Guest contributor Nick Falvo on his new report examining poverty in Yukon.
On May 24, 2012, I released a (peer-reviewed) policy report on poverty in Yukon. The report is entitled Poverty Amongst Plenty: Waiting for the Yukon Government to Adopt a Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Most Canadian jurisdictions today have a “poverty reduction strategy,” but as the title of this report suggests, Yukon has yet to implement one.
The report provides a general overview of poverty indicators in Yukon. It also discusses what initial steps have already been taken by the Yukon Government to develop a poverty reduction strategy. Finally, it makes five recommendations to the Yukon Government with the goal of reducing poverty.
Key report findings include the following:
It is expensive for governments to ignore poverty, due largely to lost productivity and higher health care costs. Social assistance recipients throughout Canada have a high rate of “food insecurity,” but this is especially prevalent in Yukon, where the cost of living is higher than most other Canadian jurisdictions. The report further notes that poor nutrition can predispose individuals to various health problems, including hypertension, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Lone-parent households in Yukon have an especially difficult time making ends meet; their household budgets are stretched and they’re twice as likely to live in overcrowded housing than the rest of Yukon’s households. The average house price in Whitehorse has increased by 80% in the past six years (even after adjusting for inflation). As of March 2012, the rental vacancy rate in Whitehorse was 1.3%. This means it is very difficult for low-income households to find a unit to rent. Yukon is one of the only Canadian jurisdictions that fully ‘claws back’ the National Child Benefit Supplement from social assistance recipients. In effect, this means that a household on social assistance in Yukon is denied up to $2,200 per year for one child; the Yukon Government, in effect, denies them of this money, presumably in an effort to make gainful employment seem more attractive. Between 2001 and 2008, the number of people in Yukon earning more than $250,000 annually more than quadrupled. Between 2008 and 2010, while the Canadian economy as a whole grew by just 1%, Yukon’s economy grew by 11%. Yukon, along with Alberta, has no public debt.
In short, there are plenty of reasons for government to want to reduce poverty, and the Yukon Government is clearly in a position to deliver.
The full report is available here: www.homelesshub.ca/Yukon.