Welfare Reforms in Canada
Réformes de l'aide sociale au Canada
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Paper on Social Security in Canada [PDF]
April 1973 (PDF - 3.6MB, 57 pages)
Excerpt from the Preface:
This Working Paper has been prepared for the
Government of Canada's contribution to the launching of this review (...)
which would embrace not only what each individual federal and provincial
government is doing in the field of income security, but also what governments
together are doing. In November 1972, the provincial Ministers of Welfare
called for a federal-provincial conference before the spring of 1973 to
establish better mechanisms for consultation on social security programmes.
And in January 1973, the Government of Canada called for a joint federal-provincial
review of "Canada's total social security system", beginning in
This working paper has been prepared as the Government of Canada's contribution to the launching of this review.
Welfare in Canada:
Provincial Social Assistance in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Daniel Béland and Pierre-Marc Daigneault
The Johnson-Shoyama Series on Public Policy
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division
Welfare Reform in Canada provides systematic knowledge of Canadian social assistance by assessing provincial welfare regimes and emphasizing changes since the late 20th century. The book examines activation, social investment, and economic inequalities and provides nuanced perspectives on social welfare across Canada's provinces in relation to trends and issues in the country and beyond.
Click the above link to the 448-page book,
then (on the next page) click the "Contents" link to see the
complete list of chapters, all written by social policy experts.
You can purchase the book from the University of Toronto Press for $39 (paper) or $86 (cloth).
October 24, 2013 : Luncheon (Regina)
Keynote address by Sherri Torjman
The Future of Social Policy in Canada (small PDF file, 1 page)
By Sherri Torjman, Vice-President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Welfare is a rule-bound, stigmatizing scheme that guarantees low income. Our studies of income dynamics have led us to conclude that improving welfare can actually confine some recipients to a life of poverty through its insidious trap: the welfare wall. We have proposed instead a set of tax-delivered, income-tested programs child benefits, earnings supplements and disability income - that provide far more effective and more secure forms of income security.
Ms. Torjmans presentation will be followed by a panel discussion entitled Saskatchewan Practitioners Perspectives on the Current and Future Challenges of Canadian Social Assistance
University of Regina
School of Public Policy
Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament:
Scaling the Welfare Wall : Earned
Income Tax Credits (2 pages)
By Sheena Starky
31 March 2006
[ PDF : http://goo.gl/ZqNP8 ]
* The "Welfare Wall"
* Earned Income Tax Credits
* Selected References and Links
I wanted to highlight this excerpt (below) from "The Welfare Wall", which offers a spot-on description of the perverse effects of the interaction between social assistance and personal income taxation in Canada, and how that interaction can create disincentives to work.
"Canadians who receive social assistance and subsequently accept low-paying employment face a series of consequences that could potentially make them worse off, including: higher income and payroll taxes; new work-related expenses such as transportation, clothing and childcare; reduced income support in the form of social assistance and income-tested refundable tax credits; and loss of in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing and prescription drugs."
Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament
A Comparison of Canadian and American
Welfare Reforms and
their Effects on Poverty After 1990 (PDF - 10.7MB, 9 pages)
By Fern Karsh
Department of Economics, University of Western Ontario
This undergrad paper that I found in a Google search result is a large download, but welfare historians will find it an interesting read. It offers a brief history of the funding mechanism for federal contributions to provincial-territorial welfare programs from the (1966) Canada Assistance Plan to the 1990 "cap on CAP" to the 2006 Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST). It also contains a section on welfare reforms in Ontario starting in the mid-1990s with the Mike Harris Tories. There's a section on welfare reform in the U.S during the same period, and a conclusion that the U.S. had "greater success (than Canada) in reducing welfare rolls, unemployment and poverty."
Not so fast.
You can't compare American and Canadian welfare systems, nor the relative success of welfare reforms in both countries, without the necessary context. Tempting as it may be to assume that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in the U.S. and the Canada Social Transfer are pretty much the same thing - a mechanism to stream federal funding to the lower order of government - it would be incorrect to do so, for a host of reasons. Below, I'll address mainly the caseload composition of both TANF and Canadian welfare programs.
Unlike the Canadian welfare system, state welfare programs under the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)* initiative normally grant welfare ONLY to households with children, often headed by single mothers. They exclude all non-disabled single people and childless couples, who must apply instead to the national Food Stamp program and to residual aid programs where they live (if there are any such programs, which is not always the case). In Canada, singles and childless couples make up close to 60% of the total welfare caseload.
Moreover, state welfare programs receiving
TANF funding exclude households headed by someone with a disability. In
the U.S., people with disabilities must apply for assistance from the federal
Social Security Disability program [ http://www.ssa.gov/disability/
]. In Canada, we have the contribution-based Canada Pension Plan Disability
Benefit [ http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/oas-cpp/cpp_disability/index.shtml
], but provincial-territorial welfare programs also provide needs-tested
assistance to people with disabilities - who currently make up about 35-40%
of the national welfare caseload.
* TANF is the federal transfer for state welfare programs, the U.S. equivalent to the Canada Social Transfer, which replaced the CHST in 2004. However, there are important differences between the two funding mechanisms in addition to the target population as noted above. For one thing, the federal government in the U.S. imposes a number of conditions on state welfare programs under TANF (e.g., targets for work participation and child poverty), while the Harper Government imposes only a non-residency rule on provincial welfare programs (i.e., eligibility for provincial welfare cannot be based on residency in a particular province). Also, welfare under TANF is only *one* of several programs in the U.S. that must be taken into account when comparing U.S. "welfare" with the Canadian system.
In Canada, welfare covers food, shelter, clothing,
personal and household needs; in addition to health care coverage, which
is universal in Canada, each Canadian jurisdiction offers a range of assistance
for special medical needs under its welfare program. In order to compare
Canadian and American welfare, the following American programs *must* be
* TANF welfare
* SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps)
* Housing vouchers
* Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
* School lunch and breakfast programs
* Earned Income Tax Credit
NOTE: In the U.S. when a person or family times out of TANF welfare (between two and five years, depending on the state), they can still apply for some aid from the above programs and other state programs of last resort. If "timing out" were possible in Canada, individuals and families would have no other recourse. But there's no time limit on welfare in Canada ---- you can continue to receive welfare as long as you can prove financial need and you meet other eligibility requirements. The Government of British Columbia actually imposed a time limit in 2002 that was similar to what many U.S. states had adopted - two years eligibility for welfare out of five. For more info about this draconian Canadian (BC) welfare time limit policy and how it bombed, see: http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/bc_welfare_time_limits.htm
For more information about TANF, see:
For more information about Canadian welfare
programs under the Canada Social Transfer, see:
The Bottom Line:
Canadian and American welfare systems are like apples and oranges.
They shouldn't be compared without situating each system in its appropriate context.
The source of this historical file is the Inventory of Income Security Programs in Canada (Health & Welfare Canada, multiple editions from 1984 to 1993). The text is a version of the Overview/Introduction to the chapter on social assistance (or welfare) that's been updated to 1996, just before the Canada Assistance Plan was replaced by the Canada Health and Social Transfer. There's a snapshot of how welfare operated in 1996, and you'll find that some of the rules haven't changed that much since then. There's also some interesting information about the Federal-Provincial Agreements to Enhance the Employability of Social Assistance Recipients (mid-to-late 1980s), known in federal-provincial government circles as "the Four-Cornered Agreements."
Inventory of Income Security Programs in Canada
(not found online)
NOTE: If your historical research interest
is welfare in Canada in the mid-1990s,
I also recommend the following:
Assistance in OECD Countries
Volume II : Country Reports (PDF - 4.8MB, 499 pages)
- incl. Canada (p. 78-108)
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
transfer payments to persons
On this one table, you'll find the latest five years' worth of information on national expenditures (provincial stats available for a small fee) in the area of transfers to persons, which includes (among other programs):
* Family and youth allowances * Child tax benefit or credit * Pensions - First and Second World Wars * War veterans' allowances * Grants to aboriginal persons and organizations * Goods and services tax credit * Employment insurance benefits * Old Age Security Fund payments * Provincial Social assistance, income maintenance * Social assistance, other [bolding added] * Workers compensation benefits * Canada and Quebec Pension Plans.
NOTE: In case you're interested in province-level stats, click the "384-0009" link under 'Source' at the bottom of the table. There you can obtain more specialized CANSIM tables, including provincial tables, for a few dollars each. The "Find information related to this table" link (which is also at the bottom of the StatCan table) contains methodological notes and other related StatCan products, many of which are free of charge.
'poorhouse' wasn't only an expression
A local museum preserves in harrowing detail the stories of a forgotten institution
January 3, 2009
By Tracey Tyler
"(...) Though more commonly associated with Victorian England and novels by Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist, the poorhouse was part of Canada's social fabric for more than 60 years and one of its earliest legislated responses to poverty."
The Toronto Star
For links to info about current welfare systems in place in Canada,
NOTE 2: Many of the links on this page will take you to the Canada Assistance Plan/Canada Health and Social Transfer Resources Page of this site. If you're looking for historical welfare stats, that's where you'll find them --- or on the Statistical Links page of this site.
Today in Canada, welfare works much the same - on paper, at least - as it did in 1966, when the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) was created as a vehicle for federal contributions to provincial/territorial social assistance programs (and welfare services, and child welfare, and other selected social programs). What's changed, some would argue, is the size of the stick and the carrot that are both part of the system.
Since the mid-1990s, when the Canada Health and Social Transfer replaced the Canada Assistance Plan, a number of jurisdictions have "taken children's benefits out of the welfare system" by means of a provincial/territorial benefit that's paid to parents on behalf of children in all low-income families.
Go to the Key Provincial and Territorial Welfare Links page of this site and click on "welfare rates" for more information on welfare rates for families with children.
From the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation:
What Works Volume 5, Number 1 (PDF file - 1.7MB, 15 pages)
Table of Contents:
- Asset-Building Strategies for the Poor: Is Policy Ahead of Research?
- Whither Welfare? (Excellent overview of recent welfare reforms in Canada and the U.S.!)
- One-on-One Help for Addressing the Employment Needs of Long-Term Unemployed IA Clients
- Why Experience-Rate the EI Program?
- School Readiness: Evidence From the Manitoba 2004 EDI Parent Survey
- Bulletin Board
Historical Welfare Reforms
Welfare reforms have been around as long as welfare programs
Canada's Unique Social History (from Steven Hick of Carleton University in Ottawa) is an invaluable online resource for anyone interested in the evolution of social programs in the world and in Canada. It comprises eight modules, each filled with links to more information and Internet resources. Module 3, The Rise of Income Security, covers Canadian welfare reforms from pre-Confederation days to the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Module 2, The Rise of Capitalism and Social Welfare, offers historical information on welfare and welfare reforms back to the Middle Ages.
Also from Steve
Social Work Glossary (Click on Glossary link in the left column - 600+ terms)
Other Canadian Sites
The Evolution of the Canada Assistance Plan is an appendix to the 1985 Nielsen Task Force report on CAP. It was written by an official of the federal Department of Health and Welfare (the "home" of CAP) at the time, it includes a gold mine of historical information on Canadian social programs of last resort in the twentieth century.
The 1967-68 Annual Report of the Canada Assistance Plan also offers some historical perspectives on welfare programs going back to the Old Age Pensions Act of 1927.
of Community and Social Services:
Supporting Ontario's communities since 1930 (retrieved from the Internet Archive)
The year 2005 is the 75th anniversary of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Click on the link above and then, on the next page, scroll down to "Stories from our Past" for links to six short historical bits about welfare and social services in Ontario in the last century and even before.
Origins of the welfare department (1930) - breaking 650 lbs. of rocks to qualify for welfare in 1915 - houses of refuge - the Mothers' Allowance Act (1920) - the first foray into the field of day care in the mid-40s - the Soldier's Aid Commission (est. 1915).
Canadian Welfare Reforms in the Nineties
to Work Study
King's College (University of Western Ontario)
Caroline A. Gorlick, Ph.D/Associate Professor, King's College, is the principal investigator of this research project and Guy Brethour is the research associate/coordinator.
"The National Welfare to Work Study funded by Social Development Partnerships (Human Resources Development Canada) has 3 main objectives:
- to produce an inventory of the different types of welfare to work programs emerging across the country
- to analyze the dynamic relationship between program design, community resources and individual/family capacities
- to assess the impact of the linkage between program design, community resources and individual/family capacities on program success.
The first objective has been completed with the collection of comprehensive information on all provinces/territories' welfare to work programs. Both the National Inventory on Welfare to Work in Canada and an accompanying discussion paper entitled National Welfare to Work Programs: from new mandates to exiting bureaucracies to individual and program accountability was published and disseminated by the Canadian Council on Social Development in the fall of 1998. The other objectives were addressed in Phase 2 of the study which included data collection in six Canadian communities. All the communities had experiences with welfare to work program implementation. Phase 2 also involved updating the original National Inventory on Welfare to Work in Canada. The final report will be disseminated in the winter of 2002."
Welfare to Work Phase 2 Update - reports for every province and territory are now available on the site. They contain detailed information about welfare-to-work programs and services --- eligibility, supports, funding, assessment and review, planned program changes and much more - all revised to reflect what was happening at the end of 2001 across Canada.
The Next Generation
A National Forum
(followup to the Welfare to Work Study)
November 16 18, 2003
UPDATE - February 2, 2004
Profiles, Papers and Presentations (abstracts / Powerpoint presentations / complete papers)
- links to 40+ papers and presentations from the Welfare to Work Forum are now available for download - includes keynote speeches, transcripts of sessions, powerpoint presentations and more.
Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador
Reconnecting Social Assistance Recipients to the Labour Market
Lessons Learned - Final Report (PDF)
Evaluation and Data Development
Human Resources Development Canada
Source : Evaluation and Data Development (Human Resources Development Canada)
Key Federal Government Departments and Reports
The Department of Finance is currently the lead federal Department with respect to social assistance in Canada. It is responsible for the administration of the Canada Health and Social Transfer, the federal transfer (block fund) to provinces and territories covering health, post-secondary education and welfare. The Department has its own social policy shop in the Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch . A key document for researchers is Federal Transfers to Provinces and Territories, which provides a detailed summary of how the federal government contributes to the cost of provincial and territorial welfare programs (among others)
- *See also A Brief History of the Health and Social Transfers - from the launch of the Canada Assistance Plan in 1966 to 2007, a helpful chronology of the evolution of federal contributions to the provincial/territorial level of government from 1966 to date.
On December 12, 2003, when Paul Martin took office as Prime Minister of Canada, Human Resources Development Canada was split into two departments --- Social Development Canada (SDC) and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).
Until 1993-94, the Department of National Health
and Welfare (NHW) was responsible for the administration of the
Canada Assistance Plan or CAP. CAP was the federal statute that
enabled federal contributions to the provinces and territories towards
the cost of social assistance - or welfare - and social services (as
well as other approved social programs and services).
Social Development Canada* works with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for social assistance to eliminate duplication and overlap between programs and with working groups under the auspices of the Social Union initiative; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is involved in activities under federal-provincial-territorial labour market agreements. Check out the official Social Union website for more information on the National Child Benefit (including the NCB progress reports and NCB reinvestment reports, or visit my Unofficial Social Union Page for links to related material that's not on the official site. You might also want to check out my Provincial/Territorial Social Union Pages to see what provinces and territories are doing in the area of NCB reinvestments.
November 2008 Update:
Health Canada - like HRDC - monitors provincial and territorial health insurance ("Medicare") programs to ensure compliance with federal standards.
Read the Canada Health Act Overview to see how Medicare works in Canada, including funding by the federal government under the Canada Health and Social Transfer.
See the Canada Health Act Annual Reports for detailed information on the administration of the CHA, federal contributions and payments and each of the provincial and territorial health insurance plans under the CHA.
See also the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow Commission)
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) pays for social assistance for Aboriginal people on reserve. The Department's website includes a lot of information about the federal government's relationship with its Native people. See the INAC site map for links to everything on one page, including the Final Report of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Federal Government's Response to RCAP.
The Canada Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) is responsible for the delivery of the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), which is the name of the federal benefit paid under the National Child Benefit initiative, and of some provincial and territorial financial benefits that are also under the NCB.
The Canada Revenue Agency's Family Benefits Page includes a wealth of information about the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit. It also includes information concerning related provincial and territorial programs administered by Revenue Canada: Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit - BC Family Bonus - New Brunswick Child Tax Benefit - Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit - Northwest Territories Child Benefit - Nova Scotia Child Benefit - Nunavut Child Benefit - Saskatchewan Child Benefit - Yukon Child Benefit
Revenue Canada is involved only in the distribution
of benefits, not the related policy-making.
|Note: these are not the only federal departments involved in Canadian social policy, but rather the main federal players in the area of social assistance policy.|
Key Provincial/Territorial Government Departments and
Provincial and territorial welfare departments play the most important role in the design, administration and delivery social assistance programs, although the role of Finance departments cannot be understated.
You'll find links to welfare information for each province
and territory on the Key Welfare Links page
of this site. On that page there are further links to each jurisdiction,
e.g., Saskatchewan Links - where you can find
some welfare reform info and documents specific to that jurisdiction.
The federal Department of Finance has a Public Finance Hotlinks Page that includes links to Finance departments in all Canadian jurisdictions as well as nine other countries (scroll down past the "General" and "Canada" sections)
Although provincial and territorial welfare programs have been in constant evolution as long as they have been around, the 1990s have produced so much profound change in the way programs are funded and delivered, that some academics have called this round of reforms a "paradigm shift", a reaffirmation of the old principles of self-sufficiency that preceded the progressive social reforms started after the Second World War.
The cap on CAP
The unofficial launch of the welfare reforms in Canada in this decade was the 1990 federal Expenditure Control Plan, which included a shift in federal funding in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Dubbed the "cap on CAP", this measure is often cited as "the beginning of the end" for CAP. A section in Another Look at Welfare Reform entitled The Setting for Welfare Reform deals with the cap on CAP and other events that framed Canadian welfare reforms in the 1990s.
The 1994 Social Security Review was another national milestone in Canadian welfare reform, if only because of the number of informative reports that were produced and released during its short lifespan. The Review was launched by Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources and Development) in January 1994, and a number of consultation papers were released in the fall and winter of 1994-95. By then, however, federal-provincial relations were strained as a result of federal cuts in the 1994 federal Budget (tabled less than a month after the announcement of the Review). Following the tabling of the 1995 Budget - announcing the Canadian Social Transfer (later renamed the Health and Social Transfer) and its cuts coming into effect in April 1996, the Social Security Review fizzled into obscurity.
From the Canada Assistance Plan to the Canada Health and Social Transfer is a series of links to information about CAP and its successor the CHST, from the 1995 federal Budget to 1999 Budget papers on transfers to the provinces and territories. These links focus on the federal dimension of the transition.
and the CHST: A Profile of Women Receiving Social Assistance in 1994
Katherine Scott, Centre for International Statistics
Canadian Council on Social Development
Funded by Status of Women Canada's Policy Research Fund
Decline in Welfare Dependency in Canada,
Several Factors Responsible: C.D. Howe Institute (PDF - 40K, 3 pages)
June 19, 2008
Canada has experienced a dramatic decline in welfare dependency since the early 1990s, according to new study by the C.D. Howe Institute, which notes that Canadas Social Assistance (SA) dependency rate fell by approximately half from the early 1990s to 2005, taking the countrys rising population into account. In The Welfare Enigma: Explaining the Dramatic Decline in CanadiansUse of Social Assistance, 1993-2005, authors Ross Finnie and Ian Irvine provide a nationwide analysis of the factors responsible for the truly remarkable decline, and draw implications for policymakers.
Welfare Enigma: Explaining the Dramatic
Decline in Canadians Use of Social Assistance, 19932005 (PDF - 548K, 32 pages)
"(...) Keeping people off welfare in the first instance, rather than attempting to get them off once on, is likely the most effective means of affecting caseloads and reducing longer-run welfare dependency."
C.D. Howe Institute
The C.D. Howe Institute is Canadas leading independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit economic policy research institution. Its individual and corporate members are drawn from business, universities and the professions.
government cutbacks cut Canadian welfare rolls in half: report
OTTAWA More available jobs, with a kick from stingy government policies, has contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of Canadians receiving welfare cheques, says a new study by the C.D. Howe Institute.
the welfare enigma
By Ross Finnie and Ian Irvine
It appears that every eleven years or so, the C.D. Howe Institute, minions of the business, university and professional elite, trot out another earth-shattering study about how reducing access to welfare results in fewer people on welfare. Well, Whoop-De-Doo. That's about as informative an observation as "It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick."
Here's the earlier C.D. Howe study:
a model for other provinces, says C.D. Howe Institute study (PDF file - 668K, 38 pages)
Kenneth J. Boessenkool, Prime Minister Steve's occasional confidant and advisor, produced this study praising the 1993-1996 Alberta welfare reforms, for other provinces to emulate.
See the Alberta section of Another Look at Welfare Reform (1997) from the National Council of Welfare for a different perspective on Alberta's welfare reforms.
National Child Benefit Misconception
The popular misconception:
The Fact: The
clawback is actually part of the NCB design, by agreement of the governments of
all provinces and territories (except Quebec) and the federal government.
Report to Premiers - No. 2 (PDF file - 72K, 18 pages)
a Better Future for Canadian Children" - click on "Social
Provincial/Territorial Social Union Pages - links to a large collection of information on NCB reinvestments
The Unofficial Social Union page - links to everything you wanted to know about the Social Union --- and more.
Family Benefits Page (Revenue Canada) - explains the Canada Child Tax Benefit (federal benefit) and provincial reinvestments under the NCB.
Where do we go from here?
tackles welfare reform - Ontario/Canada
Oct. 25, 2004
By Carol Goar
Toronto City Summit Alliance teams up with St. Christopher House to help improve income support for working age adults
"They are launching and paying for a non-governmental review of the safety nets that are failing millions of low-income adults. They intend to build public support for a modern, sustainable income security system. (...) Using its contacts in the senior echelons of business, academe and public life, it hopes to mount a powerful campaign to fix what is wrong."
The Toronto Star
City Summit Alliance
St. Christopher House
- Modernize Income Security for Working Age Adults
- Income Security for Working-age Adults in Ontario
Policy in the 21st Century
August 2004 Issue
To read any article, click the above link and (on the next page) select the article you wish to read by clicking on its link; all files are in PDF format.
Back to the future - the rear-view mirror provides glimpses of what lies ahead for income security in the 21st century by Havi Echenberg
New century, new risks: the Marsh Report and the post-war welfare state in Canada by Antonia Maioni
'In the national interest': a social policy agenda for a new century - restore cooperative federalism, modernize medicare, put children first by Tom Kent
Social policy and the knowledge economy: new century, new paradigm by Thomas J. Courchene
Relative poverty - it can't be erased, but it must be addressed, at home and abroad by Hugh Segal
Choix politiques et solidarité sociale à l'heure de la mondialisation by Keith G. Banting
Health care markets and the health care guarantee: baking a better loaf, or baking enough bread? by Paul Jacobson
The 'other' health system: reflections on the dark side of the moon of health and health care in Canada by Hugh Scott
L'école à l'aube du XXIe siècle : retour vers le future by Louis LeVasseur and Maurice Tardif
Universities in the new millennium: heading toward a new culture by Brian Flemming
Access to degrees in the knowledge economy by Dave Marshall
Time for plain talk about social policy by William Watson
Back Issues of Policy Options (back to 1997, full text of hundreds of articles)
Institute for Research on Public Policy
Assistance Statistical Report: 2006
August 2009 (Third edition)
Posted online April 9, 2010
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Directors of Income Support
"In recognition of the growing public demand for comprehensive information on provincial and territorial social assistance programs and caseloads, the Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2006 is the third annual joint publication by federal, provincial and territorial governments. The report provides a general overview of social assistance in Canada, as well as a description of income support-related/social assistance programs in each jurisdiction. This report does not include social assistance rates as this information is currently available to the public on most provincial and territorial government Web sites."
(Excerpt from Chapter 1 - Summary)
NOTE: Chapter Two of the report is a six-page descriptive overview of social assistance in Canada in 2005-2006, comprising a (very) brief history of federal social assistance since 1966 and general information about welfare eligibility and benefits. Other chapters of the report provide, for each province and territory, information on eligibility (including asset and income exemption levels) and benefits, as well as an impressive number of statistical tables, graphs and charts providing numbers of cases and beneficiaries (time series statistics going back as far as the mid-1990s, depending on the jurisdiction), profile information (age/education/sex of household head, cases by reason for assistance) and even (for most jurisdictions) the percentage of households reporting income.
in one PDF file - (751K, 129 pages)
Links to the two earlier editions of this report:
* Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2004
* Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2005
[ Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ]
< Begin social researcher's lament. >
While it is reassuring to read in the report summary that Federal-Provincial-Territorial
Directors of Income Support recognize "the growing public demand for comprehensive
information on provincial and territorial social assistance programs and caseloads",
I wish they'd also recognize that there's also a need for reasonably *timely*
data about those same programs and caseloads. This report is dated August 2009,
but it wasn't posted to the HRSDC website until April 9, 2010. The latest data
in the report are for March 2006, now four years out of date. Thus, since March
2006, there is NO national picture of the number of households receiving welfare
So now researchers can't tell, among other things, how many new welfare cases are "EI exhaustees" (families whose Employment Insurance benefit period has expired) and how many are there because they didn't qualify for EI in the first place.
That is unaccountable and unacceptable.
Welfare reporting must be comprehensive AND reasonably current.
Perhaps it's time to farm out the production of welfare statistics and related information to an objective, non-politicized third party...
< /End social researcher's lament. >---------------------------------------------------------------
Related historical reports from Social Policy Directorate of HRSDC:
Assistance in Canada, 1994 *
Over 40 pages of information on Canadian social assistance programs as they operated in 1994. Much of the information in this document is still as relevant today as it was back then - eligibility, benefits, administrative rules, and more. Includes information about cost-sharing of welfare costs under the Canada Assistance Plan. Question-and-answer format for quick reference. This work was part of a larger study of social assistance in 24 countries released by the OECD early in 1996. I was the author of this report, with a lot of input from a number of colleagues in the Department at the time. If you want a snapshot of what welfare was like in Canada before the Canada Health and Social Transfer in 1996, this is a pretty decent one - and it's free.
* Also available from the Government of Canada Web Archive:
Social Security Statistics, Canada and Provinces - 1978-79
Related Links from the National Council of Welfare:
Profiles of Welfare: Myths and Realities (Spring
- large statistical collection covering twenty years of data, examining variables like family types, reasons for assistance, age, education, duration of spells on assistance, housing and more.
NOTE: number-crunchers who specialize in welfare statistics can compare this report with the 2004 report above for some interesting observations --- but be careful about data incompatibilities between the two reports...
of People on Welfare, March 1995 to March 2005 (PDF file - 133K, 1 page)
As at October 2011, these are the latest stats on welfare dependency in Canada
See More on welfare dependency statistics - this link takes you to a section of the Social Statistics page of Canadian Social research Links.
Two Tier Income Assistance (welfare)
Until the federal government implemented the Canada
Assistance Plan (CAP) as a vehicle for federal contributions to provincial-territorial
welfare and social programs in the mid-1960s, two-tier social assistance was
the norm in Canada. Two tiers meant that provincial governments provided assistance
to anyone deemed "unemployable"(and their dependants), while municipalities
were responsible for providing financial assistance of last resort to employable
people in financial need (and their dependants) who were residing within their
jurisdiction. The advent of CAP helped provinces and territories to consolidate
their old categorical assistance programs for blindness, disability, unemployment
and single parenthood into one needs-tested program. Moreover, within the first
ten years of CAP, most Canadian jurisdictions had streamlined their two welfare
systems into one, with the higher authority taking over the responsibility for
providing financial assistance to anyone in financial need in the province/territory,
regardless of the cause of that need. Differential treatment of "worthy
and unworthy"clients (i.e., short-term employable vs long-term unemployable)
has persisted in the form of tougher eligibility rules and lower benefit levels
for employables even after systems were merged or unified. Three Canadian jurisdictions
did not unify their two-tier systems along with the rest by the mid-1970s :
Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba. As of June 1, unification of income assistance
is officially complete in Manitoba [see the inks below], the culmination of
a process that started with the implementation of the Municipal Assistance Regulations
in 1993. Nova Scotia also unified over a period of several years, starting with
a pilot project in the Cape Breton region in 1995 and ending with the implementation
of the Employment Support and Income Assistance Regulations in April 2001. In
Ontario, despite the rhetoric of the former Conservative Government (which had
promised in the 1995 election campaign to eliminate the two-tier welfare system),
income assistance is still a two-tier affair to some extent --- the province
still delivers the assistance program for people with disabilities, the Ontario
Disability Supports Program (ODSP), and municipalities are still responsible
for the delivery and a portion of the cost*
of Ontario Works (welfare for people with no disabilities). The province covers
the full cost of ODSP.
[See the Guide to Welfare in Ontario for more info.]
* "The cost of Ontario Works financial and employment assistance is currently shared by the province (81.2 per cent) and municipalities (18.8 per cent). As part of a plan to upload these costs incrementally, the province will cover 100 per cent of these costs by 2018. Administration costs are shared on a 50-50 basis between the province and municipalities. The province covers 100 per cent of the costs of ODSP."
Ontario Social Assistance Review Commission (2011)
in effect today creates single income assistance system - Manitoba
June 01, 2004
"Legislation creating a single system of income assistance in Manitoba and ensuring services are more consistent and effective becomes effective today, Family Services and Housing Minister Christine Melnick has announced. The Employment and Income Assistance Amendment Act makes the province responsible for administering all provincial income assistance in rural and northern Manitoba. The change to the single system was requested by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) after the province began delivering all provincial income assistance in Winnipeg in 1999."
Department of Family Services and Housing
"Prior to June 1, 2004, non-disabled single people, childless couples and two-parent families with children received assistance from their local municipality under the municipal assistance program."
Manitoba Department of Family Services and Housing
[ Related links - go to the Manitoba page:
US and Canadian Welfare Reform (PDF file - 838K, 68 pages)
-incl links to :
1. Historical development of welfare in the United States
2. PRWORAthe end of welfare as Americans knew it
3. American statesexperimentation and innovation
4. The results of PRWORA and state welfare reforms
5. Welfare in Canada
6. Provincial welfare reforms
7. Recommendations for Canada
Source : Fraser Institute
: The Falkiner Case (Ontario)
The Falkiner case revolves around the issue of single parents and welfare.
On this Canadian Social Research Links page, you'll find background info, the official Court record of the May 13 (2002) decision and several related links. The June 2002 issue of the Fraser Forum (Fraser Institute) contains an article about the potential impact of the Court decision on welfare reforms elsewhere in Canada. On the Spouse-in-the-house page, you'll find a link to the issue that contains this article as well as a counterpoint commentary on the article by Vincent Calderhead, staff lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid in Halifax and respected authority on matters relating to human rights and the Canadian Charter.
Ontario Municipal Government and Non-Governmental Organization Links Page - for critiques of welfare reforms in that province by Ontario NGOs.
Non-Governmental Organizations Links - critiques of social program reforms from a number of Canadian NGOs.
A few words about workfare
Most of what is called workfare today in Canada is actually a combination of tighter eligibility criteria, benefit cuts, a broadening of the definition of "employable" and more stringent enforcement of rules regarding reciprocity for employable people that existed even before CAP - and that continue to exist today.
are two types of workfare in Canada today - formal and de facto.
[Of course, one could argue that the two types of workfare in Canada are the punitive approach and the human services approach, as does Sherrie Torjman of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy in her online paper entitled Workfare: A Poor Law (PDF file - February 1996). But that's a whole other web page...]
Source : Caledon Institute of SocialPolicy
|"Formal" or institutionalized workfare
contains three essential elements, summed up as follows: |
- work for a specific minimum number of work units (measured in hours or output) in a job that is designated or approved by the welfare authority, to qualify for the basic welfare benefit.
In 2001, the only Canadian jurisdiction where formal workfare exists for all employable people is Ontario, under one component of the Ontario Works program. In many other jurisdictions, there's a "learnfare/earnfare/trainfare"policy that's described in more detail on the CAP Resources Page of this site.
All applicants under the Ontario Works program in Ontario (single people, couples with and without children, sole support parents, and people aged 60 to 64 years) must agree to participate in one of the program's three active parts: employment supports (job-search services, referral to basic education and job-specific skills training), employment placement (referral to a job placement or self-employment development agencies) or community participation (unpaid community service activity).
The community participation stream is the one most readily identified with the notion of "workfare". In this stream, welfare recipients can be required to work from 17 to 70 hours per month in a not-for-profit or public sector workplace approved under the program in order to receive their basic welfare benefit.
Further reading for detailed Ontario Works information
The Ontario Works page of the Ministry of Community and Social Services website includes the complete collection of Ontario Works Policy Directives. This is the Ontario Works Policy Manual - everything you might want to know about the program.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services Business Plan includes a section entitled Annual Report On Key Achievements where you can find a description of welfare reforms since 1995 - including Ontario Works - and plans for further reforms.
Recommended Reading from the - analysis of Ontario
Works is available from the (Toronto) Workfare Watch Project website.
See the r Ontario
Non-Governmental Organization Links page for additional perspectives on
many issues around workfare in Ontario.
|"De facto" workfare occurs where the welfare
authority does not impose a mandatory "work-for-your-basic-welfare-cheque" policy
for all employable people receiving welfare. Rather, governments enforce job-search
requirements for employable people more stringently, and they pay monthly supplements
to people who are engaged in some approved activity whose goal is to help the
person break free from welfare. The job-search rule is often seen as workfare,
but it was always a part of CAP and provincial/territorial welfare programs.
Some jurisdictions pay monthly supplementary benefits to people on welfare who are participating in an approved employability program or job search activity to help them cover work- or training-related costs. Ernie Lightman argued in an article in the C.D. Howe Institute's 1995 book on workfare Helping the Poor: A Qualified Case for "Workfare" that the gap between the basic and supplemented benefit levels is often an offer that people in need can't refuse.
welfare rules in 2000 for employable people best illustrate the tiered benefit
structure that can result from these supplements and the application of the reciprocity
principle. The Quebec welfare rate was about $120 less a month for a single employable
person who was not participating in an employability measure (schooling, training
or job integration) than for one who was. (The difference was about $200 for a
two-adult household.) This "non-participating" category included not only
those who decline such measures, but also those for whom no appropriate measures
were available. A non-participant was still required to satisfy job-search requirements,
notably by not refusing a job (or abandoning one without just cause) under penalty
(stipulated in Regulation) of a reduction in monthly welfare benefits of $100
or $150 (depending on the situation of the household) for a year. A second refusal
within the year would result in monthly benefit cuts up to $300 ($150 for a lone-parent
See CAP, Rights and Workfare on the CAP Resources page for more on job search requirements VS workfare.
The Right to Welfare
by the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues (CCPI) to the United Nations Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the occasion of the Review
of the Third Report of Canada at the Committee's 19th Session (November - December,
- incl. a detailed analysis (~25 printed pages) of "the right to social assistance" with references to the Constitution Act, the Charter of Rights and the change from CAP to the CHST. The CCPI submission includes information on welfare case law in a number of jurisdictions that you definitely won't find elsewhere - dealing with the right to social assistance, adequacy of social assistance benefits, provincial contravention of national "standards" under CAP, sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights, etc.
The case law information was prepared by Vincent Calderhead, Solicitor for the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, in November, 1998.
Source : Charter Committee on Poverty Issues
See also: U.N. '98 Page - (links to 18 related documents)
That depends on whether you're asking the Finance Department and Fraser Institute types, who interpret caseload reductions as a significant measure of success, or the social advocacy groups, who focus more on the human condition, income adequacy, wealth inequality and social justice..
Since the mid-1990s:
of People on Welfare, March 1995 to March 2005 (PDF file - 133K, 1 page)
Links - "the other side of the coin":
The Canada Assistance Plan/Canada Health and Social Transfer Resources Page
Canadian Union Links - including a selection of relevant reports
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