If you think that in a country as rich as Canada no child lives in poverty, unfortunately you’d be wrong. Back in 1989, the House of Commons voted to end child poverty by 2000. Spoiler alert: they’re late. Campaign 2000 has been working for 30 years to achieve that goal, putting out great annual reports tracking the progress (or lack thereof), the latest of which came out today. This year we’ve worked with them to create an interactive map to show the poverty rates by federal riding during this year’s election campaign.
Despite not eliminating child poverty by 2019 (much less 2000), there has been progress in recent years, significantly driven by the Canada Child Benefit created in 2015. In 2018 the federal government created the first federal poverty reduction strategy plan, with clear goals for reductions in poverty rates. Unfortunately, the first goal—a 20% reduction by 2020—had already been achieved six months before the strategy was announced in the fall of 2018 (making it less of a goal and more a progress report). The second goal—a 50% reduction by 2030—is far enough off that governments may think they don’t have to plan for it yet.
Clearly, there is room to set more ambitious goals on an accelerated timeline.
The maps below use the most recent data available, from 2017. Despite some progress since 2015, child poverty persists across the country, in urban and rural areas, in our downtown cores and our suburbs. On the map, the colour of each electoral ridings corresponds with the prevalence of child poverty within its borders. The ridings are ranked in quintiles, meaning they are grouped in 20% segments from the top 20% (with the lowest child poverty rate) to the bottom 20% (with the highest child poverty). The bottom quintile has an average child poverty rate of 30%, although this is driven by particularly bad child poverty in several northern and on-reserve Saskatchewan ridings (I’ve examined the devastating rates of on-reserve child poverty in more detail in my report, Towards Justice). The top quintile is not immune to child poverty, but has instead an average rate of 10%.
Below are snapshots of the child poverty picture in some of Canada's largest cities.
Toronto and the GTA
Where there is a significant concentration of ridings in a particular city, most notably the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), other trends emerge. In particular, there is a concentration of child poverty in Toronto's city core ridings like Toronto Centre and Spadina-Fort York. The ring of suburbs running from Mississauga Centre, through Humber River—Black Creek all the way east to Scarborough—Rouge Park also have higher rates of child poverty. However, lower child poverty rates exist in neighbourhoods on the edge of downtown, like Toronto—St. Paul’s and can also be found in further suburbs and rural areas like Vaughan-Woodbridge or Milton.
Much of Montreal’s child poverty is concentrated on the island itself, excluding the ridings on the mountain like Outremont or Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. The suburban areas off the island from Laval to Longueuil tend to have lower child poverty rates.
Moving further west, the most severe child poverty in Calgary is focused in the riding of Calgary Forest Lawn. More suburban and rural areas around the city tend to have lower child poverty rates, with the lowest, at 11%, found in Calgary Rocky Ridge.
Vancouver and the GVRD
Child poverty in Metro Vancouver is concentrated in the ridings of Surrey Centre, Vancouver East and Richmond Centre, where at least a quarter of the children live below the poverty line. Much lower rates can be found in the suburban ridings of Delta, North Vancouver and Burnaby North-Seymour.
David Macdonald is a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidMacCdn.
Campaign 2000 is a cross-Canada public education movement to build Canadian awareness and support for the 1989 all-party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Campaign 2000 began in 1991 out of concern about the lack of government progress in addressing child poverty. Campaign 2000 is non-partisan in urging all Canadian elected officials to keep their promise to Canada’s children. The Campaign comprises a coalition of 120 partners committed to addressing the issue of child and family poverty and believe that the federal government has a responsibility to honour the all-party resolution to end child poverty. Learn more at campaign2000.ca