quest food exchangeWhat do you think of when you hear the words “grocery store?” Perhaps you imagine a Trader Joe’s, or maybe an outdoor farmers market with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and other goods. Others may think of grocery carts, canned goods and, of course, the frozen section. However, people whose minds wander toward these latter images likely grew up in a financially stable home. This is not always the case for the rest of the world, as many people suffer from food insecurity and hunger. Below is information about an organization called Quest Food Exchange and how it aims to solve this issue.

Food Insecurity in Canada

In 2018, 8% of the global population lived on less than $2 per day. Individuals and families living below the poverty line do not have the luxury of a traditional grocery store, fresh fruits or fresh vegetables. Many struggle to feed themselves, let alone their families, as they focus time and energy on survival. While many governments have programs to help these people living in poverty, there is more to do. The issue of poverty and food insecurity in Canada illustrates this.

In 2017, 12.5% of Canadian homes were food insecure. This equates to 4.4 million people, of whom 1.2 million were children. Since 2007, the number of people living with food insecurity in Canada rose by roughly 1 million. This negatively impacts health and plays a large role in the healthcare system. Since its founding in 1992, Quest Food Exchange has aimed to help those living in poverty become self-sufficient by offering them affordable food. However, the organization’s mandate goes even further than combating food insecurity. By saving surplus supplies, Quest Food Exchange is environmentally conscious. It stops quality goods from sitting a landfill, which creates a larger greenhouse gas effect.

What Is Quest Food Exchange?

Quest Food Exchange, a nonprofit organization providing grocery stores to those challenged by issues of food security, is based out of different locations in Vancouver, Canada. The organization is making its best effort to help the hungry in a dignified fashion. To do this, Quest Food Exchange gathers surplus food and goods from suppliers that would otherwise be thrown away and redistributes them to government programs, hospitals, schools and those living in harsh conditions. Shoppers must be referred and then apply to shop at Quest Food Exchange. This policy helps to ensure that only those who need additional help and support can use the nonprofit’s services. The organization holds a transitory model to help individuals become self-sufficient and allow them to choose their own food.

An Evolution in Food Redistribution

Global food waste is detrimental from both an environmental and a financial standpoint. Experts at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggest that humans waste 1.3 billion tons of food globally each year. This constitutes a waste of time, money, energy and labor. At the time of its founding, Quest Food Exchange acted similarly to a food bank. However, in 1997, workers came to the conclusion that unwanted food could support social programs to help feed the hungry. This is how the modern day Quest Food Exchange operation functions.

The organization now has three mandates: “Reduce hunger with dignity, build community and foster sustainability.” It does these things by providing affordable food, which in turn allows individuals to focus their attention on mental health, job security and other burdens. If more grocery stores followed this mandate, greenhouse emissions would significantly decrease, the economy would strengthen and the percentage of those living in poverty would drop. Quest Food Exchange is a great model for how organizations can solve food insecurity through simple redistribution.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous peoples in Canada have roots in poverty tracing back to the 19th and 20th centuries. They had to relocate to small plots of land called reserves where destruction of their traditional way of life “combined with the poorly organized set-up of reserves resulted in impoverishment for those on the reserves.”

In Canada, 25% of Indigenous peoples live in poverty with 40% of those living under the poverty line being Indigenous children. Many Indigenous peoples died due to lack of shelter, adequate food, access to health care and lack of federal relief services. Today, Indigenous communities continue to suffer at the hands of institutionalized colonial violence.

Housing Inequalities

Several cross-country reserves have declared a State of Emergency due to poor living conditions. Statistics deemed only 56.9% of homes on reserves adequate in 2000 and 43% unsafe and in need of repairs in 2016. In 2016, both reserve shelters and Inuit homes qualified as overcrowded — 28% and 30% respectively.

Some Indigenous people moved off of reserves and into urban centers. Even there, they continued to face economic struggles. Indigenous peoples are twice as likely to live in poverty in comparison to non-Indigenous folk. In 1995, 55.6% of Aboriginal people in urban centers lived in poverty. Meanwhile, in 2003, 52.1% of Indigenous children lived in poverty.

Income Disparities

Impoverishment within the Indigenous community has resulted in fewer on-reserve schools, rising illiteracy and rising unemployment. Indigenous households making an income below $20,000 represented almost 20% of the entire Canadian population; whereas, non-Indigenous homes only represented 9.9%.

Non-Indigenous folk in lower-income homes have a 12.9% outcome of people with major depressive episodes. Meanwhile, Indigenous folk in lower-income homes had a 21.4% outcome — almost double. The values for higher incomes families are much closer; 6.3% for non-Indigenous and 7.7% for Indigenous.

Health Inequities

The Well-Being Index determined that First Nation and Inuit communities ranked on average 20 points lower than non-Indigenous communities. Despite being only 4% of the Canadian population, Indigenous people make up 14% of the population relying on food banks. Smoking and lung cancer statistics also show an overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. Lower-income Indigenous households reported daily smoking levels at 48.8%.

The lowest-income Indigenous populations also experience disproportionate difficulties in accessing health care. Popular barriers are that Indigenous peoples are “unable to arrange transportation (19.6%); not covered by Non-Insured health benefits (NIHB) (18.4%); could not afford transportation costs (14.6%); prior approval by NIHB denied (14.2%); could not afford the cost of care, service (11.4%).”

Aid

Many community activists and grassroots organizations work tirelessly to help support the Indigenous communities in Canada. Dismantling generational poverty is another focus of activists and organizations. True North Aid is just one of those in the fight for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

True North Aid has decades’ worth of experience. It has an advisory council of four Indigenous Elders, partners and a Board of Directors with over 35 years of experience. Under such leadership, the organization successfully raises awareness for Indigenous struggles. Additionally, it provides home reconstruction aid, water purification technologies and health care aid to Indigenous communities in Canada.

Activists and organizations supporting Indigenous peoples are imperative in the fight to end poverty for Indigenous people. Indigenous communities suffer disproportionately and need advocacy and action.

– Jasmeen Bassi 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in CanadaThough a proportionally wealthy country, Canada struggles with a large amount of poverty. In 2018, the Government of Canada released Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy. The report introduces strategies and tactics that the country intends to employ until 2030 to reach its goals. Concrete poverty reduction targets is one of the goals that includes a 20% reduction in poverty by 2020 and a 50% reduction in poverty by 2030. Canada’s Official Poverty Line is another goal set out to measure poverty and track progress towards the targets. It also plans on introducing a National Advisory Council on Poverty. All of these innovations would go towards poverty eradication in Canada.

The Council

The National Advisory Council on Poverty has helped the government move forward with their plan. The group has 10 members. Some of them actually confronted poverty in the nation themselves. In addition to those with lived experience, the council also holds members with expertise in community outreach, academia and prominent leadership. Annually, these members produce a report that helps the government understand the progress that has been made and what can still improve.

The Strategy

Beyond the council, the strategy also involved defining a poverty line for Canadians. Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada continuously review Canada’s Official Poverty Line. By using the Market Basket Measure, they are able to keep the measure accurate. Their various reports from 2018 to the present summarize government consultations on the matter. They also propose changes as to how to calculate the Market Basket Measure.

Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy also introduced 12 indicators of progress concerning its reduction. Some of the most notable include food insecurity, core housing needs and the share of youth engaged in employment, education or training at a given time. In order to ensure transparency on the progress the strategy is making, the government provides a website or “dashboard.” Citizens can use it to track all 12 of the Opportunity for All indicators as well as the poverty line itself. The site also lists future goals that Canadians can stay up-to-date on.

Government Programs

The Opportunity for All Strategy also connotes the bettering of government programs and investments that existed before 2015. Some of the most notable pre-existing involvement that the strategy emphasizes include Canada Child Benefit. This is a monthly, tax-free payment that assists low and middle-income families in raising children affordable. Another one is Canada Workers Benefit, a refundable tax credit with the purpose of supplementing the wages of low-income workers. Increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement Top-Up Benefit is an initiative that helps improve the financial security of just under one million senior citizens. Additionally, Canada’s First National Housing Strategy is a plan spanning 10 years. Its goal is to provide more Canadians with suitable housing.

Charity and Aid

In addition to government efforts, many others are working on innovations in poverty eradication in Canada. One of the most successful charities working toward these goals is Pathways to Education, which provides financial support, social stimulation and academic rigor to youth in need. It has improved graduation rates by 85% in communities where its program has been offered. Canada Without Poverty is another charity that educates Canadians about the humanitarian and financial implications of living in poverty. It also identifies solutions regarding public policy and communication. Canadian citizens that broke out of poverty themselves run the organization, so they are well equipped to educate the public and connect with those in need. Furthermore, True North Aid is a charity that looks to close the poverty gap faced by Northern Indigenous communities in Canada. It does this by launching projects with initiatives in improving water supply, education, housing and the like.

 

Overall, innovations in poverty eradication in Canada are highly successful. With government planning along with cooperation from and communication with the Canadian public, a decline in the poverty rate has already taken place and seems as if it will continue in the coming years.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Inuit Poverty
The Inuit are a group of Aboriginal peoples who have occupied the Arctic lowlands for the past 5,000 years. They have a robust history and culture but suffer from one of the highest levels of poverty in the world. In Northern Canada, Inuit live in four regions that comprise the Inuit Nunangat: Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and northern Labrador. The Inuit Nunangat, where most of the 65,000 Canadian Inuit live, is a territory that includes the land, water and ice all integral elements of Inuit culture. This region spans 53 communities and ultimately makes up 35% of Canada’s landmass. Given the significant presence of Inuit throughout the country, some are giving much attention to the poverty that this group has faced. Here are five contributions to Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

5 Contributions to Inuit Poverty

  1. Colonization. Inuit poverty in Northern Canada stems from European colonization. In the 1700s, European whalers and fur traders entered the Arctic region to hunt and barter with the Inuit. While trade brought new technologies into Inuit communities, this era left the land depleted of seals, whales and fish. Later, missionaries and the Canadian government entered Inuit society as well. Following that, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami wrote that: “many but certainly not all of the traditions, values, skills and knowledge that bound us together as Inuit gave way in response to the demands placed on us from the outside.” This culminated in pressure for Inuit societies to adopt Western culture and begin engaging in the world economy.
  2. Economy. The “Inuit Great Depression” occurred due to contentions over the commercial seal trade, a primary source of income for many Inuit communities. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) successfully mobilized public opinion against Inuit seal hunting and in 1983 the European Economic Community placed a ban on the importation of fur and seal skins. Despite the written exemption for indigenous Inuit hunters, markets across the Arctic crashed and the Inuit economy suffered immensely. During this ban, the average income of an Inuit hunter fell from $54,000 CAD to $1,000 CAD. An estimated 18 out of 20 Inuit villages lost at least 60% of their income. Today, Inuit regions have some of the highest unemployment rates in Canada along with the highest suicide rates globally. The second ban by the E.U. in 2010 further exacerbated Inuit poverty. The need to work also takes time away from hunting, as well as limits Inuit access to traditional natural resources like food.
  3. Food. Due to geographic location, Inuit sustenance relies on hunting. The Inuit have less access to goods readily available throughout the rest of Canada since grocery stores struggle to supply food to remote Arctic regions. Depending on the season, planes cannot deliver fresh produce. Environmental changes diminish access and availability of traditional food, and store-bought alternatives are extremely expensive. A healthy diet for a four-person Inuit family costs an estimated $18,200-$23,400 per year, while the median yearly income is less than $17,000. The increased reliance on processed food leads to poor nutrition and health problems.
  4. Health. Health is another major challenge to Inuit people. According to UNICEF, “[Inuit] experience higher infant mortality rates, lower child immunization rates, poorer nutritional status and endemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.” More than this, they “suffer higher rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and their representation in the welfare and justice systems is generally higher than in the non-Aboriginal population.” Housing exacerbates these health conditions.
  5. Shelter. Inuit communities suffer some of the worst living conditions in Canada. The close living quarters allow communicable diseases like viruses and pneumonia to spread quickly, making Inuit children less likely than non-Aboriginal children to receive medical treatment. In fact, 31% of Inuit live in crowded homes due to housing shortages throughout their communities. UNICEF reports that approximately 28% of Inuit live in homes needing major repairs. Deteriorating housing poses a great risk to Inuit health and safety.

To combat some of the economic burdens that the Inuit bear and to mend relations with indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada initiated an act in 2019 to provide Inuit with economic opportunity and lifelong prosperity. The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program, in partnership with the Kakivak Association, offers community needs-based skills training and development programs. While Canada needs to do much work to right the wrongs toward Indigenous peoples, it is making progress to help end Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

– Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Canada
Canada is a picturesque country famous for its maple syrup and hockey. This United States neighbor is also the second-largest country in the world, home to over 37.5 million people and 80,000 different animal species. Although tourists visiting Canada do not typically think about issues such as healthcare when visiting the country, this topic is highly controversial and important for most Canadian citizens. Here are five facts about healthcare in Canada.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Canada

  1. Canada’s universal healthcare does not cover prescription drugs. When people think about universal healthcare, they may mistakenly imagine free or very low-cost healthcare for every aspect of medicine. In reality, despite the country’s support of a universal healthcare system, only about 70% of health costs receive public funding. Canadians must cover the remaining expenses either directly or through private insurance.
  2. Chronic respiratory diseases are a significant part of many Canadian lives. As of 2012, over 1.9 million Canadians aged 35 and older —9.6% of the country’s total population — suffer Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a condition that obstructs the airways, causing shortness of breath and inducing heavy coughing. Combined with the projected growth in the number of afflicted individuals over time, this figure indicates that many Canadians will endure COPD at some point during their lives. Doctors in Canada treat this disease with a variety of medications, including antibiotics and opioids.
  3. The majority of doctors are self-employed and not government employees. Doctors bill the government for their services since all Canadians have an entitlement to free care from a physician. However, Canadian doctors work for themselves, coordinating their hours and offices. Doctors in Canada are also personally responsible for paying for their employees and for the spaces in which they practice.
  4. Canada recognizes mental illness as a serious issue. Mental illness impacts approximately one in every five Canadians, or 6.7 million people, every year. In fact, 500,000 Canadians each week are unable to work as a result of mental illness. Given the volume of citizens struggling with mental health, Canada has developed a necessary appreciation for this issue by legally recognizing mental illness as a medical condition and requiring insurance to cover psychiatric care. This coverage is accessible to nearly all Canadian citizens, regardless of medical history or income level. Although Canada’s strong acknowledgment of mental health and coverage of mental illness often receive underappreciation, this country truly prioritizes mental well-being.
  5. Cancer is Canada’s main medical concern. A study by cancer.ca shows that cancer is the number one cause of death in Canada. The study further reveals that one in two Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will ultimately die from the illness. These statistics have concerning implications for the country’s citizens, as well as their friends, families and employers. Predictions determine that lung, breast and prostate cancers are will afflict the highest population of Canadians in 2020, with lung cancer yielding the highest death rate at 25.5%. Given the substantial risk throughout the country and the preventable nature of this disease, many Canadians argue that greater actions must occur to prevent citizens from dying of cancer.

While the natural beauty of Canada might mask the true complexity of the country’s healthcare structure for many tourists, citizens see value in understanding and improving this system. Although citizens receive coverage for a majority of medical expenses, governments are ultimately responsible for continuing to foster efficient, affordable and extensive health programs to guarantee the well-being of all Canadians.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

facts about parliamentary democracy
There are many structures by which countries can run a government, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. Parliamentary democracy is a specific form of democracy that originated with the parliament and has been evolving ever since. In order to better understand this form of government that is different than the one the United States possesses, here are seven facts about parliamentary democracy.

7 Facts About Parliamentary Democracy

  1. The structure differs from a presidential democracy. In a presidential democracy (such as the one the United States operates under), the chief executive (president) and legislature (congress) undergo separate elections. Conversely, in a parliamentary democracy, the elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The parliament can remove the prime minister at any time by a “vote of no confidence,” which is a less laborious task than removing a president.
  2. People refer to the British Parliament as the “Mother of Parliament.” This is because Britain developed the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy: a specific system founded on centuries of traditions. Other colonial states adopted the system, such as Australia, and many of them still operate under some variation of the Westminster System today.
  3. Fifty-one countries currently operate under a parliamentary system. Among these countries are Canada, India, Japan and Spain. Most of these countries function in combination with other systems, such as a constitutional monarchy, in which a monarch may share political power with the parliament.
  4. Prime ministers’ powers vary. There are variations in a lot of the parliamentary systems around the world. A prime minister’s power can change depending on the country and allocated duties in the constitutions. The strong prime minister model exists in the United Kingdom and most other countries that were once part of the British Empire. Some of the prime minister’s powers in these countries include the power to change the structure of ministries and the ability to call for elections at any time. Countries in which several political parties must work together to maintain a legislative majority, such as Australia, Italy and Belgium, usually possess weak prime ministers.
  5. There are a few semi-presidential systems. These are systems in which a president and prime minister rule together. The powers between the two seats can vary, with one having more power than the other or both having equal influence. Most countries that operate under this system do so to put checks in place to avoid presidential dictatorships. Examples of countries with this system include Ireland, Portugal and Russia.
  6. There is often less gridlock. Along with the facts about parliamentary democracy, there are some pros and cons. Because the parliament elects the prime minister, people often observe that these two branches function better together than in a presidential democracy in which the public elects the president. Oftentimes legislation passes with less resistance, whereas the United States has faced government shutdowns when legislation was at a standstill.
  7. There can be a quick overturning of leaders and inconsistency. While legislation can pass more efficiently, a negative consequence of the parliamentary structure is the rapidity with which things can change. Because the parliament can remove the prime minister anytime he or she falls out of favor, this can lead to a lot of restructuring and inconsistent leadership. This happened during the Brexit process, in which three separate prime ministers received the appointment to deal with the aftermath of the vote.
Many believe it is important to know about the different forms of government structures so that one can examine their own country and evaluate its relative effectiveness. Hopefully, these basic facts about parliamentary democracy have provided a foundation to understand the structure and some of the pros and cons of the system.

 – Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

Calgary Reduces Poverty in 2020
Over the last 6 years, poverty in Calgary reduced. From 2015 to 2017, the rate dropped from 9.8 percent to 6.9 percent in 2019. Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC), a nonprofit organization, has advocated for communities under the poverty line since 2005. Delving into its own independent research, the results have improved with the assistance of Enough for All (E4A). This is a city-based poverty reduction strategy where its citizens, people in business, educators and government officials come together to discuss ways to solve this issue in their community. Back when it started in 2013, many community organizations and government officials made progress regardless of status.

Enough For All

The provincial government introduced the Alberta Child Benefit, which increased and indexed income support programs to the cost of living. Meanwhile, the federal government released Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy. Most recently, E4A has already made an impact through its partnerships in over fifteen community service areas where poverty has decreased. Some have stated that the ongoing vision of this strategy has shown progress as “a community where there is enough for all,” hence the name of the project. The mission is to resume its goodwill by creating opportunities to align and leverage the work of hundreds of organizations and thousands of its Calgary’s citizens to reduce poverty in the city. It has a target of reducing Calgary’s 2015 poverty level by 30 percent by 2023. This is one of the plans that the city of Calgary intends to use to reduce poverty in the year 2020.

Market Basket Measure

When applying the Market Basket Measure to the incidence of low income in Calgary, there has been a decrease in the city’s poverty situation. It is unclear if this qualifies as a downward trend. Market Basket Measure is a measure of low-income based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living. This includes the costs of food, clothing, footwear, transportation and shelter among other expenses for families made up of two adults ages 25 to 49 and two children ages 9 to 13. A working group of federal, provincial and territorial officials included its definition of disposable income, led by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) between 1997 and 1999.

Calgary’s City Council and the United Way of Calgary adopted this program unanimously, as well as the area’s Board of Directors back in 2013. Vibrant Communities Calgary received the steward of the strategy, acting as a backbone organization to guide the implementation of the strategy while the community acts to make helpful changes within the city. In the last five years, Calgary has experienced an increase in unemployment and an economic slump, despite the addition of 7,000 more jobs in Calgary. Despite the unemployment rate at 7.2 percent in Cowtown, it has improved steadily.

Poverty in Other Areas of Canada

Canada has an official poverty line. With the release of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, Opportunity for All, the federal government has announced that the Market Basket Measure will be the single measure for measuring and reporting on income poverty moving forward. The establishment of a single poverty line should create alignment across municipalities, provinces and territories.

The minimum wage is infinitely closer to the living wage. The gap between Calgary’s living wage of $16.45 per hour and the provincial minimum wage of $15.00 per hour is at a historical low of only 8 percent. Social assistance incomes continue to fall short of the poverty line. Despite a recent increase, benefit levels for income support are still about 50 percent of the poverty line.

Poverty in Alberta

The province of Alberta collectively has a poverty rate of 5 percent among children, cutting the rate in half from 2015 to 2017. In the same time frame, there were 622,000 children living below that line. This is a 2 percent drop with an 8.2 percent decrease within the past decade overall. Dating back to 2007, there were more than 1.1 million children living under the line. The major reason for this improvement is due to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), as well as the Alberta Child Benefit. The CCB gives tax-free monthly payments to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Additional perks include child disability benefits for children with physical and developmental disabilities. This is another way that poverty in Calgary is reducing in 2020 while helping the province do so entirely.

As for the Alberta Child Benefit (ACB), there is an increase in income support programs that aid the cost of living, community hubs and a national poverty reduction strategy involving the city. While the city is planning to further improve its unemployment rate, government officials and community organizers have developed another program. Poverty continues to be the day-to-day reality of more than 120,000 Calgarians within the province. The ACB is a tax-free amount that goes to families with children under 18 years of age with a yearly salary below $43,295. There is no income requirement, which is similar to the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, a tax-free amount that goes to families that have a working income and children under 18 years of age.

With the number of plans put in use, along with an outpouring of support within the community, Calgary has made headway in giving its citizens a chance to hope for a better outcome of its future. These ideas have shown that one of Canada’s most populous and prosperous cities can improve as poverty in Calgary continues to reduce.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

North American Free Trade Agreement
In December 2019, the United States House of Representatives passed the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, ushering in a new paradigm for trade between the three North American countries. In doing so, it ended a 30-year trading period governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This was a landmark trade deal that George H. W. Bush initiated in 1989 with the passage of the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations with Mexico ensued, with Canada joining the talks and a conclusion of a deal between the three, signed into force under the administration of Bill Clinton in 1994. With the adoption of the USMCA, the previous agreement has become obsolete. One can now assess the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though the countries will update and analyze the agreement throughout the next few years as the components of the new deal take effect.

Proponents and Opponents of NAFTA

NAFTA broke ground in neoliberal terms. Free trade principles that Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan championed dissolved tariffs and liberalized trade with a focus on the agriculture, textile and automobile industries. Supporters of the deal proclaimed the benefits that the deal would bring, including boosting the trade and economies of the three countries, particularly Mexico’s developing one. They forecasted that Mexicans would find better jobs in Mexico. Therefore, they would stay, rather than immigrating illegally to the United States. Furthermore, NAFTA would benefit U.S. and Canadian companies seeking markets for goods and cheap labor.

There were many arguments against NAFTA from the onset. Critics jeopardized the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement before it even started. Headlined by then third-party U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot, opponents claimed that opening the Mexican border to free trade principles would result in what he called a “giant sucking sound” as companies outsourced American jobs to Mexico to seek lower wages.

The Results

With the benefit of hindsight, experts now say that NAFTA had neither as good nor as bad of an impact on the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico as some initially predicted. Like many things, the reality lay in the middle. While trade objectively increased, even tripled by some accounts, American jobs did indeed flee to Mexico. Many left the Midwest and created the so-called Rust Belt. An article published by the Economic Policy Institute details the extent of the losses, contending that 682,900 jobs suffered in the U.S. at NAFTA’s expense. Many of these job losses, 60.8 percent, were in manufacturing. Supporters predicted manufacturing would see an increase of up to two million in five years.

In short, U.S. companies benefited at the detriment of Mexican families. Further, two million Mexican families with previous engagement in farming activities lost their livelihoods. In addition, small businesses closed in the 10s of thousands. Between NAFTA and subsequent free trade deals with countries like Peru, Colombia and some Central American and Caribbean countries, millions experienced displacement from their homes and fled. Many fled to the United States, proving to exacerbate illegal immigration rather than alleviate it. Mexico did see an increase in jobs for a while, especially in the automotive industry, expanding from 120,000 to 550,000 since 1994. However, this has not been nearly enough to offset the harm caused; even when accounting for a boost in trade and considerable improvement in foreign direct investment to Mexico from $15 to $100 billion.

The Potential Future

Overall, companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico benefited in some ways from free trade. Generally, this left a significant legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, it came at a substantial loss for individuals and worsened existing problems like outsourcing and illegal immigration. The biggest hope for the future lies in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The USMCA, agreed to by the three countries, passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Ideally, it will right some of the wrongs that NAFTA inflicted, while continuing to promote trade and economic growth in North America.

Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr