In 2020 we should take a leaf out of Alberta's child poverty reduction book

In 2020, the big question will be, can the Government end child poverty in Aotearoa? The answer is yes, but the steps need to be bold, and a shining success story that we can take our lead from is that of Alberta, Western Canada.

Within two years of Rachel Notley becoming Premier, child poverty was reduced by half, by boosting incomes for struggling families to an adequate level, increasing child-related benefits, increasing the minimum wage, making public transport affordable, and controlling predatory lending.

In 2020, we can do this, if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes wellbeing to the next steps.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Government of Alberta achieved a 50% reduction in the child poverty rate, dropping it from 10% to 5%. The province now has the lowest child poverty rate in Canada. In the same period the province’s overall poverty rate dropped from 8.2% to 6.8%, meaning an estimated 55,000 fewer people living in poverty.

How was this achieved?

The Government of Alberta recognized they could take action to support their people in managing the effects of income insecurity. So the DID take action:

  • In 2015 they introduced the Alberta Child Benefit (ACB), providing direct financial assistance to lower-income families with children under 18 and having a family net income less than $42,255 per year. 
  • In 2016, they introduced additional support for families with children: the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), so a family with two children earning $30,000 per year now earns an additional $4,300 annually. This more than doubled the 2014 income supports that same family would have received.
  • From 2015-2017, provincial minimum wage increases raised the wage floor by 33%. In 2018, an additional increase brought the minimum wage to $15. These increases benefited an estimated 10% of low wage employees, “two-thirds of whom were women, 37% were parents, and more than half worked full time”.
  • In 2017, they passed The Act to End Predatory Lending, reducing annual interest rates on payday loans from 600% to 200%, so protecting consumers from getting trapped in vicious cycles of debt. The legislation made Alberta’s rate the lowest in the country. In 2018, borrowers saved over $10 million in loan fees.
  • In 2017, the Government injected funds to provide subsidized transit passes to low-income riders. Affordable transportation passes support riders to access work, education, appointments, recreation, and social and other activities.
  • The 2019 Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities supported 250,000 people with disabilities, low-income families, and seniors to better manage the rising costs of living and retain spending power over time. The Act increased benefit rates for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and Income Support recipients, indexed rates to the cost of living, and increased asset limits, spousal income exemptions, and child allowance benefits. 

Child poverty can be reduced and eventually solved if the Government takes the right combination of actions. We could make measurable progress in 2020.

Read the full story of Alberta’s success at CASE STUDY | ALBERTA PROVES THAT YES WE CAN! REDUCE POVERTY, by ALISON HOMER