Most Canadian believe Ottawa and the provincial governments aren’t doing enough to deal with increasing poverty in their communities, but there is little agreement on what the government should do to reverse this trend, according to a new poll by the Angus Reid Institute.
The poll, part of the institute’s in-depth look into poverty in Canada, also finds that more than seven-in-ten Canadians largely agree that poor people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control, rather than a lack of effort on their part.
Almost two-thirds of Canadians (65 per cent) say wealthy people are rich because they had more advantages in life, rather than because they worked harder than other people.
More than eight-in-ten Canadians (82 per cent) say “the growing gap between the rich and everyone else is unacceptable,” and nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) say it’s getting harder to maintain a middle-class standard of living where they live.
There is also broad agreement that a national infrastructure program to create jobs would be a good idea for addressing these issues.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and introducing a guaranteed annual income are also widely seen as good ideas.
However, Canadians are more divided on increasing social assistance spending, with wealthier individuals and political conservatives generally opposed to increasing spending on social welfare programs and preferring to place greater emphasis on hard work.
Roughly half of Canadians (52 per cent) agree that “poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live with dignity,” and nearly as many (47 per cent) agree that “a good work ethic is all you need to escape poverty.”
Apart from income levels and political leanings, gender and regional differences seem to influence how Canadians perceive this issue.
Women – especially young women – as well as British Columbians, Quebecers, and Atlantic Canadians tend to be more sympathetic to the argument that government benefits don’t go far enough.