Comparing provincial economic responses to COVID-19

Policy Note by  and  April 23, 2020. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. See full report at

“All provinces have imposed moratoria on evictions, ensured child care capacity for essential workers and paused student loan payments. However, there are important differences across provinces that are highlighted by the COVID-19 economic responses.

Smaller provincial governments have much less fiscal capacity and typically higher pre-pandemic debt-to-GDP ratios. So it is no surprise they have largely left the economic response to the federal government, with only minor additional measures.

In some cases, such as Manitoba, ill-advised austerity is already underway with the provincial government seeking budget cuts in the public sector. This points to looming fiscal challenges for provinces as Canada emerges from the current moment with a larger collective debt load. Responding to this debt load with provincial austerity measures would be detrimental for the recovery and could severely undermine essential public services.”

SK govt. economic response to Covid-19: A day late and a dollar short

Provincial government economic response to Covid-19: A day late and a dollar short

In a health and economic crisis governments should put special effort into helping the most vulnerable populations. Has the Saskatchewan government followed this humanitarian guideline? Unfortunately, to date it has not.

Poverty Free Saskatchewan (PFS) is calling on the government to take immediate action to provide much better support for our vulnerable citizens, as in most cases federal government subsidies do not target these populations.

  • Saskatchewan Income Support benefits were miserably low going into the crisis and their buying power is even less in the difficult conditions created by the Covid-19 shut down. The Saskatchewan government should immediately top up all of its programs targeting vulnerable populations. British Columbia is providing an additional $300 per month for three months for those who cannot access the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.
  • Saskatchewan has not increased its minimum wage and it is the lowest in Canada. It’s time to support low paid frontline workers facing the daily the risk of Covid-19.
  • Saskatchewan has not significantly increased funding for food banks and other food security programs such as REACH and Carmichael Outreach. British Columbia has provided an additional three million dollars for its food banks.
  • Homeless centres require additional new spaces for the homeless to self-isolate. Sask.’s small increase in hotel and social housing units for the homeless is insufficient.
  • Saskatchewan has not topped up the Guaranteed Income Supplement received by seniors with the lowest income. British Columbia is paying those seniors an additional $300 per month for three months.
  • Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable northern communities require specialized and immediate support.

Contact the Hon. Paul Merriman (306) 787-3661 or email and let him know that it’s time for the government to step up and support our front line workers and vulnerable populations.

Covid crisis – salute to essential workers

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis we salute the health care, social work and other human service providers, food banks and volunteers who are working to address the needs of all people and especially those efforts assisting people living in poverty.

The Saskatchewan government has taken some steps, but there is much more that should be done.

Some government actions:  The federal government has implemented a number of initiatives over the last few weeks. Today a $400 per month top up to essential workers in senior-care facilities, licensed childcare facilities, group homes and emergency and transition shelters was announced – of the $56 million total cost in our province the Saskatchewan government is contributing $3 million. In other efforts, the Saskatchewan government has halted rental evictions based solely on people being behind in their rent. Hotel accommodation has been provided to homeless people who can’t access a shelter, although the uptake was greater than Social Services expected and criteria for this are getting more restrictive. People have to report less frequently to provide updated financial information before receiving their monthly income assistance benefit.  The Saskatchewan government also created a fund for small businesses to “borrow” from which theoretically could preserve some low wage earner jobs.

However … much more could be done.

Poverty in Saskatchewan – 2018

“96,000 of the 1.1 million people living in Saskatchewan in 2018 were poor. While poverty increased in 2017, it declined in 2018, following a long-term downward trend in poverty rates from 2006 to 2016. Most of the 2018 decline was among children, with little change in the number of poor non-elderly adults.

This report summarizes Saskatchewan poverty trends and patterns from 2006 to 2018 using the Official Poverty Line.”

“In August 2018 the federal government established an Official Poverty Line (OPL) for Canada. The Line is the Market Basket Measure – 2008 base (MBM), an income level below which a household does not have enough money to buy a specific basket of goods and services that allows it to meet its basic needs and
achieve a modest standard of living in its community.”

See full report here or here skp2018

$547 Million to Eliminate Poverty in Saskatchewan

“Across Canada and in Saskatchewan a range of social programs provide financial help for those at low income – child benefits, tax credits, income for the elderly, and social assistance. These provide financial support beyond what individuals and families gain from their employment and other income. They help financially but in many cases are insufficient to prevent poverty.

This short report provides an estimate of the amount of increased financial assistance required to ensure that incomes of all Saskatchewan residents reach the poverty line. For the year 2017 we estimate the total cost for this to be $547 million. We first show summary data on poverty in Saskatchewan, provide an explanation of our estimate, and conclude with options for eliminating poverty. Methodological notes and references follow.”

See the full report by Paul Gingrich and David Rosenbluth here or here 547mep

Market Basket Measure – StatsCan consultation

Help us validate how we measure poverty

 Dear Sir/Madam,

Statistics Canada has launched a crowdsourcing initiative to validate how we measure poverty. We are seeking your support to increase awareness among your organization’s clients, supporters and stakeholders.

We’ve created a short questionnaire that allows Canadians to provide input on current estimates of how much money a family needs for items like food, clothing, shelter and transportation.

The questionnaire takes no more than five minutes to complete, and will be open to all Canadians from October 15, 2018, to January 31, 2019. Participation is anonymous and respondent information is protected by the Privacy Act.

To ensure strong participation rates, here are some ways to help us spread the word:

  • Add the attached image to your website and link to
  • Inform your clients, supporters and stakeholders using the attached email
  • Follow us on social media and repost our content (a copy of our campaign is attached)

If you have questions, please reply directly to this email.

For more information on this initiative, please visit

Thank you in advance for supporting Statistics Canada’s ability to accurately measure low income and poverty.

Income Statistics Division – Market Basket Measure

Statistics Canada / Government of Canada”

PFS conference brings attention to poverty issues

The PFS Conference “Be Part of the Solution: Let’s End Poverty” garnered some good in-depth media coverage.

Two Regina Leader Post articles

Affordable housing – RLP Oct 18, 2018

Affordable housing key to ending poverty crisis in Regina, says advocate

Poverty by the numbers – RLP Oct 18, 2018

U of R professor breaks down poverty in Saskatchewan by the numbers