Blog Series – Part Three: Social Policy for Poverty Reduction

In the previous blog series, we identified policies that have already been introduced by the provincial government, and how they are contributing to poverty reduction.  In this final blog post, we will identify new opportunities.

Based on our experience in strategy development, engagement with lived experience, and through guidance from Enough for All stakeholders, Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) has identified new policy opportunities to reduce poverty.  Much like the Let’s Do This Alberta campaign led by End Poverty Edmonton, we believe progress in these areas will contribute to poverty reduction.

The Government of Alberta should align how it measures poverty with Canada’s official poverty line.

The measurement of income poverty is an essential part of tracking our progress towards poverty reduction in Alberta.  Before the federal government released Canada’s official poverty line in August of 2018, policymakers and advocates had multiple measures and multiple statistics to choose from.  Without a consistent measure, understanding trends and causes is nearly impossible.  Canada’s official poverty measure the Market Basket Measure will be updated every five years to ensure the goods and services are relevant to Canadians.  It has the advantage of being sensitive to regional differences in cost of living, and it is a measure that service providers and advocates can easily describe and communicate to the general public.  The Calgary Social Policy Collaborative, a group of community organizations and funders committed to working together to inform the development of public policy has supported research by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy to gain a deeper understanding of poverty in Alberta.  The first of two reports Measuring and Responding to Income Poverty identifies the benefits of a consistent measure of income[1].

Improve Alberta’s income support programs to meet basic needs.

All Albertans relying exclusively on Alberta Works or AISH are living in poverty[2].  Recent changes to Alberta Works and AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) are a crucial step in the right direction towards addressing one of the most recognized systemic barriers to reducing poverty, and bringing the level of income support closer to the poverty line.  A next step should include a modification of social assistance rates to match the cost of living in a given region in Alberta.  These steps indicate a readiness Alberta to eventually look at replacing its income support programs with a basic income guarantee.

Seek advancement on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls-to-Action

Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Call-to-Action (TRC) report in 2015, most Enough for All collaborators reported they were aware of or had some knowledge of truth and reconciliation, this was identified through VCC’s annual stakeholder survey in 2017.  Although we are at the beginning of this journey, the environment has noticeably shifted, and more organizations are making truth and reconciliation a high priority.  The Indigenous Gathering Place (IGP) Society of Calgary is working towards the building of a gathering place for Indigenous people to heal, renew and celebrate their culture.  Calgary has the fifth largest urban Indigenous population in Canada, and there is growing recognition that Indigenous peoples living in the city are challenged by limited opportunities and resources to access and explore their culture.

Provincial support for this infrastructure project in Calgary could be a tremendous opportunity to advance reconciliation.

Enable the use of Social Procurement

Through its purchasing power, the provincial government has the opportunity to target employment or training to people who face barriers to employment, such as Indigenous people, ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities and newcomers.  Social procurement has no added cost and holds the opportunity to ensure that local businesses remain competitive with foreign ones, improve social outcomes, and contribute to economic diversification.  For additional details on this recommendation, refer to Momentum’s report on Social Procurement for Alberta.

 

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[1] This research was supported by 11 members of the Calgary Social Policy Collaborative.  Read the group’s response to the report here http://vibrantcalgary.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/SPC-Response-to-Measuring-and-Responding-to-Income-Poverty-Concepts-and-Possibilities.pdf

[2] Vibrant Communities Calgary (2018). Poverty in Calgary: A Picture of the incidence and experience of low income in Calgary and area. Retrieved from http://vibrantcalgary.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Poverty-Snapshot-2018.pdf.  Also, check out http://vibrantcalgary.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Albertas-Income-Supports-are-keeping-people-poor.pdf.

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