Child poverty rates are going down across the country. According to Statistics Canada the number of children living in poverty in Canada dropped from 13.3 per cent in 2015 to to nine per cent in 2017.
Every province followed the national trend, except for Nova Scotia where the number of children in poverty went from 15.7 in 2015 to 17.1 in 2017.
The data reflects the first full year in which parents received the increased Canada Child Benefit, which is being pointed to as one of the reasons most provinces have seen a decrease.
“Most of the other provinces you’ve had an increase in income assistance support to kind of leverage that Canada Child Benefit,” said Christine Saulnier with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“So you not only have the federal government stepping in, you have provincial government stepping in so that gap is shrinking and shrinking.”
But Nova Scotia has the lowest income assistance rates in the country, and Saulnier says efforts to raise it have not been enough.
“We’ve seen $17 here, $20 a month there,” Saulnier said. “That’s not enough. That’s not enough to lift them out of poverty.”
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It’s something Jodi Brown agrees with.
She was on social assistance in 2015 and says it was very difficult to support her two children.
“My personal allowance for the whole month was $255. And out of that $255 I had to take $46 to cover the rent because my rent wasn’t fully covered from social assistance,” she said. “That’s impossible. That was my shampoo, my conditioner, my toothpaste, food.”
But Minister of Community Services Kelly Regan says that while the numbers are concerning, she is also surprised.
“These numbers actually fly in the face of all the other indicators we have right now,” she said. “For example, unemployment was going down in 2017 and continues to go down, our income assistance caseload continues to go down.” Regan added that they have been in touch with Statistics Canada to better understand the numbers and find out why this is happening.
“We’re just still trying to figure this out right now, because of course whatever the cause is, that will influence what we do about it,” she said.
In addition to having the highest number of children in poverty, Nova Scotia also has the lowest median income after tax at $50,200.