Welfare and consultant, respectively, now President and Vice-President of Caledon) created the welfare incomes methodology as part of the pioneering report, Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net. Sherri Torjman went on to write five more Welfare Incomes reports. Ken Battle created the first Poverty Profile in 1982 and wrote several editions thereafter before he left the Council to found Caledon in 1992.

More information will be provided as plans advance for incorporating the welfare and poverty data in the new Canada Social Report.
The statement whose link appears below provides some analysis and explanation of the Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile series, tracing their origins and evolution over the years. It then makes the case as to why Caledon is uniquely qualified to save them.

The Caledon Statement:

Saving Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile (PDF - 44K, 6 pages)
By Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman
June 2012

KUDOS to Ken and Sherri of Caledon for committing to saving and updating these two important reports!!

Caledon Institute of Social Policy

From the
Toronto Star:

Federal budget 2012: Ottawa axes National Council on Welfare
Laurie Monsebraaten
March 30 2012
Anti-poverty groups are shocked, but not surprised, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty axed the National Council of Welfare in Thursday’s budget. The independent, federally-appointed body was created by an act of Parliament in 1969 to advise the Minister of human resources on poverty in Canada. But since the Harper government was elected in 2006, it has ignored the council’s research and advice on how to address growing income disparity across the country, activists say.
A spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the $1.1 million council and its eight Ottawa-based staff are being cut next year to reduce duplication (see my comment below).
“Many non-governmental organizations . . . provide quality independent advice and research on poverty-related issues,” said Alyson Queen. (...)
The council’s annual report on welfare incomes in Canada is the only comprehensive analysis of social assistance across the country and how it interacts with federal benefits, he said. The council has also produced authoritative reports on child care, child benefits and low incomes in Canada.

Comment by Gilles:
Reducing "duplication"?
How does the demise of the only credible national source of welfare and poverty information reduce duplication?
Won't each of the provinces have to do its own cross-jurisdictional comparisons, thus duplicating the efforts of all other provinces and territories? Notwithstanding the HRDSC spokesperson's talking points, there isn't ONE non-governmental organization in Canada that produces detailed welfare information and welfare statistics for all jurisdictions. Yes, NGOs *do* provide "quality independent advice and research on poverty-related issues", but to my knowledge, none has a national perspective on social assistance programs and statistics that even approaches that of the National Council of Welfare.
Net gain to the federal coffers: one piddly million bucks per year.
Net loss to Canada: one strong, credible voice for accountability, fairness and social justice and the only solid source of cross-jurisdiction information on welfare and poverty.
This is a sad day for government accountability in Canada.
Like many others in the social justice community, I'm in shock and denial today, and I'm grieving this senseless and brutal political decision.
[ Some might say that the writing's been on the wall for the Council since Stephen Harper's accession to the throne in 2006, and that a swift end is better than death by a thousand cuts, as has been the case since 2006. I disagree. Not only should the National Council of Welfare be retained --- it should have MORE resources to better fulfill in its mandate of advising the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development in all matters relating to social development in Canada.]

I'm sad for the dedicated staff at the National Council of Welfare, and I'm grieving over the demise of the Council.

We don't need no stinkin' evidence.
We've got the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office and the Department of Finance to tell us what to think.

Harper throws National Council of Welfare on the scrap heap
April 12, 201
By Carol Goar
For a few days [after the recent federal budget], anti-poverty activists thought low-income Canadians had been spared. By the time they discovered the truth, all they could do was mourn the demise of another once-proud social agency.
Since 1962*, the National Council of Welfare had held up a mirror to the nation, highlighting the pockets of poverty and warning policy-makers of the consequences of neglecting those in need. It gave non-profit groups the facts they needed to speak credibly about hardship in a land of plenty. It tracked the emergence and growth of a crack in society between the comfortably well-off and the struggling. And it brought together social policy thinkers to find solutions to poverty — or at least keep the debate alive. Now it’s gone. Kellie Leitch, parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources, dismissed the loss offhandedly. “We are putting our policy resources to best use and reducing duplication,” she said, pointing to Campaign 2000 and Canada Without Poverty as high-profile non-profit organizations serving the same role.
Actually they don’t...
* NOTE : In other media accounts about the Council, you'll often see 1969 as the startup date for the Council. In fact, the Council was created when Conservative John Diefenbaker was Canadian Prime Minister in 1962 as a federal-provincial Deputy-Minister-level advisory body on matters pertaining to the welfare of Canadians. In 1969, the Council was re-shaped into a citizens' advisory body reporting to the federal minister responsible for welfare in Canada (In 1969, that was John Munro, who was then Minister of Health and Welfare).


[ 34 Comments about this article: ]

Toronto Star

Scrapping welfare council is a cheap shot by a government that doesn’t care about the poor
By Steve Kerstetter
April 8, 2012
Ever since its creation by an act of Parliament in 1969, the National Council of Welfare has been the only federal agency with a mandate devoted exclusively to improving the lives of low-income Canadians.
The Conservative government’s decision to scrap the council in the budget speech was a cheap shot — in more ways than one — and a shot that will deprive Canadians of one more source of valuable research.
The council’s work on the welfare system has been extraordinary. Its annual publication Welfare Incomes is the single authoritative source on that subject in Canada and is used extensively both inside and outside government. But the council has worked in many other areas as well. Its reports on child poverty and women and poverty are well known. It has published some of the most readable descriptions of public and private pension programs. It documented the many shortcomings of legal aid in Canada. A report on the justice system showed that poor people are most likely to be picked up by police, most likely to appear in court without adequate legal representation and most likely to wind up serving time.
The National Council of Welfare was traditionally a great friend of opposition parties in Parliament and came to be regarded a royal pain in the butt once a party formed a government. That wasn’t because the council was anti-government by nature — just that governments of recent years had so many bad ideas about social policy and so few good ones. In fact, members of the council who make up the group’s board of directors are appointed by the federal cabinet and have often been close friends of the government of the day. However, that friendship never compromised the work of the council even once during my 13 years as a staff member.
The decision of the Harper government to shut down the National Council of Welfare comes at a time when poverty remains a significant blight in a country that has the means at its disposal to eliminate poverty.
The Conservatives didn’t even have the decency to mention the demise of the council in the budget speech. The budget papers included a table in one of the appendices that showed a cut of $1.1 million a year in the council’s budget beginning next year. What the papers didn’t bother to say was that $1.1 million is the council’s entire budget.

[ Steve Kerstetter retired as director of the National Council of Welfare in 2000 and now lives in Vancouver. ]

Toronto Star

Comment by Vince Calderhead, senior
staff lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid:
March 30, 2012
"This shocking news [demise of the National Council of Welfare] will impact on many, not the least will be those who relied on NCW reports in ant-poverty and other human rights litigation--both in Canada and before the UN. A quick search shows that the Supreme Court of Canada cited NCW reports at least four times in the past decade--not many government (or non-government) agencies can claim that importance. There are literally dozens of lower court decisions which also cite the NCW. Given the meagre amount saved ($1 Million), the Tories actually gain far more politically by silencing this purveyor of crucial info re both poverty in Canada and the state of Canada's social assistance systems."

When is a conservative not a conservative?
By Armine Yalnizyan
April 5, 2012
This week we learned that Rights and Democracy -- an agency established by Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1988 to monitor human rights and democratic development internationally -- has been terminated. The closure follows similar shutdowns by the Harper Conservatives of organizations that bear witness to these trends internationally, such as KAIROS and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. The $11 million in "savings" was not part of the identified list of cuts announced in last week's federal budget.
But another organization, whose elimination will save the federal government a whopping $1 million, was identified in the list of organizations getting cut. It, too, effectively monitored human rights, democracy and development, but closer to home. Established by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1962, the National Council on Welfare will cease operations after half a century of gathering information and providing recommendations about income security for Canada's most economically vulnerable citizens, across the land and province by province.
An unusual exchange took place in Canada's Senate Chamber between two Conservative Senators, triggered by this development.
Senator Hugh Segal asks the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Marjory LeBreton, what was the rationale for the cut. The answer, in its essence: we don't need that information anymore; we have all the information we need about poverty from other sources. Senator Segal then asks an eyebrow-raising supplementary question (my paraphrase): are you controlling sources of information about poverty because you don't intend to do anything about it? The answer is almost as Orwellian as the suggestion behind the question.
Click the link above to read the full exchange between Senator Segal and Senator Marjory LeBreton the Harper Government™ mouthpiece.

Found at the bottom
of this article:

"Senator Segal is a life-long Progressive Conservative. There are many more like him who are becoming outsiders within their own political home. Shutting down input and voice, including from within Conservative ranks, may end up dividing the right anew."
[Leftie comment : One can only hope. By Gilles]


From the
Globe and Mail:

Budget cuts another victory in Tory war on information: opposition
By Gloria Galloway
March 30, 2012
Only a handful of agencies were delivered a death sentence in this week’s federal budget but they include three institutions whose primary job is to provide statistics and research that is meant to inform government decisions.
The First Nations Statistical Council, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the National Welfare Council were all told Thursday the money they receive from the federal government will expire at the end of this fiscal year.

204 comments on this article

From Jennefer Laidley
Income Security Advocacy Centre

Latest Media and Policy News
April 2, 2012
[Click the link above to access any of the articles below.]

Federal Budget 2012
--- The Star: Ottawa axes National Council of Welfare
Northumberland View: Cut to NCW will hurt low-income Canadians
Globe: Tory war on information
Rabble blog: Small minded budget


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