Canadian Social Research Links

Welfare Reforms in Canada

Sites de recherche sociale au Canada

Réformes de l'aide sociale au Canada

Updated May 14, 2016
Page révisée le 14 mai 2016

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Working Paper on Social Security in Canada [PDF]
April 1973 (PDF - 3.6MB, 57 pages)

Excerpt from the Preface:

This Working Paper has been prepared for the Government of Canada's contribution to the launching of this review (...) which would embrace not only what each individual federal and provincial government is doing in the field of income security, but also what governments together are doing. In November 1972, the provincial Ministers of Welfare called for a federal-provincial conference before the spring of 1973 to establish better mechanisms for consultation on social security programmes. And in January 1973, the Government of Canada called for a joint federal-provincial review of "Canada's total social security system", beginning in April 1973.
This working paper has been prepared as the Government of Canada's contribution to the launching of this r

Welfare in Canada:
Provincial Social Assistance in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Daniel Béland and Pierre-Marc Daigneault
The Johnson-Shoyama Series on Public Policy
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division
September 2015
Welfare Reform in Canada provides systematic knowledge of Canadian social assistance by assessing provincial welfare regimes and emphasizing changes since the late 20th century. The book examines activation, social investment, and economic inequalities and provides nuanced perspectives on social welfare across Canada's provinces in relation to trends and issues in the country and beyond.

Click the above link to the 448-page book, then (on the next page) click the "Contents" link to see the complete list of chapters, all written by social policy experts.
You can purchase the book from the University of Toronto Press for $39 (paper) or $86 (cloth).

October 24, 2013 : Luncheon (Regina)
Keynote address by Sherri Torjman

Welfare Re-form:
The Future of Social Policy in Canada
(small PDF file, 1 page)
By Sherri Torjman, Vice-President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Welfare is a rule-bound, stigmatizing scheme that guarantees low income. Our studies of income dynamics have led us to conclude that improving welfare can actually confine some recipients to a life of poverty through its insidious trap: the “welfare wall.” We have proposed instead a set of tax-delivered, income-tested programs – child benefits, earnings supplements and disability income - that provide far more effective and more secure forms of income security.

Ms. Torjman’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion entitled “Saskatchewan Practitioners’ Perspectives on the Current and Future Challenges of Canadian Social Assistance”

University of Regina
School of Public Policy

From the
Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament:

Scaling the Welfare Wall : Earned Income Tax Credits (2 pages)
Sheena Starky
31 March 2006
[ PDF : ]

* Introduction
* The "Welfare Wall"
* Earned Income Tax Credits
* Conclusion
* Selected References and Links

I wanted to highlight this excerpt (below) from "The Welfare Wall", which offers a spot-on description of the perverse effects of the interaction between social assistance and personal income taxation in Canada, and how that interaction can create disincentives to work.

"Canadians who receive social assistance and subsequently accept low-paying employment face a series of consequences that could potentially make them worse off, including: higher income and payroll taxes; new work-related expenses such as transportation, clothing and childcare; reduced income support in the form of social assistance and income-tested refundable tax credits; and loss of in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing and prescription drugs."

Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament

A Comparison of Canadian and American Welfare Reforms and
their Effects on Poverty After 1990
(PDF - 10.7MB, 9 pages)
March 2009
By Fern Karsh
Department of Economics, University of Western Ontario
By Gilles:
This undergrad paper that I found in a Google search result is a large download, but welfare historians will find it an interesting read. It offers a brief history of the funding mechanism for federal contributions to provincial-territorial welfare programs from the (1966) Canada Assistance Plan to the 1990 "cap on CAP" to the 2006 Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST). It also contains a section on welfare reforms in Ontario starting in the mid-1990s with the Mike Harris Tories. There's a section on welfare reform in the U.S during the same period, and a conclusion that the U.S. had "greater success (than Canada) in reducing welfare rolls, unemployment and poverty."

Not so fast.
You can't compare American and Canadian welfare systems, nor the relative success of welfare reforms in both countries, without the necessary context. Tempting as it may be to assume that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in the U.S. and the Canada Social Transfer are pretty much the same thing - a mechanism to stream federal funding to the lower order of government - it would be incorrect to do so, for a host of reasons. Below, I'll address mainly the caseload composition of both TANF and Canadian welfare programs.


Unlike the Canadian welfare system, state welfare programs under the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)* initiative normally grant welfare ONLY to households with children, often headed by single mothers. They exclude all non-disabled single people and childless couples, who must apply instead to the national Food Stamp program and to residual aid programs where they live (if there are any such programs, which is not always the case). In Canada, singles and childless couples make up close to 60% of the total welfare caseload.

Moreover, state welfare programs receiving TANF funding exclude households headed by someone with a disability. In the U.S., people with disabilities must apply for assistance from the federal Social Security Disability program [ ]. In Canada, we have the contribution-based Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit [ ], but provincial-territorial welfare programs also provide needs-tested assistance to people with disabilities - who currently make up about 35-40% of the national welfare caseload.
* TANF is the federal transfer for state welfare programs, the U.S. equivalent to the Canada Social Transfer, which replaced the CHST in 2004. However, there are important differences between the two funding mechanisms in addition to the target population as noted above. For one thing, the federal government in the U.S. imposes a number of conditions on state welfare programs under TANF (e.g., targets for work participation and child poverty), while the Harper Government™ imposes only a non-residency rule on provincial welfare programs (i.e., eligibility for provincial welfare cannot be based on residency in a particular province). Also, welfare under TANF is only *one* of several programs in the U.S. that must be taken into account when comparing U.S. "welfare" with the Canadian system.

In Canada, welfare covers food, shelter, clothing, personal and household needs; in addition to health care coverage, which is universal in Canada, each Canadian jurisdiction offers a range of assistance for special medical needs under its welfare program. In order to compare Canadian and American welfare, the following American programs *must* be included:
* TANF welfare
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps)
Housing vouchers
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
School lunch and breakfast programs
Earned Income Tax Credit
NOTE: In the U.S. when a person or family times out of TANF welfare (between two and five years, depending on the state), they can still apply for some aid from the above programs and other state programs of last resort. If "timing out" were possible in Canada, individuals and families would have no other recourse. But
there's no time limit on welfare in Canada ---- you can continue to receive welfare as long as you can prove financial need and you meet other eligibility requirements. The Government of British Columbia actually imposed a time limit in 2002 that was similar to what many U.S. states had adopted - two years eligibility for welfare out of five. For more info about this draconian Canadian (BC) welfare time limit policy and how it bombed, see:

For more information about TANF, see:

For more information about Canadian welfare programs under the Canada Social Transfer, see:

The Bottom Line:
Canadian and American welfare systems are like apples and oranges.
They shouldn't be compared without situating each system in its appropriate context.

Provincial and Municipal Social Assistance Programs
March 1996

Welfare historians:
The source of this historical file is the Inventory of Income Security Programs in Canada (Health & Welfare Canada, multiple editions from 1984 to 1993). The text is a version of the Overview/Introduction to the chapter on social assistance (or welfare) that's been updated to 1996, just before the Canada Assistance Plan was replaced by the Canada Health and Social Transfer. There's a snapshot of how welfare operated in 1996, and you'll find that some of the rules haven't changed that much since then. There's also some interesting information about the Federal-Provincial Agreements to Enhance the Employability of Social Assistance Recipients (mid-to-late 1980s), known in federal-provincial government circles as "the Four-Cornered Agreements."
Inventory of Income Security Programs in Canada
(not found online)

NOTE: If your historical research interest is welfare in Canada in the mid-1990s,
I also recommend the following:

1. Social Assistance in OECD Countries
Volume II : Country Reports
(PDF - 4.8MB, 499 pages)
- incl. Canada (p. 78-108)
United Kingdom
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

Government transfer payments to persons
On this one table, you'll find the latest five years' worth of information on national expenditures (provincial stats available for a small fee) in the area of transfers to persons, which includes (among other programs):
Family and youth allowances * Child tax benefit or credit * Pensions - First and Second World Wars * War veterans' allowances * Grants to aboriginal persons and organizations * Goods and services tax credit * Employment insurance benefits * Old Age Security Fund payments * Provincial Social assistance, income maintenance * Social assistance, other [bolding added] * Workers compensation benefits * Canada and Quebec Pension Plans.
NOTE: In case you're interested in province-level stats, click the "384-0009" link under 'Source' at the bottom of the table. There you can obtain more specialized CANSIM tables, including provincial tables, for a few dollars each. The "Find information related to this table" link (which is also at the bottom of the StatCan table) contains methodological notes and other related StatCan products, many of which are free of charge.
Statistics Canada

When 'poorhouse' wasn't only an expression
A local museum preserves in harrowing detail the stories of a forgotten institution
January 3, 2009
By Tracey Tyler
"(...) Though more commonly associated with Victorian England and novels by Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist, the poorhouse was part of Canada's social fabric for more than 60 years and one of its earliest legislated responses to poverty."
The Toronto Star


Table of contents for this page:

Scroll down the page or use one of the links below to jump to a particular section further down on the page.
- Welfare in Canada - 2006 and 2007
- Historical Welfare Reforms
- Canadian Welfare Reforms in the 1990s
- Federal [social spending] Caps and Cuts, 1972-1995
- Key Government Departments and Reports 
  - Provincial/Territorial
- National Reforms
- The National Child Benefit (NCB)
- Provincial/Territorial Reforms 
-Two-Tier Welfare in Canada
- Three key reports on welfare reforms in Canada from the National Council of Welfare:
***** Another Look at Welfare Reform (1997)
***** Welfare Reform (1992)
Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net (1987)
- A State of the Art Review of Income Security Reform in Canada (Summer 1998, Pulkingham and Ternowetsky)
- A few words about workfare
- The Right to Welfare
- Have Canadian welfare reforms succeeded?
- Welfare Leavers (Statistics Canada study, March 2003)
- Social assistance trends in incidence, entry and exit rates (StatCan, August 2004)
===> includes followup article: Social Assistance by Province, 1993-2003

Related link:

Welfare incomes

NOTE: This page offers links to information about welfare reforms in Canada from an historical perspective and on a national scale.
It hasn't been updated very often since September 2005, but it contains some historical nuggets...
For links to information about provincial-territorial welfare reforms, go to the home page of this site and select a jurisdiction in the left-hand column of the page.

See also:
Anti-poverty strategies and poverty reduction campaigns:
--- Provincial and territorial information
--- National/federal & international information

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Poverty in Canada
- incl. links to : * History of poverty in Canada * Measures of poverty in Canada * Low income groups in Canada * Effects of poverty in Canada * Assistance for poor people in Canada (Government transfers and intervention - Non-governmental assistance) * more...

Welfare reform
Movements in many countries around the world push for welfare reform. Sizeable and powerful reform movements exist in the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain, and France among many others.
- incl. the following : * United States * The Welfare System and reform in Great Britain * The Welfare System and reform in France * References * External links

NOTE 1:  For links to info about current welfare systems in place in Canada,
see Key Provincial and Territorial Welfare Links - 500+ links

NOTE 2: Many of the links on this page will take you to the Canada Assistance Plan/Canada Health and Social Transfer Resources Page of this site. If you're looking for historical welfare stats, that's where you'll find them --- or on the Statistical Links page of this site.

NOTE: In my view, the following is a milestone historical document on social assistance in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
It's a comprehensive overview of how social assistance (welfare) operated in 24 countries (including Canada) in the mid-1990s.
I highly recommend it for all welfare (and social policy) historians.

1996 OECD international social assistance study:

- detailed comparison of how social assistance programs operated
in 24 OECD countries, including Canada and the United States (see Volume II)

Social Assistance in OECD Countries
Volume I : Synthesis Report
(PDF - 2.6MB, 207 pages)
A study carried out on behalf of the Department of Social Security and the OECD by the Social Policy Research Unit


Social Assistance in OECD Countries
Volume II : Country Reports
(PDF - 4.8MB, 499 pages)

A study carried out on behalf of the Department of Social Security and the OECD by the Social Policy Research Unit
By Tony Eardley, Jonathan Bradshaw, John Ditch, Ian Gough and Peter Whiteford

Participating countries:
* Australia * Greece * Norway * Austria * Iceland * Portugal * Belgium * Ireland * Spain * Canada * Italy * Sweden * Denmark * Japan * Switzerland * Finland * Luxembourg * Turkey * France * Netherlands * United States * Germany * New Zealand * United Kingdom

United Kingdom
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)


Welfare historians, rejoice!!

This two-volume study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released in the mid-1990s, is a critical and comparative overview of how social assistance or welfare operated in the mid-1990s in 24 countries (including Canada, with a special focus on Ontario). The chapter on Canada presents a factual snapshot of how welfare was working in Canada just before the 50-50 federal cost-sharing under the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) was replaced by a block fund, the Canada Health and Social Transfer, in April of 1996.

The OECD study consisted of a two-stream approach: for each country involved in the study, an "expert informant" (academic) and a "national government official" received a questionnaire on social assistance programs. The questionnaires were different from one another - federal government officials were asked to provide factual responses to over 70 questions, while the academics' questionnaire focused more on an in-depth critique of those same programs. Social Work Professor Patricia Evans was the Canadian expert informant, and I completed the submission on behalf of the Canadian government (see the link immediately below).

Social Assistance in Canada, 1994 * is the final submission of the Canadian federal government in the context of the study.
It contains over 40 pages of information on Canadian social assistance programs as they operated in 1994. The final submission about welfare in Canada to the report team was posted to the website of the Department that's now called Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. I occasionally rant about shortcomings of HRSDC's website, so it's only fitting that I give them credit for something creditable, like leaving an historical document about welfare in Canada available on their website. Well done, HRSDC!
* Also available from the Government of Canada Web Archive:

I should emphasize that Social Assistance in Canada, 1994 is only ONE of the two source documents used by the team responsible for drafting the final report for the OECD. The other source was Professor Evans' submission, which was, as noted above, more of a critical perspective. [ See Background for more contextual information on the Canadian portion of the study. ]

Following the same methodology as for all participating countries, information from both submissions - the expert informant's and the national government official's - was woven together into one coherent text by one of the co-authors of the report. The resulting Canada chapter (Chapter 5, pages 78-108) that appears in Volume II of the report is quite balanced because of the two-stream approach; I recommend it.

NOTE: Social Assistance in Canada, 1994 contains some info that the Canada chapter in the OECD report doesn't include; I'd suggest reading both.


* NOTE: I mentioned "FREE" in the blurb above because the total cost of the paper version of both volumes was close to $400 in Canada when it was released in 1996.
On behalf of social researchers, a big THANKS to the U.K. Dept. of Pensions and Work for making this available to the masses.

Dorothea Crittenden: Canada's first woman deputy minister
reformed welfare and social assistance

December 24, 2008
By Gay Abbate
"(...) Dorothea Crittenden was a trailblazer who devoted her life to helping build Ontario's welfare system. She was also a key player in the creation of the Canada Assistance Plan, a federal-provincial cost-sharing plan that guarantees all Canadians equal access to social assistance."

As a rule, I don't include links to obituaries on my site or in my newsletter. In this case, however, I've made an exception based on the valuable historical insights that I've found in the obituary, and moreso in the paper below by John Stapleton, and that I wanted to share with Canadian social historians --- more pieces of the puzzle, as it were...
[...and no, I won't link to your Aunt Bertha's obituary. Don't even ask.]

The above obituary by Gay Abbate appeared in The Globe and Mail on December 23, and it's based in part on information provided by Dr. Crittenden in the course of interviews with John Stapleton in 1991.
The content of those interviews appears in the paper below, which provides valuable historical information about Canadian social policy from the Depression to the mid-1970's when she was Ontario's Deputy Minister of Community and Social Services. Of particular interest to Canadian social historians, I'm sure, will be sections like * What Ontario gave up for CAP * Project 500 in the 1970s * the cap on CAP (I should note that the cap on CAP was in the early 1990s and not the 1980s, as noted in the above obituary. John's paper has the correct info on that.)

Coming of Age in a Man’s World:
The Life, Times and Wisdom of Dorothea Crittenden,
Canada’s First Female Deputy Minister
(PDF - 355K, 22 pages)
January 2007
Open Policy (John Stapleton's website)



Federal [social spending] Caps and Cuts, 1972-1995

- excerpt from a report by the Parliamentary Library
"(...) the federal government has, since at least the mid-seventies, been engaged in what has been widely portrayed as a retreat from the social policy role established during the immediate post-war period."
- incl. major milestones

Different eligibility tests used in Canadian financial assistance programs:

Here's a quick overview of the various types of tests used in Canada to establish eligibility for income maintenance and social assistance programs in Canada:

Income test:
- only the applicant's income (and not his/her assets) is considered in determining eligibility for the program. Eligibility for many of Canada’s income security programs is based on an income-test, including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Guaranteed Income Supplement [click for more info] and the Spouse’s Allowance under the Old Age Security program, and the refundable Goods and Services Tax Credit.

Needs test (used only in provincial-territorial welfare programs):
- involves determination of the applicant's assets, income and regularly-recurring needs (all of which are defined and quantified in provincial welfare regulation). After the assets of the household are examined and determined to be within the approved exemption limits, the household's non-exempted income is compared with its needs, and if there is a budget deficit, assistance may be granted. Provincial-territorial social assistance (welfare) programs are all needs-tested.

Means test:
- in Canada, the "means test" was (long ago) used to determine eligibility for some types of income assistance programs. The means test involved establishing that the applicant's means, i.e., assets and income, were less than the standards set for the program.
All eligible applicants received the same benefit, which was a flat-rate amount.
Some of the programs that were folded into the Canada Assistance Plan in 1966, such as Blind Persons' Allowances and Disabled Persons' Allowances, used the means test approach. Where a client's assets and income were below set thresholds, the person received $75 per month.

In the international jargon, a means test is the same* as Canada's needs test --- assets, income and needs are all taken into consideration.
[*...except when an author uses the expression in the generic sense, i.e., "tested according to the means (or resources) of the applicant."]

For a detailed review of the framework of Canadian welfare programs, see Social Assistance in Canada, 1994* - click on "Manuscript (questions)". The information is presented in question-and-answer format, and it's an important snapshot of welfare in Canada in 1994 as well as a good general overview of social assistance in the era of 50-50 cost sharing between the federal and provincial/territorial governments. It's over 40 pages of information on eligibility, benefits, administrative rules, caseloads, legislative framework, and more. It includes information about cost-sharing of welfare costs between the federal and provincial/territorial governments under the Canada Assistance Plan.
This work was part of a larger study of social assistance in 24 countries released by the OECD early in 1996.
* Also available from the Government of Canada Web Archive:



If you're not sure how welfare works in Canada, I highly recommend the following resource:

Social Assistance in Canada: An Overview * (7 pages)
*This is the second chapter of:

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2008
July 2011
Produced by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Directors of Income Support
This report includes a description of, and statistics related to, the welfare system in each province and territory, information about federal-provincial-territorial jurisdictional and funding issues, a bit of historical info on the Canada Assistance Plan and the Canada Health and Social Transfer, etc.

The Internet Archive contains
the earlier versions of this statistical report:

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2004

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2005

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2006

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2007

[ Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ]

Today in Canada, welfare works much the same - on paper, at least - as it did in 1966, when the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) was created as a vehicle for federal contributions to provincial/territorial social assistance programs (and welfare services, and child welfare, and other selected social programs). What's changed, some would argue, is the size of the stick and the carrot that are both part of the system.

Redesigning the “Welfare Mix” for Families: Policy Challenges
Discussion Paper by Jane Jenson, Director of the Family Network
Canadian Policy Research Networks
February 2003
Executive Summary (PDF file - 168K, 7 pages)
Complete report (PDF file - 654K, 82 pages) --- click "Download" under the graphic of the title page
Impressive, extensive collection of information on Canadian, American and European welfare (social assistance) programs and recent initiatives to improve labour market attachment as a means of reducing welfare dependency.
Includes some excellent info on the following topics (to mention but a few):
Defining the Welfare Mix - Current Challenges (An Ageing Society- Economic Marginalization and Social Exclusion - Changing Families - Child Poverty) - Redesigning the Welfare Mix: What is Being Done Elsewhere --- The European Union (An Employment-Centred Strategy for Achieving a Better Welfare Mix) - The United States (Welfare Mix of Hidden Expenditures and Dramatic Reforms) - The Adequacy of Social Assistance Benefits in Canada - Canada’s Strategies for Increasing Labour Force Attachment - Work and Family (Child Benefits and Other Supports for Families)
- also includes info about the Self-Sufficiency Project (Final Results), a table showing Adequacy of Welfare Benefits by Province and Location of Residence (Lone Parent, One Child Families and Couples with Two Children) - Comparison of Selected Countries’ Programs to Foster Labour Force Participation, Aid Transition from Social Assistance to Work, and Ensure Adequate Income - Rankings of Provinces by Amount of Social Benefit and “Poverty Gap” - Comparison of Provinces’ Programs to Foster Labour Force Participation, Aid Transition from Social Assistance to Work, and Ensure Adequate Income.
Source : Canadian Policy Research Networks

Lies, damn lies, and statistics...

"The United States [...] has one of the highest rates of expenditure on social assistance as a percentage of GDP. (...) At 3.7 percent of GDP, social assistance spending in the United States was well above Canada’s 2.5 percent." [during the mid 1990s]
(I found this on page 20 of the full report; it's a quote from a 1996 OECD study of social assistance in 22 countries)
OK, I'm not Don Cherry, and this isn't Coach's Corner, but Kids, you've gotta learn to watch out for sucker punches like this. Quoting stats out of context is very misleading, and it's a tactic that's sometimes used in the conservative/liberal debate that plays out in the daily media.

I'm not an economist, so my expression tends to glaze over when I read observations like these - but I know that they're the memorable bits that some people retain after reading a report like this. Never mind the fact that the author goes on to say that "by the mid-1990s, both Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit each cost more than Aid to Families with Dependent Children..."

The hidden nugget in the previous paragraph is the inclusion of Medicaid (health coverage for low-income households and individuals) in the equation. Because the U.S. has no universal health care, Medicaid costs substantially more than non-insured health services for people with low income in Canada, where the entire population enjoys basic Medicare coverage. (Medicare in the U.S. is primarily for older people and younger people with disabilities). The last time I checked, there were some 44 million Americans without any health care coverage whatsoever.

This commentary is not intended to criticize this report by Jane Jenson, which I highly recommend --- it's to show the importance of interpreting information in context...
...and to reiterate that American and Canadian welfare systems are not comparable without the compulsory warning flags about the American emphasis on rapid labour entry of welfare clients (with less emphasis on skills development or long-term education), the different rules for clients in both countries who want welfare and for states/provinces that want federal contributions for their welfare programs, the different clienteles, the different transition-to-work measures and supports, etc.

Since the mid-1990s, when the Canada Health and Social Transfer replaced the Canada Assistance Plan, a number of jurisdictions have "taken children's benefits out of the welfare system" by means of a provincial/territorial benefit that's paid to parents on behalf of children in all low-income families.

Go to the Key Provincial and Territorial Welfare Links page of this site and click on "welfare rates" for more information on welfare rates for families with children.

From the
National Council of Welfare

Over the years, the Council has produced many reports on poverty and welfare, but there are three that stand out in my mind as milestone reports on the history of welfare in Canada, at least since the 1980s.

1. 1987
Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net
(PDF - 2.7MB, 131 pages)
November 1987
Tangled Safety Net examines the following issues in Canadian social assistance network of programs:
* Complex rules * Needs-testing * Rates of assistance * Enforcement * Appeals * Recommendations
This report is the first comprehensive national analysis of social assistance programs operated by the provincial, territorial and municipal governments. These programs function as the safety net for Canadians and are better known by their everyday name ‘welfare’.

Version française :
Le bien-être social au Canada : Un filet de sécurité troué (PDF - 3Mo., 138 pages)
Novembre 1987
[ NOTA : Si vous trouvez un lien vers ce fichier en français, veuillez communiquer avec moi pour le partager.
Merci! ]


2. 1992
Welfare Reform
(PDF - 2.8MB, 61 pages)
Summer 1992
This report is an update of the 1987 Tangled Safety Net, but it presents information by jurisdiction rather than by issue - covers all provinces and territories.

Version française:
Réforme du bien-être social (PDF - 3,5Mo., 63 pages)


3. 1997
Another Look at Welfare Reform
(PDF - 6.75MB, 134 pages)
Autumn 1997
- an in-depth analysis of changes in Canadian welfare programs in the 1990s. The report focuses on the provincial and territorial reforms that preceded the repeal of the Canada Assistance Plan and those that followed the implementation of the Canada Health and Social Transfer in April 1996.
[Proactive disclosure : I did the research for, and wrote the provincial-territorial section of, this report while I was on a one-year secondment to the Council. Gilles ]

Version française:
Un autre regard sur la réforme du bien-être social (PDF - 8Mo., 148 pages)


Companion document to
Another Look:

Overview of Provincial (and Territorial)
Welfare Reforms in the 1990s

October 1998
Fifteen pages of research notes used in the production of Another Look at Welfare Reform.
HINT: There's a WEALTH of information on provincial-territorial welfare reforms in these pages that didn't make it to the final report!


National Council of Welfare
Established in 1969, the Council is an advisory group to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (originally the Minister of Health and Welfare Canada). The mandate of the Council is to advise the Minister regarding any matter relating to social development that the Minister may refer to the Council for its consideration or that the Council considers appropriate.

October 6 (2012)
The National Council of Welfare closed its doors and shut down its website at the end of September 2012.
For more information, see


From the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation:

Learning What Works — Volume 5, Number 1 (PDF file - 1.7MB, 15 pages)
Spring 2005
Table of Contents:
- Asset-Building Strategies for the Poor: Is Policy Ahead of Research?
- Whither Welfare? (Excellent overview of recent welfare reforms in Canada and the U.S.!)
- One-on-One Help for Addressing the Employment Needs of Long-Term Unemployed IA Clients
- Why Experience-Rate the EI Program?
- School Readiness: Evidence From the Manitoba 2004 EDI Parent Survey
- Bulletin Board

Historical Welfare Reforms

Welfare reforms have been around as long as welfare programs themselves.
Canada's Unique Social History (from Steven Hick of Carleton University in Ottawa) is an invaluable online resource for anyone interested in the evolution of social programs in the world and in Canada. It comprises eight modules, each filled with links to more information and Internet resources. Module 3, The Rise of Income Security, covers Canadian welfare reforms from pre-Confederation days to the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Module 2, The Rise of Capitalism and Social Welfare, offers historical information on welfare and welfare reforms back to the Middle Ages.

Also from Steve Hick :

Social Work Glossary
(Click on Glossary link in the left column - 600+ terms)


Other Canadian Sites

The Evolution of the Canada Assistance Plan is an appendix to the 1985 Nielsen Task Force report on CAP. It was written by an official of the federal Department of Health and Welfare (the "home" of CAP) at the time, it includes a gold mine of historical information on Canadian social programs of last resort in the twentieth century.

The 1967-68 Annual Report of the Canada Assistance Plan also offers some historical perspectives on welfare programs going back to the Old Age Pensions Act of 1927.

Ministry of Community and Social Services:
Supporting Ontario's communities since 1930
(retrieved from the Internet Archive)
The year 2005 is the 75th anniversary of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Click on the link above and then, on the next page, scroll down to "Stories from our Past" for links to six short historical bits about welfare and social services in Ontario in the last century and even before.
Origins of the welfare department (1930) - breaking 650 lbs. of rocks to qualify for welfare in 1915 - houses of refuge - the Mothers' Allowance Act (1920) - the first foray into the field of day care in the mid-40s - the Soldier's Aid Commission (est. 1915).

A Notable International Site:

An Introduction to Social Policy : Social welfare, the welfare state and the social services
Excellent intro to welfare - enormous site with a wealth of information organized under the following headings : 
Social Policy - Welfare and society - Social need - The welfare state - Social administration - The politics of welfare - The social services - British social policy - Social services in the UK - Social Policy on the Web - Reading


Canadian Welfare Reforms in the Nineties

Welfare to Work Study
King's College (University of Western Ontario)
Caroline A. Gorlick, Ph.D/Associate Professor, King's College, is the principal investigator of this research project and Guy Brethour is the research associate/coordinator.
"The National Welfare to Work Study funded by Social Development Partnerships (Human Resources Development Canada) has 3 main objectives:
- to produce an inventory of the different types of welfare to work programs emerging across the country
- to analyze the dynamic relationship between program design, community resources and individual/family capacities
- to assess the impact of the linkage between program design, community resources and individual/family capacities on program success.
The first objective has been completed with the collection of comprehensive information on all provinces/territories' welfare to work programs. Both the National Inventory on Welfare to Work in Canada and an accompanying discussion paper entitled National Welfare to Work Programs: from new mandates to exiting bureaucracies to individual and program accountability was published and disseminated by the Canadian Council on Social Development in the fall of 1998. The other objectives were addressed in Phase 2 of the study which included data collection in six Canadian communities. All the communities had experiences with welfare to work program implementation. Phase 2 also involved updating the original National Inventory on Welfare to Work in Canada. The final report will be disseminated in the winter of 2002."

Welfare to Work Phase 2 Update - reports for every province and territory are now available on the site. They contain detailed information about welfare-to-work programs and services --- eligibility, supports, funding, assessment and review, planned program changes and much more - all revised to reflect what was happening at the end of 2001 across Canada.


Welfare-toWork: The Next Generation
A National Forum

(followup to the Welfare to Work Study)
November 16 – 18, 2003
UPDATE - February 2, 2004
Profiles, Papers and Presentations (abstracts / Powerpoint presentations / complete papers)
- links to 40+ papers and presentations from the Welfare to Work Forum are now available for download - includes keynote speeches, transcripts of sessions, powerpoint presentations and more.
Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador

Reconnecting Social Assistance Recipients to the Labour Market
Lessons Learned - Final Report
Evaluation and Data Development
Strategic Policy
Human Resources Development Canada
March 2000

Source : Evaluation and Data Development (Human Resources Development Canada)

Key Federal Government Departments and Reports

The Department of Finance is currently the lead federal Department with respect to social assistance in Canada. It is responsible for the administration of the Canada Health and Social Transfer, the federal transfer (block fund) to provinces and territories covering health, post-secondary education and welfare. The Department has its own social policy shop in the
Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch . A key document for researchers is Federal Transfers to Provinces and Territories, which provides a detailed summary of how the federal government contributes to the cost of provincial and territorial welfare programs (among others)
- *See also A Brief History of the Health and Social Transfers - from the launch of the Canada Assistance Plan in 1966 to 2007, a helpful chronology of the evolution of federal contributions to the provincial/territorial level of government from 1966 to date.

Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) had a broad mandate that included areas such as employment insurance, human resources investment (Canada Student Loans, Canada Education Savings Grant), Income Security Programs (Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan), and labour. 

On December 12, 2003, when Paul Martin took office as Prime Minister of Canada, Human Resources Development Canada was split into two departments --- Social Development Canada (SDC) and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

Until 1993-94, the Department of National Health and Welfare (NHW) was responsible for the administration of the Canada Assistance Plan or CAP. CAP was the federal statute that enabled federal contributions to the provinces and territories towards the cost of social assistance - or welfare - and social services (as well as other approved social programs and services).
The Canadian Social Research Links Canada Assistance Plan and Canada Health and Social Transfer Resources Page has over 100 links to information about CAP and the CHST --- and, since April 2004, about the Canada Health Transfer and the Canada Social Transfer .
 This mandate was transferred to HRDC in 1993 along with the rest of the "welfare side" of Health and Welfare Canada when the federal government created HRDC as a "super-ministry" to deal with income support and labour market programming in a more integrated manner.

Social Development Canada* works with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for social assistance to eliminate duplication and overlap between programs and with working groups under the auspices of the Social Union initiative; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is involved in activities under federal-provincial-territorial labour market agreements. Check out the official Social Union website for more information on the National Child Benefit (including the NCB progress reports and NCB reinvestment reports, or visit my Unofficial Social Union Page for links to related material that's not on the official site. You might also want to check out my Provincial/Territorial Social Union Pages to see what provinces and territories are doing in the area of NCB reinvestments. 


November 2008 Update:
After playing around with the mandate and the name of the department for a few years, the Harper Government has settled (for now, at least) on the name Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
For more on the name changes, see:


Health Canada - like HRDC - monitors provincial and territorial health insurance ("Medicare") programs to ensure compliance with federal standards.
Read the Canada Health Act Overview to see how Medicare works in Canada, including funding by the federal government under the Canada Health and Social Transfer.
See the Canada Health Act Annual Reports for detailed information on the administration of the CHA, federal contributions and payments and each of the provincial and territorial health insurance plans under the CHA.
See also the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow Commission)

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
(INAC) pays for social assistance for Aboriginal people on reserve. The Department's website includes a lot of information about the federal government's relationship with its Native people. See the  INAC site map for links to everything on one page, including the Final Report of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Federal Government's Response to RCAP.

See also "First Nations NCB Reinvestments" - part of The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 1999

The Canada Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) is responsible for the delivery of the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), which is the name of the federal benefit paid under the National Child Benefit initiative, and of some provincial and territorial financial benefits that are also under the NCB. 

The Canada Revenue Agency's Family Benefits Page includes a wealth of information about the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit. It also includes information concerning related provincial and territorial programs administered by Revenue Canada: Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit - BC Family Bonus - New Brunswick Child Tax Benefit - Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit - Northwest Territories Child Benefit - Nova Scotia Child Benefit - Nunavut Child Benefit - Saskatchewan Child Benefit - Yukon Child Benefit

Revenue Canada is involved only in the distribution of benefits, not the related policy-making.

Note: these are not the only federal departments involved in Canadian social policy, but rather the main federal players in the area of social assistance policy.

Key Provincial/Territorial Government Departments and Reports

Provincial and territorial welfare departments play the most important role in the design, administration and delivery social assistance programs, although the role of Finance departments cannot be understated.

You'll find links to welfare information for each province and territory on the Key Welfare Links page of this site. On that page there are further links to each jurisdiction, e.g., Saskatchewan Links - where you can find some welfare reform info and documents specific to that jurisdiction.

The federal Department of Finance has a Public Finance Hotlinks Page that includes links to Finance departments in all Canadian jurisdictions as well as nine other countries (scroll down past the "General" and "Canada" sections)

National Reforms
Although provincial and territorial welfare programs have been in constant evolution as long as they have been around, the 1990s have produced so much profound change in the way programs are funded and delivered, that some academics have called this round of reforms a "paradigm shift", a reaffirmation of the old principles of self-sufficiency that preceded the progressive social reforms started after the Second World War.

The cap on CAP
The unofficial launch of the welfare reforms in Canada in this decade was the 1990 federal Expenditure Control Plan, which included a shift in federal funding in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Dubbed the "cap on CAP", this measure is often cited as "the beginning of the end" for CAP. A section in Another Look at Welfare Reform entitled The Setting for Welfare Reform deals with the cap on CAP and other events that framed Canadian welfare reforms in the 1990s.

The 1994 Social Security Review was another national milestone in Canadian welfare reform, if only because of the number of informative reports that were produced and released during its short lifespan. The Review was launched by Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources and Development) in January 1994, and a number of consultation papers were released in the fall and winter of 1994-95. By then, however, federal-provincial relations were strained as a result of federal cuts in the 1994 federal Budget (tabled less than a month after the announcement of the Review). Following the tabling of the 1995 Budget - announcing the Canadian Social Transfer (later renamed the Health and Social Transfer) and its cuts coming into effect in April 1996, the Social Security Review fizzled into obscurity.

From the Canada Assistance Plan to the Canada Health and Social Transfer is a series of links to information about CAP and its successor the CHST, from the 1995 federal Budget to 1999 Budget papers on transfers to the provinces and territories. These links focus on the federal dimension of the transition.

Women and the CHST: A Profile of Women Receiving Social Assistance in 1994
 March 1998
 Katherine Scott, Centre for International Statistics
 Canadian Council on Social Development
Funded by Status of Women Canada's Policy Research Fund


Dramatic Decline in Welfare Dependency in Canada,
Several Factors Responsible: C.D. Howe Institute
(PDF - 40K, 3 pages)
June 19, 2008
Canada has experienced a dramatic decline in welfare dependency since the early 1990s, according to new study by the C.D. Howe Institute, which notes that Canada’s Social Assistance (SA) dependency rate fell by approximately half from the early 1990s to 2005, taking the country’s rising population into account. In The Welfare Enigma: Explaining the Dramatic Decline in Canadians’Use of Social Assistance, 1993-2005, authors Ross Finnie and Ian Irvine provide a nationwide analysis of the factors responsible for the truly remarkable decline, and draw implications for policymakers.

Complete study:

The Welfare Enigma: Explaining the Dramatic
Decline in Canadians’ Use of Social Assistance, 1993–2005
(PDF - 548K, 32 pages)
June 2008
"(...) Keeping people off welfare in the first instance, rather than attempting to get them off once on, is likely the most effective means of affecting caseloads and reducing longer-run welfare dependency."
C.D. Howe Institute
The C.D. Howe Institute is Canada’s leading independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit economic policy research institution. Its individual and corporate members are drawn from business, universities and the professions.

Related links:

Jobs, government cutbacks cut Canadian welfare rolls in half: report
OTTAWA — More available jobs, with a kick from stingy government policies, has contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of Canadians receiving welfare cheques, says a new study by the C.D. Howe Institute.
Google News

Solving the welfare enigma
By Ross Finnie and Ian Irvine
National Post

It appears that every eleven years or so, the C.D. Howe Institute, minions of the business, university and professional elite, trot out another earth-shattering study about how reducing access to welfare results in fewer people on welfare. Well, Whoop-De-Doo. That's about as informative an observation as "It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick."

Here's the earlier C.D. Howe study:

Alberta welfare reforms
a model for other provinces, says C.D. Howe Institute study
(PDF file - 668K, 38 pages)
April 1997
Kenneth J. Boessenkool, Prime Minister Steve's occasional confidant and advisor, produced this study praising the 1993-1996 Alberta welfare reforms, for other provinces to emulate.

See the Alberta section of Another Look at Welfare Reform (1997) from the National Council of Welfare for a different perspective on Alberta's welfare reforms.

The National Child Benefit - part of the federal-provincial-territorial Social Union

The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2003 (PDF file - 3.3MB, 86 pages)
March 2005

Report finds government supports increasing for low income families
News Release
April 6, 2005
"OTTAWA—The National Child Benefit (NCB) Progress Report: 2003 released today by Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services1 confirms that government investments for low-income families with children continue to increase. Federal support to low-income families in 2002-2003 had risen from $5.6 billion in 2001-2002 to $5.7 billion in 2002-2003. It is projected to reach $6.4 billion in 2004-2005. The report further shows that provincial and territorial governments and First Nations have increased their expenditures for low-income children and families through the National Child Benefit initiative to $764.2 million in 2002-2003. This funding supports programs and services, including child benefits and earned income supplements, child/day care initiatives, early childhood services and children-at-risk services, youth initiatives, and supplementary health benefits."

National Child Benefit website

National Child Benefit Misconception

The popular misconception:
"The federal government should take measures to make sure that provinces don't claw back the federal increase in the Canada Child Tax Benefit from families' social assistance benefits."

The Fact: The clawback is actually part of the NCB design, by agreement of the governments of all provinces and territories (except Quebec) and the federal government.
Read the excerpt below from the Second Report on Social Policy Renewal:

Progress Report to Premiers - No. 2 (PDF file - 72K, 18 pages)
July 1997
Excerpt (page 8)
"Federal/provincial/territorial governments have agreed on a joint NCB approach that involves three simultaneous steps.
First, the federal government will increase its benefits for low-income families with children through an increase in the Canada Child Tax Benefit.
Second, provinces and territories will make corresponding decreases in their social assistance payments for families with children while ensuring these families receive at least the same level of income support from governments.
Third, provinces and territories will reinvest these newly-available funds in complementary programs targeted at benefits and services for low income families with children."

News Release:
Social Policy Renewal

August 8, 1997

From the 38th Annual Premiers' Conference

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

See also:

"Building a Better Future for Canadian Children" - click on "Social Assistance Adjustments"
National Child Benefit Booklet
September 1997
"As the federal benefit increases, provinces and territories will decrease benefits for social assistance recipients. This decrease will not exceed the amount of the federal increase - the total benefit available to social assistance families will remain at least the same"

Provincial/Territorial Social Union Pages - links to a large collection of information on NCB reinvestments

The Unofficial Social Union page - links to everything you wanted to know about the Social Union --- and more.

Family Benefits Page (Revenue Canada) - explains the Canada Child Tax Benefit (federal benefit) and provincial reinvestments under the NCB.


Where do we go from here?

Alliance tackles welfare reform - Ontario/Canada
Oct. 25, 2004
By Carol Goar
Toronto City Summit Alliance teams up with St. Christopher House to help improve income support for working age adults
"They are launching — and paying for — a non-governmental review of the safety nets that are failing millions of low-income adults. They intend to build public support for a modern, sustainable income security system. (...) Using its contacts in the senior echelons of business, academe and public life, it hopes to mount a powerful campaign to fix what is wrong."
The Toronto Star

Related Links:

Toronto City Summit Alliance
St. Christopher House
- Modernize Income Security for Working Age Adults
- Income Security for Working-age Adults in Ontario


Social Policy in the 21st Century
August 2004 Issue
Policy Options
To read any article, click the above link and (on the next page) select the article you wish to read by clicking on its link; all files are in PDF format.
Back to the future - the rear-view mirror provides glimpses of what lies ahead for income security in the 21st century by Havi Echenberg
New century, new risks: the Marsh Report and the post-war welfare state in Canada by Antonia Maioni
'In the national interest': a social policy agenda for a new century - restore cooperative federalism, modernize medicare, put children first by Tom Kent
Social policy and the knowledge economy: new century, new paradigm by Thomas J. Courchene
Relative poverty - it can't be erased, but it must be addressed, at home and abroad by Hugh Segal
Choix politiques et solidarité sociale à l'heure de la mondialisation by Keith G. Banting
Health care markets and the health care guarantee: baking a better loaf, or baking enough bread? by Paul Jacobson
The 'other' health system: reflections on the dark side of the moon of health and health care in Canada by Hugh Scott
L'école à l'aube du XXIe siècle : retour vers le future by Louis LeVasseur and Maurice Tardif
Universities in the new millennium: heading toward a new culture by Brian Flemming
Access to degrees in the knowledge economy by Dave Marshall
Time for plain talk about social policy by William Watson

Back Issues of Policy Options (back to 1997, full text of hundreds of articles)

Institute for Research on Public Policy

Provincial/Territorial Reforms

Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2006
August 2009 (Third edition)
Posted online April 9, 2010
repared by:
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Directors of Income Support
In recognition of the growing public demand for comprehensive information on provincial and territorial social assistance programs and caseloads, the Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2006 is the third annual joint publication by federal, provincial and territorial governments. The report provides a general overview of social assistance in Canada, as well as a description of income support-related/social assistance programs in each jurisdiction. This report does not include social assistance rates as this information is currently available to the public on most provincial and territorial government Web sites."
(Excerpt from Chapter 1 - Summary)

NOTE: Chapter Two of the report is a six-page descriptive overview of social assistance in Canada in 2005-2006, comprising a (very) brief history of federal social assistance since 1966 and general information about welfare eligibility and benefits. Other chapters of the report provide, for each province and territory, information on eligibility (including asset and income exemption levels) and benefits, as well as an impressive number of statistical tables, graphs and charts providing numbers of cases and beneficiaries (time series statistics going back as far as the mid-1990s, depending on the jurisdiction), profile information (age/education/sex of household head, cases by reason for assistance) and even (for most jurisdictions) the percentage of households reporting income.

Complete report
in one PDF file
- (751K, 129 pages)

Links to the two earlier editions of this report:
Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2004
Social Assistance Statistical Report: 2005

Social Policy

[ Human Resources and Skills Development Canada ]

< Begin social researcher's lament. >

While it is reassuring to read in the report summary that Federal-Provincial-Territorial Directors of Income Support recognize "the growing public demand for comprehensive information on provincial and territorial social assistance programs and caseloads", I wish they'd also recognize that there's also a need for reasonably *timely* data about those same programs and caseloads. This report is dated August 2009, but it wasn't posted to the HRSDC website until April 9, 2010. The latest data in the report are for March 2006, now four years out of date. Thus, since March 2006, there is NO national picture of the number of households receiving welfare in Canada.
So what?
So now researchers can't tell, among other things, how many new welfare cases are "EI exhaustees" (families whose Employment Insurance benefit period has expired) and how many are there because they didn't qualify for EI in the first place.
That is unaccountable and unacceptable.
Welfare reporting must be comprehensive AND reasonably current.
Perhaps it's time to farm out the production of welfare statistics and related information to an objective, non-politicized third party...

< /End social researcher's lament. >


Related historical reports from Social Policy Directorate of HRSDC:

Social Assistance in Canada, 1994 *
Over 40 pages of information on Canadian social assistance programs as they operated in 1994. Much of the information in this document is still as relevant today as it was back then - eligibility, benefits, administrative rules, and more. Includes information about cost-sharing of welfare costs under the Canada Assistance Plan. Question-and-answer format for quick reference. This work was part of a larger study of social assistance in 24 countries released by the OECD early in 1996. I was the author of this report, with a lot of input from a number of colleagues in the Department at the time. If you want a snapshot of what welfare was like in Canada before the Canada Health and Social Transfer in 1996, this is a pretty decent one - and it's free.
* Also available from the Government of Canada Web Archive:

Social Security Statistics, Canada and Provinces - 1978-79 to 2002-03


Related Links from the National Council of Welfare:

Profiles of Welfare: Myths and Realities (Spring 1998)
- large statistical collection covering twenty years of data, examining variables like family types, reasons for assistance, age, education, duration of spells on assistance, housing and more.
NOTE: number-crunchers who specialize in welfare statistics can compare this report with the 2004 report above for some interesting observations --- but be careful about data incompatibilities between the two reports...

Number of People on Welfare, March 1995 to March 2005 (PDF file - 133K, 1 page)
As at October 2011, these are the latest stats on welfare dependency in Canada
See More on welfare dependency statistics - this link takes you to a section of the Social Statistics page of Canadian Social research Links.


Two Tier Income Assistance (welfare)

Until the federal government implemented the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) as a vehicle for federal contributions to provincial-territorial welfare and social programs in the mid-1960s, two-tier social assistance was the norm in Canada. Two tiers meant that provincial governments provided assistance to anyone deemed "unemployable"(and their dependants), while municipalities were responsible for providing financial assistance of last resort to employable people in financial need (and their dependants) who were residing within their jurisdiction. The advent of CAP helped provinces and territories to consolidate their old categorical assistance programs for blindness, disability, unemployment and single parenthood into one needs-tested program. Moreover, within the first ten years of CAP, most Canadian jurisdictions had streamlined their two welfare systems into one, with the higher authority taking over the responsibility for providing financial assistance to anyone in financial need in the province/territory, regardless of the cause of that need. Differential treatment of "worthy and unworthy"clients (i.e., short-term employable vs long-term unemployable) has persisted in the form of tougher eligibility rules and lower benefit levels for employables even after systems were merged or unified. Three Canadian jurisdictions did not unify their two-tier systems along with the rest by the mid-1970s : Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba. As of June 1, unification of income assistance is officially complete in Manitoba [see the inks below], the culmination of a process that started with the implementation of the Municipal Assistance Regulations in 1993. Nova Scotia also unified over a period of several years, starting with a pilot project in the Cape Breton region in 1995 and ending with the implementation of the Employment Support and Income Assistance Regulations in April 2001. In Ontario, despite the rhetoric of the former Conservative Government (which had promised in the 1995 election campaign to eliminate the two-tier welfare system), income assistance is still a two-tier affair to some extent --- the province still delivers the assistance program for people with disabilities, the Ontario Disability Supports Program (ODSP), and municipalities are still responsible for the delivery and a portion of the cost* of Ontario Works (welfare for people with no disabilities). The province covers the full cost of ODSP.
[See the Guide to Welfare in Ontario for more info.]
* "The cost of Ontario Works financial and employment assistance is currently shared by the province (81.2 per cent) and municipalities (18.8 per cent). As part of a plan to upload these costs incrementally, the province will cover 100 per cent of these costs by 2018. Administration costs are shared on a 50-50 basis between the province and municipalities. The province covers 100 per cent of the costs of ODSP."
Ontario Social Assistance Review Commission (2011)


Legislation in effect today creates single income assistance system - Manitoba
June 01, 2004
"Legislation creating a single system of income assistance in Manitoba and ensuring services are more consistent and effective becomes effective today, Family Services and Housing Minister Christine Melnick has announced. The Employment and Income Assistance Amendment Act makes the province responsible for administering all provincial income assistance in rural and northern Manitoba. The change to the single system was requested by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) after the province began delivering all provincial income assistance in Winnipeg in 1999."
Department of Family Services and Housing

Municipal Assistance Program
"Prior to June 1, 2004, non-disabled single people, childless couples and two-parent families with children received assistance from their local municipality under the municipal assistance program."

Manitoba Department of Family Services and Housing

[ Related links - go to the Manitoba page:


Recommended Reading on welfare reform in Quebec!

The Insertion Model or the Workfare Model?
The Transformation of Social Assistance within Quebec and Canada
September 2002
Sylvie Morel, Université Laval
"This research project involves a comparative analysis of changes in social assistance policies in Canada, particularly in Quebec"
Complete Report (PDF - 2.4MB, 190 pages)
"...we conclude, based on the cases of Quebec and Ontario, that Canada is currently evolving towards workfare, but encompasses several variants."

[Status of Women Canada]


Surveying US and Canadian Welfare Reform (PDF file - 838K, 68 pages)
August 2001

-incl links to :
Executive Summary
1. Historical development of welfare in the United States
2. PRWORA—the end of welfare as Americans knew it
3. American states—experimentation and innovation
4. The results of PRWORA and state welfare reforms
5. Welfare in Canada
6. Provincial welfare reforms
7. Recommendations for Canada
Source : Fraser Institute

A State of the Art Review of Income Security Reform in Canada

Jane Pulkingham & Gordon Ternowetsky (1998
International Development Research Centre*
(Click on the title of the report above to go directly to the table of contents.
The entire report is online)

- Includes an extensive, detailed overview of income security reforms in Canada in the 1990s, specifically around the Canada Health and Social Transfer, a review and typology of current research in virtually every area of federal and provincial/territorial social programs and a section on the impact of changes since the CHST and related social reforms. 
- Recommended reading for anyone looking for information about the critical forces that have shaped income security programs in Canada and that continue to do so as we approach the new millennium. 
- Topics covered include welfare reforms, the National Child Benefit and child poverty, unemployment/employment insurance reforms, pension reform and the retirement income system, labour market policies, the Social Union, income security reforms in the broader context of social security reform, etc. 
*The International Development Research Centre website also includes many links to information on similar reforms in developing countries 
"The International Development Research Centre is a public corporation created by the Canadian government to help communities in the developing world find solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems through research." 
Complete reports online include the following:

Social Policy Challenges in a Global Society
by Keith Banting (1995
- An extensive and excellent treatise on globalization, trade agreements, social need and reforms. 

 Establishing an Effective Social Policy Agenda with Constrained Resources
by Peter Hicks (1995
- An excellent article written by a senior HRDC official at the time. It presents some interesting historical information about the evolution of Canadian social programs from the sixties to the early nineties. 
- Social historians will be particularly interested in the author's analysis of the 1994 SSR discussion paper... 

Social Policy Reform in Canada Under Regional Economic Integration by Albert Berry
- This article covers issues such as the harmonization and convergence of social programs, rationalization, privatization, cost-saving, competitiveness and social policy reform.

Spouse-in-the-house : The Falkiner Case (Ontario)
The Falkiner case revolves around the issue of single parents and welfare.
On this Canadian Social Research Links page, you'll find background info, the official Court record of the May 13 (2002) decision and several related links. The June 2002 issue of the Fraser Forum (Fraser Institute) contains an article about the potential impact of the Court decision on welfare reforms elsewhere in Canada. On the Spouse-in-the-house page, you'll find a link to the issue that contains this article as well as a counterpoint commentary on the article by Vincent Calderhead, staff lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid in Halifax and respected authority on matters relating to human rights and the Canadian Charter.

Ontario Municipal Government and Non-Governmental Organization Links Page - for critiques of welfare reforms in that province by Ontario NGOs.

Non-Governmental Organizations Links - critiques of social program reforms from a number of Canadian NGOs.

A few words about workfare

Most of what is called workfare today in Canada is actually a combination of tighter eligibility criteria, benefit cuts, a broadening of the definition of "employable" and more stringent enforcement of rules regarding reciprocity for employable people that existed even before CAP - and that continue to exist today.

There are two types of workfare in Canada today - formal and de facto.
[Of course, one could argue that the two types of workfare in Canada are the punitive approach and the human services approach, as does Sherrie Torjman of the Caledon  Institute of Social Policy in her online paper entitled Workfare: A Poor Law (PDF file - February 1996). But that's a whole other web page...]
Source : Caledon Institute of SocialPolicy
"Formal" or institutionalized workfare contains three essential elements, summed up as follows: 
- work for a specific minimum number of work units (measured in hours or output) in a job that is designated or approved by the welfare authority, to qualify for the basic welfare benefit. 

In 2001, the only Canadian jurisdiction where formal workfare exists for all employable people is Ontario, under one component of the Ontario Works program. In many other jurisdictions, there's a "learnfare/earnfare/trainfare"policy that's described in more detail on the CAP Resources Page of this site.

All applicants under the Ontario Works program in Ontario (single people, couples with and without children, sole support parents, and people aged 60 to 64 years) must agree to participate in one of the program's three active parts: employment supports (job-search services, referral to basic education and job-specific skills training), employment placement (referral to a job placement or self-employment development agencies) or community participation (unpaid community service activity).

The community participation stream is the one most readily identified with the notion of "workfare". In this stream, welfare recipients can be required to work from 17 to 70 hours per month in a not-for-profit or public sector workplace approved under the program in order to receive their basic welfare benefit. 

Further reading for detailed Ontario Works information

The Ontario Works page of the Ministry of Community and Social Services website includes the complete collection of Ontario Works Policy Directives. This is the Ontario Works Policy Manual - everything you might want to know about the program. 

The Ministry of Community and Social Services Business Plan includes a section entitled Annual Report On Key Achievements where you can find a description of welfare reforms since 1995 - including Ontario Works - and plans for further reforms. 

Recommended Reading from the - analysis of Ontario Works  is available from the (Toronto) Workfare Watch Project website. 
FIVE YEARS LATER: Welfare Rate Cuts Anniversary Report (November 2000)
- includes the following sections : The real value of welfare benefits - Evictions - Ontario versus the other provinces - Poverty and Health - Rent costs - Poverty Index - Food - Harming Women - Food bank use - Welfare Cuts and Policy Changes 

See the r Ontario Non-Governmental Organization Links page for additional perspectives on many issues around workfare in Ontario.

"De facto" workfare occurs where the welfare authority does not impose a mandatory "work-for-your-basic-welfare-cheque" policy for all employable people receiving welfare. Rather, governments enforce job-search requirements for employable people more stringently, and they pay monthly supplements to people who are engaged in some approved activity whose goal is to help the person break free from welfare. The job-search rule is often seen as workfare, but it was always a part of CAP and provincial/territorial welfare programs. 

Some jurisdictions pay monthly supplementary benefits to people on welfare who are participating in an approved employability program or job search activity to help them cover work- or training-related costs. Ernie Lightman argued in an article in the C.D. Howe Institute's 1995 book on workfare Helping the Poor: A Qualified Case for "Workfare" that the gap between the basic and supplemented benefit levels is often an offer that people in need can't refuse. 

Quebec's welfare rules in 2000 for employable people best illustrate the tiered benefit structure that can result from these supplements and the application of the reciprocity principle. The Quebec welfare rate was about $120 less a month for a single employable person who was not participating in an employability measure (schooling, training or job integration) than for one who was. (The difference was about $200 for a two-adult household.)  This "non-participating" category included not only those who decline such measures, but also those for whom no appropriate measures were available. A non-participant was still required to satisfy job-search requirements, notably by not refusing a job (or abandoning one without just cause) under penalty (stipulated in Regulation) of a reduction in monthly welfare benefits of $100 or $150 (depending on the situation of the household) for a year. A second refusal within the year would result in monthly benefit cuts up to $300 ($150 for a lone-parent family). 
*Check the (English) Employment Assistance page on the website of the Ministère de l'Emploi, de la Solidarité sociale et de la Famille for current welfare rules. 

See  CAP, Rights and Workfare on the CAP Resources page for more on job search requirements VS workfare.

The Right to Welfare

Submission by the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues (CCPI) to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the occasion of the Review of the Third Report of Canada at the Committee's 19th Session (November - December, 1998)
- incl. a detailed analysis (~25 printed pages) of "the right to social assistance" with references to the Constitution Act, the Charter of Rights and the change from CAP to the CHST. The CCPI submission includes information on welfare case law in a number of jurisdictions that you definitely won't find elsewhere - dealing with the right to social assistance, adequacy of social assistance benefits, provincial contravention of national "standards" under CAP, sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights, etc.
The case law information was prepared by Vincent Calderhead, Solicitor for the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, in November, 1998.
Source : Charter Committee on Poverty Issues
See also: U.N. '98 Page - (links to 18 related documents)

Have Canadian Welfare Reforms Succeeded?

That depends on whether you're asking the Finance Department and Fraser Institute types, who interpret caseload reductions as a significant measure of success, or the social advocacy groups, who focus more on the human condition, income adequacy, wealth inequality and social justice..

Since the mid-1990s:
Welfare dependency has dropped significantly (see below) since the major reforms of the mid-1990s, from a high of 3.1 million Canadians (including children) in March of 1994 to just1.7 million in March of 2003
Welfare spending is down
- partly because of program reforms and partly because of economic recovery, but it's difficult to say exactly by how much in some jurisdictions. In fact, it's very difficult to do any longitudinal research on welfare spending since the early 1990s with the imposition of the cap on CAP.

Number of People on Welfare, March 1995 to March 2005 (PDF file - 133K, 1 page)
National Council of Welfare

Related Links - "the other side of the coin":

2003 Report Card on Child Poverty in Canada (PDF file - 183K, 12 pages)
"Despite consecutive years of economic growth more than one million children, or almost one child in six, still live in poverty in Canada."
Provincial child poverty report cards : incl. BC - MB - NS - ON - SK
Campaign 2000

Struggling to Survive: Ontario Works Recipients Talk About Life on Welfare (PDF file - 135K, 30 pages)
October 2003
Rhetoric and Retrenchment: ‘Common Sense’ Welfare Reform in Ontario (PDF file - 50K, 7 pages)
January 2003
Social Assistance in the New Economy (University of Toronto)

Benchmarks in Alberta's Public Welfare Services:
History Rooted in Benevolence, Harshness, Punitiveness and Stinginess
(983K, 53 pages)
February 2003

Welfare Reform Tracking Issues
[NOTE: this site is not about Canadian welfare reforms, but rather U.S. research on welfare leavers - relevant for Canadian welfare reform research.]
"State tracking studies provide information concerning critical questions about what is happening to the large number of families leaving welfare. While these studies do not provide the basis for any general conclusions about the success of reforms, they provide us with the first set of data regarding the effects of welfare reform. They illustrate both the positive results of welfare reform-more ex-recipients are working; and the remaining questions-How do we move recipients who are not working into jobs so they can establish stable support systems for their families?"
Tracking Recipients after They Leave Welfare (August 1999 article)
Summaries of individual states studies
- links to summaries for 21 states
Source : National Conference of State Legislature

Welfare Leavers

Social Assistance Use: Trends in incidence, entry and exit rates

August 2004
by R. Sceviour and R. Finnie
"This paper explores the dynamics of Social Assistance use over this period [1995-2000] to calculate annual incidence and entry and exit rates at both the national and provincial level, broken down by family type. These breakdowns, available for the first time ever, are revealing as policy varied by province and family type and not all provinces shared equally in the recession or the expansion that followed it. The paper does not attempt to apportion the movements in SA participation rates between those related to the economy and changes in the administration of welfare. The focus is on the empirical record of SA entry, exit, and annual participation rates.
Feature Articles [NOTE: check out dozens of links to past feature articles here!]
Canadian Economic Observer
[ Statistics Canada ]

Followup article:

November 17, 2004
Social Assistance by Province, 1993-2003
Feature Article in the November 2004 issue of The Canadian Economic Observer
"Social assistance rates fell in every province between 1993 and 2003, but nowhere was the decline more dramatic than in Alberta and Ontario, according to a new report."
Complete article (PDF file - 67K, 7 pages)
"A recent article [see above] looked at the drop in people receiving social assistance in the 1990s, with particular emphasis on entry and exit rates by family type. This paper extends the results by province to 2003. One of the trade-offs of more timely data is the loss of detail on whether the changes originate through entry or exit and the type of family affected. The gain, however, is a comparison of which provinces have experienced the largest changes in social assistance among their population, and which had the highest and lowest rates of welfare use in 2003."

Feature Articles [Dozens of links to past feature articles!]
Canadian Economic Observer
[ Statistics Canada ]

Life after welfare : 1994 to 1999
March 2003
"Family incomes rose for the majority of people who stopped receiving welfare benefits during the 1990s. However, for about one out of every three individuals, family income declined significantly, according to a first-ever national study of the economic outcome for people who left welfare rolls."
The link above takes you to a summary of the report.
Complete report:
Life After Welfare: The Economic Well Being
of Welfare Leavers in Canada during the 1990s
(PDF file - 332K, 32 pages)
The Daily
[Statistics Canada]

Related Links:

After Welfare - Contrasting Studies (British Columbia)
"Statistics Canada has released a study on people who leave welfare that contrasts with the story spun by BC's Minister of Human Resources, Murray Coell. "Life After Welfare: The Economic Well Being of Welfare Leavers in Canada during the 1990s" by Marc Frenette and Garnett Picot provides some fascinating contrasts with Coell's characterization of the 90s and
with what are passing as welfare exit surveys in his ministry."
Source : Strategic Thoughts

Reports on Welfare Leavers and Diversion in the U.S.
-over 100 links to Cross-State Summaries and National Reports as well as state and county reports.
Source: Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
[U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]

See also:
The Canada Assistance Plan/Canada Health and Social Transfer Resources Page
Canadian Union Links - including a selection of relevant reports



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