February 10, 2022

On Monday, February 7th Campaign 2000 National Director, Leila Sarangi, appeared at the finance committee to highlight several recommendations that we’ve made in our 2022 Budget Submission and child poverty report card, as well as to highlight the recent crisis of low-income seniors who have had their GIS clawed back and are suffering – unable to pay for rent, food, or medications. Click here to watch the FINA presentation or read below for a full transcript.

FINA presentation – February 7, 2022

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

Hello and thank you for inviting me to appear today.  My name is Leila Sarangi and I am the National Director of Campaign 2000, a coalition of over 120 organizations working to end child and family poverty.

Today, I’ll be highlighting several recommendations we’ve made in our Budget 2022 submission and our latest child poverty report card, which found that more than 1.3 million children continue live in poverty.  That’s nearly one in five kids but the rates are much higher for indigenous children, racialized, immigrant, children with disabilities and children in lone-mother led families, among others marginalized by systemic barriers. These families are living in deeper poverty and inequalities are growing.  And while the national rate of child poverty reduced slightly in the last year, when we looked by province and territory, we found it actually increased in several of those sub-jurisdictions.  

I’m going to focus in on two areas – income benefits and childcare – although we address many other essential areas in those documents.

The first is the need to budget for a full CERB Amnesty.  Funds that have been earmarked in the fiscal update to repay seniors who lost GIS, must be released now.  We’ve been hearing from seniors who have lost their housing, who are living in their cars, who can’t afford their medication and food.  Many have contemplated suicide because of this hardship, and too many have lost their lives already. We implore you on their behalf to pay an emergency $2500 to these seniors now and create a new $100 million housing fund to help keep all clawback victims housed.

The CERB has interacted with other federal and provincial benefits.  So, in addition to losing GIS, people with low and moderate incomes have lost child benefits, workers benefits, GST credits, social and disability assistance, housing supplements and other provincial benefits such as those for energy and childcare costs, which they depended on to get through these extraordinarily difficult times.

A full CERB Amnesty would mean that all clawed back benefits would be returned, and it would mean to stop pursuing low- and moderate-income individuals for repayments of pandemic benefits. 

It would ensure that pandemic benefits would not negatively interact with income benefits in this or future tax years.

And it would immediately increase the current lockdown benefit to $500 and maintain that amount until EI is reformed.

We also recommend using the Canada Social Transfer to ensure adequacy of income programs by increasing investment by $4 billion and tying funds to adequacy standards, making sure that provincial and territorial programs are meeting human rights obligations.

Our last two annual report cards have found that the Canada Child Benefit is losing its power.  It needs significantly more investment into the base amount so that it can reach children who are left in deep poverty. Repealing the section of the income tax act that ties eligibility to immigration status would enable access to people with precarious immigration status but who are considered residents under the Income tax Act.

And we support the recommendation of disability communities to speed up the design and implementation of the new federal disability benefit, and we recommend the creation of a new federal disability benefit for children.

While the tax system is broad and ongoing activities to bring more people into it are important poverty reduction initiatives, it will never be universal.  We need a parallel benefit distribution system that is federally funded and works with local charities to get benefits to people who are outside of the tax system.  This kind of work is happening informally in communities across the country, and programs are formalized in jurisdictions around the world that we can learn from.

And lastly, on childcare, a national system has the power to be transformational if designed with low-income families in mind.  Our recommendation is a sliding scale $0-$10/day model that reduces fees through funding of operational costs, not through an individual parental fee subsidy model, which we know from experience hasn’t worked for families and doesn’t actually reduce fees.  Operational funding must also factor in decent wages for staff.  Provincial and territorial wage grids will be an essential piece of this funding policy.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to answering any questions.

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