Media Release

Dangerous double standard in treatment of pandemic benefit programs, warn anti-poverty advocates

The Auditor General’s report released last week on COVID-19 benefits is a cause for concern say anti-poverty advocates.  The report, which calls for a more vigorous post-payment verification and repayment process for individuals, will drive more people into deeper poverty while it lets corporations who benefitted from the pandemic off the hook.

Data show that marginalized workers – women, Indigenous, racialized, young, low income, and with precarious labour market attachment – were more likely to receive pandemic benefits.  These benefits led to significant reductions in poverty and inequality, precisely when these payments were needed most.

Alarmingly, the AG finds that the benefits paid resulted in disincentives to work at a time that the government was urging Canadians to stay at home and many lower wage service jobs were unsafe.  “The AG was not hired to be an expert in social policy, and she has no qualifications in employment policy,” said Sid Frankel, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Manitoba and Campaign 2000 Steering Committee member. “She clearly lacks awareness of relevant research from more than a dozen basic income trials that found no evidence of significant reductions in either hours of work or labor participation rates in response to these programs.”

During the pandemic and after its worst days, low-wage workers have experienced difficulties in obtaining and maintaining housing, supports to manage child and elder care, and achieving basic food security, contributing significantly to the inability of people to return to work when pandemic restrictions were loosened or lifted altogether.

For the AG to say that the availability of additional income resulted in failure to take on employment among the poorest of the poor reveals a significant misunderstanding of how the job world works. Canadians would be best served if the AG focused on accounting and audit functions within her considerable realm of expertise and refrained from conjecture rooted in stereotypes of benefit recipients gaming the system and being lazy and undeserving of help. 

“Parliament presumably neither retained nor paid the Auditor General to serve up this kind of misinformation concerning which features of pandemic relief programs actually incentivize work. On the one hand, she is out of her depth. On the other, it is simply not in her mandate,” said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. 

The federal government is already spending more than $250 million in taxpayer dollars to verify eligibility and pursue repayments from people they have deemed ineligible for pandemic benefits they received.  While they have been calling their approach compassionate and flexible, what we have been learning in the nearly two years since this process started is that it causes unnecessary hardship for the mostly low-income people who are being pursued. 

Low-income earners have a much harder time meeting verification requirements.  Many are paid in cash and these payments do not flow through bank accounts because of their need to make essential purchases immediately.  People who receive honoraria from non-profits rarely receive accompanying paperwork they can use to prove eligibility. 

Others were encouraged to apply at the outset of the pandemic when the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was rolling out quickly and there was much confusion regarding eligibility.  We will not leave anyone behind, the federal government repeatedly announced.  Social workers, community workers, welfare case workers, constituency office workers, CRA workers all either encouraged or mandated people to apply. 

“The pandemic benefits were not tucked away into savings accounts by people who struggle to live on low incomes.  The money was spent to provide for their basic needs,” Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000.  “Seeking repayments now, in the context of record high inflation, from people who already cannot make ends meet, can only result in more hardship and destitution.”

The Auditor General’s report also looks at the Canada Employment Wage Subsidy.  It found that, alarmingly, the program did not collect enough data for the report to determine its effectiveness in supporting employees. The Auditor General was unable to determine if wage subsidies were even used to prevent layoffs because the government chose not to collect that data or to follow up with employers.

The report fails to address the fact that wage subsidies flowed to major corporations who were strong enough to withstand pandemic downturns.  It does find, however, that unlike the CERB, which changed over time to address the changing landscape, there were few improvements made to the wage subsidy program over the course of its life. 

The Auditor General’s report should have recommended more aggressive pursuit of large corporations that used wage subsidy programs to pad their bottom line and the pockets of their CEOs, and a CERB repayment amnesty for individuals living on low and moderate incomes who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

“The bias displayed in this report is reprehensible.  Individuals who were struggling before the pandemic took the lifeline, CERB, offered by the federal government as they had nothing to fall back on.  Now we are going to force them to pay back what they used to survive and have a different standard of accountability for businesses who accessed pandemic benefits?” said Kate Kehler, Executive Director of Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.  “If employers want to attract and retain employees, they need to pay a living wage and provide good working conditions and governments should be mandating that, not pushing struggling individuals and families over the edge.”

About Campaign 2000: Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty, hosted by Family Service Toronto. For more information visit To view an interactive map of Canada showing child poverty rates by federal riding, click here.

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MEDIA CONTACT                                                                            

Leila Sarangi
National Director, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

[email protected]

Mothers with multiple children most affected by punitive CERB clawbacks

TORONTO – This week the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will be notifying tax filers of how much they will receive in refundable tax credits, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). Many families who have received pandemic benefits in the past will surprised to learn of further reductions in upcoming credits. 

Campaign 2000 has been organizing a CERB Amnesty Working Group for over two years. Membership is made up of community organizations, policy analysts, community legal clinics and people with living expertise of poverty/disability and other intersections of marginalization.  Together, they have been monitoring the effects of CERB on the incomes and the lives of people with low and moderate incomes. According to analysis by Open Policy, this round of clawbacks will primarily affect mothers, despite commitments from the federal government to advance gender equality and feminist policy.

“Letters from federal departments going out to millions of mothers this July will confirm that pandemic benefits will be confiscated from their ongoing child benefits” says John Stapleton, Principal and Founder of Open Policy.  “And those mothers with larger families will be hit hardest – the ones who require child benefits the most. For a mother with 4 children with a modest earned income of $33,000 a year and who would otherwise receive the maximum CCB amount, the hit will be over $3,000 in reduced refundable credits.”

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), three recovery benefits and the lockdown benefits all count as taxable income, which can affect how much a person is eligible for in refundable tax credits.  For those with low and moderate incomes, depending on the particular tax credit, the amounts of the pandemic benefits could push incomes up over tax credit thresholds, resulting in clawbacks.

“The problem is that the benefits were received months ago – and in some cases over a year ago. Families have spent that money on what it was intended for, that was to stay safe and shelter at home,” says Leila Sarangi, National Director of the anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty. “In the context of rising inflation, families, including those on moderate incomes, are depending on government transfers like the Canada Child Benefit to make ends meet.”

According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, child benefit payments were reduced on average by $606 in 2021/22 because of pandemic benefits being counted into income calculations.  Over three years, these clawbacks will mean that the federal government will spend $1.45 billion less in child benefit payments.

“It seems exceptionally punitive and antithetical to feminist economic policy,” Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.  “It’s why we’ve urged for immediate CERB Amnesty.  Government refunded clawbacks to seniors, gave the self-employed repayment amnesty and provided partial relief for students. Now is the time for a CERB Amnesty for mothers, children and anyone living with low or moderate incomes.”

CONTACT INFORMATION                                                                            

National: Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty Email: [email protected] Cell: 647-393-1097

Campaign 2000 Reacts to Federal Fiscal Update

National anti-poverty coalition reacts to 2021 federal fiscal update – precedence set for a full CERB Amnesty

Toronto – Since June 2020, national anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000 has been sounding the alarm about the negative consequences the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been having for people living on low incomes.

Yesterday’s fiscal update promises a one-time repayment to low income seniors who received the CERB, which then unexpectedly reduced, and in some cases cancelled, their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), resulting in loss of housing, homelessness, food insecurity, the inability to pay for medications and increased stress and anxiety.

The update also provides debt relief to students who received, but were ineligible for, the CERB and were eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) by offsetting their debt with the CESB amount.

“A one-time repayment for seniors who lost their GIS and creating a mechanism to offset student CERB debt are first steps in the right direction,” said Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000.  “Compensation must now be expanded to include anyone living on low incomes who had other income benefits reduced, including people on social and disability assistance, and those who saw their workers benefit, child benefits and housing supplements reduced.”

In an open letter to Members of Parliament sent yesterday, Campaign 2000 urged all elected officials to support a full “CERB Amnesty”, which includes ensuring pandemic emergency benefits do not interact with other types of income supplements; that anyone living on or near poverty levels who had a loss to income supplements receive full repayment to compensate for that loss; and for the federal government to immediately cease pursuing people for CERB repayments who are living in poverty, regardless of eligibility. 

CERB Amnesty also recommends the reinstatement of the Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals whose working hours are still impacted by the pandemic into Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19 and ensuring social and disability assistance adequacy standards are tied to the funds given to provinces and territories through the Canada Social Transfer.

 “No one should be left worse off for having received federal pandemic benefits in a time of crisis,” Sarangi added.  “Now that precedence is set with repayments and debt relief for certain groups, we expect that this fix will be extended to everyone living in poverty.”


Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty, hosted by Family Service Toronto. To download 2021 report cards or for more information, please visit

Contact information

Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000, 647-393-1097, [email protected]

No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery

Campaign 2000 releases its annual report card on child and family poverty, No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery. The report shows data that suggest poverty reduction has declined and in some parts of Canada, poverty has increased. Using the latest data available (from 2019) this report paints a stark picture of income, health and social inequalities and deepening levels of child and family poverty.  In fact, children are living in deeper poverty. For example, the average single parent family with 2 children living in low income was $13,262 away from the CFLIM-AT in 2019, compared to $9,612 away in 2015. To reach the poverty line, a parent earning $15 per hour would need to work an additional 5.5 months full-time, assuming no taxes or deductions.

For the first time, the national report examines poverty through a social determinant of health framework. It is accompanied by an interactive map that shows that child poverty is a significant issue in every federal riding across the country. The report finds disproportionately higher rates of child poverty among communities marginalized by systemic barriers.

It was found that poverty reduction associated with the Canada Child Benefit will continue to stall and that it does not provide enough support to move families out of poverty. As such, the report offers recommendations for moving forward in a way that is inclusive and plays a clear role in poverty reduction.

This report offers 60 recommendations for poverty reduction and recovery efforts.

Key Findings from the 2021 National Report Card, No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery

  • Nearly 1 in 5 children lived in poverty (1,313,400 or 17.7%) in 2019
  • The national child poverty rate declined by .5 of a percentage points between 2018-2019, representing an additional 24,170 lifted out of poverty.  At this rate, it would take 54 more years to end child poverty.
  • The child poverty rate is higher (18.5%) for children under six than all children.  
  • The reduction in poverty associated with the Canada Child Benefit will continue to stall. The benefit cannot move eligible families in deep poverty out.  The maximum CCB was $6,639 for each child under six and $5,602 for each child between the ages of six and seventeen in 2019.
  • Canada’s universal childcare plan must include low-income children with a sliding scale fee model of $0 to $10 maximum.
  • Care work should be decent work. The care economy (including health, childcare, education) represents 21.1% of all jobs and generates 12% of GDP and must be central to an inclusive recovery.
  • Canada still needs a national pharmacare plan, which should be expanded to include dental, vision, rehabilitation.

Want to read more?

Click on the following links to read and download the new report cards as they become available.

English National Report Card (Amended), Infographic and Press Release

French Executive Summary; Full French National Report Card and French press release

Check out the provincial report cards:

British Columbia Report and Press Release


Saskatchewan Report Card and a Critical Review of Canada’s Poverty Line: The Market Basket Measure

Manitoba Report Card and Press Release

English Ontario Report Card and Press Release; French Ontario Report Card and Press Release

New Brunswick Report Card and Press Release

Nova Scotia Report Card and Press Release

Prince Edward Island (amended)

Yukon (forthcoming)

Cross-Canada Support for CERB Repayment Amnesty

People across Canada are supportive of a broad repayment amnesty for anyone living on low incomes, according to a Campaign 2000 petition presented to the House of Commons today.

The petition, signed by people living in nearly every jurisdiction in the country, called on the government to implement a repayment amnesty for all people who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) whose incomes are below or just above the poverty line, and for all youth transitioning out of care, regardless of eligibility to receive the benefit.

“The CERB was not intended to be a poverty reduction tool, but that’s exactly what it did. The federal government should be applauded for taking quick action in a time of crisis and delivering this low-barrier benefit to people who needed it,” says Leila Sarangi, National Coordinator of Campaign 2000. “Not only is it cruel to ask for money back from those living on low incomes who took and used the benefit for what it was meant to be used for, but it goes against the government’s own goals to reduce poverty.” Read the full press release.

Yukon, Saskatchewan, French Nat’l Report Cards Released

Today campaign partners in Saskatchewan and Yukon release new reports on child and family poverty. This is the first ever Campaign 2000-affiliated child poverty report released in the Yukon – thank you and congratulations to the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. 

The Yukon report found that in 2018, 10.9% of Yukoners were considered low income, but Yukoners most likely to be considered low income based on the Low Income Measure included Lone-parent families (22.1%) and Households living outside of the Whitehorse (14.5%). Read the full report, which includes 10 recommendations and several policy proposals to improve the health and wellness of children, youth, and families in the Yukon.

The Saskatchewan report reveals a provincial child poverty rate of 26.1%, well above the child poverty rate of 18.2% for Canada as a whole, and greater than all other provinces and territories with the exception of Manitoba and Nunavut. Children in lone parent families had a poverty rate of 59.9%.

Read the Saskatchewan 2020 Child and Family Report Card and Poverty Report Brief.

Read the Yukon 2020 Child and Family Report Card and the media release.

Also out today is the French 2020 National Report card

C2000 asks for CERB repayment amnesty for low-income families

Campaign 2000 calls on all federal leaders to take a stand in support of all low income people in Canada who have faced economic hardship before and during the pandemic by supporting a broad repayment amnesty for those who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) but were later deemed ineligible.

“The federal government’s roll out of individual emergency income supports in March must be applauded,” says Leila Sarangi, National Coordinator for Campaign 2000. “This move no doubt was a lifeline for thousands of people living on low income. Now it’s time for the Prime Minister and all federal party leaders to decisively support a CERB repayment amnesty for anyone living in low income who received the benefit but who were found to be ineligible after the fact.”

Read the full press release.

Is Progress on Ending Child Poverty Stalling?

Today, Campaign 2000 releases its annual report on child and family poverty, Beyond the Pandemic: Rising Up for a Canada Free of Poverty. New findings show that prior to the pandemic, over 1,330,000 children in Canada lived in poverty, and the child poverty rate declined less than half a percentage point between 2017-2018 from 18.6% to 18.2%. Nearly 1 in 5 children continue to experience the harsh long-term consequences that poverty and discrimination have on social, mental and physical health and well-being.

Of concern, the report finds that child poverty rates grew in several provinces and territories, including Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and remained relatively unchanged in Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.  The rates declined modestly in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Yukon and Northwest Territories.  Examining the role of the Canada Child Benefit, we find that it had an important impact in the year it was first introduced, but the deteriorating effect on child poverty rates suggests that this impact was front-ended and waning.  

Longstanding economic inequality and social and health inequalities have impacted the ability of many vulnerable families to weather the pandemic. Systemic discrimination, widespread precarious work, dismally inadequate social assistance rates, barriers to accessing government transfers, lack of available and affordable housing, childcare, medicare, and little movement towards true Reconciliation have left children and their families vulnerable to the negative health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic and excluded from emergency responses.

With today’s report, Campaign 2000 releases a set of recommendations designed for the federal government to address longstanding inequities head on. Recommendations include emphasis on collaboration with First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments and organizations, targeted action to reduce poverty in communities marginalized by race, gender, ability and other equity dimensions with investments and policy reforms on income security, childcare, housing, youth, public health, decent work, and income inequality. These recommendations will ensure that all vulnerable families are included in short-term and long-term recovery efforts. Today’s report is launched alongside provincial and, for the first time ever, territorial report cards in Yukon and the Northwest Territories, highlighting that poverty is a national issue, impacting the lives of children and families from coast to coast to coast.

Select key Findings from the 2020 National Report Card, Beyond the Pandemic: Rising Up for a Canada Free of Poverty

  • Nearly 1 in 5 children lived in poverty (1,337,570 or 18.2%) in Canada in 2018.
  • The national child poverty rate declined by less than half a percentage point between 2017 to 2018, from 18.6% to 18.2%, representing 19,410 children fewer children in poverty.
  • Poverty rates increased between 2017 to 2018 in several jurisdictions: Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
  • The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) had a significant impact on child poverty rates the year it was implemented, but this lack of progress suggests that benefits were front-ended and short lived. In 2018, the CCB protected 662,080 from falling into poverty.
  • 1.2 million children were food insecure in 2017-2018, representing the highest number recorded since food insecurity monitoring began in Canada. The CCB has been shown to reduce severe food insecurity in families.
  • Well-designed government transfers can reduce poverty. In 2018, total government transfers reduced the child poverty rate from 33.1% to 18.2%, reflecting a difference of over one million fewer children living in poverty. But transfers alone are not enough.
  • Canada must aim to reduce poverty by 50% according to the CFLIM-AT calculated by taxfiler data by the year 2025 and must ensure the same rate of reduction for marginalized communities where prevalence is higher.
  • Pandemic recovery is dependent on the creation of a well-resourced, publicly funded universal childcare system, eliminating fee subsidy systems that create barriers to access for low-income families.
  • Access to adequate housing is key to maintaining public health. Substantial new investments are needed that meet the needs of diverse communities, and that fulfill the federal governments human rights obligations and gender-based plus (GBA+) commitments of the National Housing Strategy.
  • Now is the time to implement universal pharmacare with new legislation and an initial investment of a $3.5 billion annual pharmacare transfer to the provinces and territories with the condition of providing universal public coverage of essential medicines, with a shift to full pharmacare over 5 years.
  • Economic fallout from the pandemic has affected already vulnerable workers and shone a light on abysmally poor labour standards. Canada must immediately implement $15/hr minimum wage; legislate paid sick days; lengthen the duration and improve access to emergency measures; strengthen the Employment Equity Act and attach Community Benefit Agreements; and reform Employment Insurance over the longer-term.

Click on the following links to read and download the new report cards as they become available.

Check out the provincial report cards on child poverty:

Fiscal update leaves some vulnerable families behind

TORONTO – The federal fall economic statement released yesterday provides some needed support for families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It recognizes a myriad of ways in which vulnerable groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and subsequent emergency responses, which has shown us how clearly public health cannot be separated from a healthy economy. It calls for an intersectional, feminist and green recovery as the way to rebuild a new thriving future state in which no one is left behind.

Campaign 2000: End Child and Family poverty reacts to three areas in the fall economic statement:

Supports for Families

There are important new investments to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) – four tax-free payments of up to $1,200 for children under six available to families eligible for the CCB to be delivered in 2021. As well, quarterly payments of $300 will be paid for each child under the age of six who is receiving the Children’s Special Allowance.

Families with young children have experienced disproportionate job loss and these temporary measures will provide some needed relief. But CCB investments need to be permanent increases, and work to bring families with children up to the Census Family Low Income Measure, After Tax as a target. Families with middle years and older children as well as children with disabilities need extra supports. They are currently left out of this plan, as are those with precarious immigration status who still cannot access these benefits.

Additional funding and accountability measures through the Canada Social Transfer are required to similarly support single individuals, particularly those depending on social and disability assistance, which remains well below poverty the poverty line in every province and territory.

Early Learning and Child Care

The federal government’s two-step plan to create a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care begins with the creation of the Federal Secretariat and continues with the implementation of the plan in the upcoming federal budget. Recognizing the need for a Canada-wide system of childcare to support women’s re-entry into the labour market, there are commitments to fund a Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Childcare with $20 million over five years as well as investments to sustain the existing Indigenous Early Learning and Childcare Secretariat. The $7.5 billion committed in 2016 and 2017 budgets over 11 years is proposed to become permanent instead of ending in 2027-2028 by providing $870 million per year and ongoing, starting in 2028-29. Of this amount, $210 million would support Indigenous early learning and child care programming.

Permanent funding with allocations for Indigenous early learning and child care programs are very important, but funding levels fall well below what is required. Child Care Now has advocated for a 2021-2022 budget allocation for early learning and child care of an additional $2 billion to address the impact of the pandemic and strengthen the sectors capacity to serve families. The $420 million allocated for training of early childhood educators is an important recognition of the essential nature of the workforce and its major contribution to quality service. It is critical that the work of the Early Learning Secretariat begins immediately so that implementation moves forward with the provinces and territories.


The fall economic statement reiterates the promise from the September Throne Speech to end chronic homelessness and invest $1 billion into the Rapid Housing Initiative through the Reaching Home Strategy to create 3,000 units across the country.

The definition of homelessness in this policy must be expanded to include the experiences of children and families experiencing homelessness including women, trans, gender non-conforming people fleeing violence, immigrants and refugees, Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit Peoples. There is currently no plan to ensure that that the Gender Based Plus (GBA+) commitments to allocate at a minimum 25% of resources through the National Housing Strategy are applied to the Rapid Housing Initiative, which would help women, gender diverse people and their dependents who are in immediate need. Targeted supports are required for communities over-represented in the homeless population, including youth with child welfare experience and Indigenous Peoples. Funding for wraparound supports to address complex needs and help people stay housed are also needed as part of this initiative.

Deeply affordable and safe housing is critical to build resilience against public health crises. It is also key to supporting an intersectional, feminist and green economy. Adequate housing is linked to job retention for marginalized women and low income families, and the development of new sustainable green supply can create decent work with community benefits agreements as we further our climate commitments.

For more information, please contact:

Leila Sarangi, National Coordinator, Campaign 2000
C: 647.393.1097
E: [email protected]

Download the media release here.

More action required for children

Campaign 2000: End child and family poverty in Canada, along with over 250  groups and individuals across the country sent a letter today calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal COVID Cabinet Committee to ensure children living in poverty from marginalized communities are central to the pandemic response and recovery plan. 

Written by the Campaign 2000 Steering Committee and endorsed by partners from across the country, the letter sets out a suite of immediate and longer-term policy solutions and fiscal investments to ensure that low-income children and families have the supports they need to survive the pandemic and thrive in the recovery.

Campaign 2000, the groups and individuals endorsing the letter propose a robust and bold plan of action.  It includes better investments and universal access to income supports, social infrastructure that prioritizes building and maintaining affordable, public childcare and housing systems as key to economic recovery efforts, and progressive tax measures to mitigate deepening inequality while generating revenue for COVID-related and poverty reduction expenditures.

Read the letter in full in English and in French.  Read our media release in English and French.