Canada Social Programs

28 Dec

The social infrastructures of Canada include all government programs designed to give assistance to all its citizens. The Canadian social safety net covers a broad spectrum of programs, and because Canada is a federation, many are run by the provinces. Canada has a wide range of government transfer payments to individuals, which totalled $145 billion in 2006. Only social programs that direct funds to individuals are included in that cost; programs such as Medicare and public education are additional costs.

Generally speaking before the Great Depression, most social services were provided by religious charities and other private groups. Changing government policy between the 1930s and 1960s saw the emergence of a welfare state, similar to many Western European countries. Most programs from that era are still in use, although many were scaled back during the 1990s as government priorities shifted towards reducing debt and deficit.

  1. HousingCanadian mortgages are insured by the federal Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and most provinces have ministries in charge of regulating the housing market
  2. Unemployment BenefitsCanadian workers who are laid off can receive what is now known as Employment Insurance, but until 1996 it was called Unemployment Insurance. Canadian workers pay into a central fund that contributors can draw on if later unable to work. Since 1990, there is no government contribution to this fund. The amount a person receives and how long they can stay on EI varies with their previous salary, how long they were working, and the unemployment rate in their area. The EI system is managed by Service Canada, a service delivery network reporting to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada.
  3. Low Income SupportAll provinces maintain a program of this sort known by names such as “social assistance”, “income support”, “income assistance” and “welfare assistance”; popularly they are known as welfare. The purpose of these programs is to alleviate extreme poverty by providing a monthly payment to people with little or no income. The rules for eligibility and the amount given vary widely between the provinces.
  4. SeniorsMost Canadian seniors are eligible for Old Age Security, a taxable monthly social security payment. In addition, most former workers can receive Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan benefits based on their contributions during their careers. As well many people have a private pension through their employer, although that is becoming less common, and many people take advantage of a government tax-shelter for investments called a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or may save money privately.
  5. Regional AidBecause Canada is highly regionally disparate, the federal government has several agencies dedicated to developing specific regions. It should also be noted that regional disparities are also a source of tension within other programs listed above, especially healthcare and Employment Insurance.
    • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
    • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
    • Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
    • Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
    • Western Economic Diversification Canada


  6. Aboriginal PeopleBecause responsibility for “Indians” was given to the federal government in the constitution, because of cultural and historical differences from the rest of the population, and because aboriginals in Canada suffer from higher rates of most social problems, social programs for Indians, Metis, and Inuit, are often run separately.
  7. Children and FamiliesUsually each province has a department or ministry in charge of child welfare and dealing with adoption, foster care, etc. As of 2007 the federal government also offers the Universal Child Care Benefit to subsidize the cost of daycare spots or other forms of childcare.

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