Ontario is a wealthy province in a wealthy country, yet child poverty remains a pressing social concern in every community. In 2019, the most recent year for which data are available, one in six children across the province lived with the day-to-day reality of never having enough. Despite recent progress—the child poverty rate fell from 23.4% in 2013 to 17.6% in 2019—half a million children still lived in poverty in 2019. The number of families living in poverty is less than the number of children living in poverty, as some families have more than one child. The number of families living in poverty in Ontario dropped from 409,900 (18.1% of all families) in 2013 to 323,980 (13.8%) in 2019. The rate of decline in the poverty rate was greater for couple families (down from 11.6% to 7.8%) than for lone-parent families (down from 37.7% to 31.6%). At a basic level, everyone living in poverty has one thing in common: they don’t have enough money. Higher income is the main ingredient in any recipe for ending poverty in Ontario. Improvements in child and family poverty rates from 2013 to 2019 mostly arose from two income sources: higher family income from employment, and increases in government transfers to families.
As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, this paper makes 17 policy recommendations to keep up the momentum of the years prior to 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic ends—and it is not over yet—it will hold many lessons for all Canadians. Chief among these lessons will be this: that if governments dare to use the tools at their disposal, they can do big things. There should be no poverty in the midst of plenty.