Nova Scotia’s Failing Grades

I didn’t really expect the 2021 Child and Family Poverty report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) to cheer me on a grey day, but I also didn’t expect it to be quite as bleak as it is.

The report, by Dr. Lesley Frank, Laura Fisher and Dr. Christine Saulnier, says that between 1989 (when the Canadian House of Commons passed a unanimous, all-party resolution with the goal of “eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000) and 2019, child poverty decreased in every province and territory but:

Nova Scotia has performed the worst in reducing child poverty from 1989 levels. Nova Scotia has the highest rate in Atlantic Canada and the third-highest provincial child poverty rate in Canada.

Their calculations, which are based on the Census Family After-Tax Low-Income Measure and tax-filer data for 2019, show that Nova Scotia’s child poverty rate in 2019 was  24.3% — down from 24.6% in 2018, a decrease of just 1.2%.

Moreover, in 1989, when that poverty-ending resolution was passed, Nova Scotia had a child poverty rate of 24.4% “which means poverty has only been reduced by 0.1 of a percentage point in Nova Scotia over 30 years.”

Mind you, in 2000 — the year poverty was to have been eradicated — Nova Scotia’s rate was 27.8%, so I guess that counts as progress?

In absolute terms, 41,230 children live in poverty in this province.


Root causes

The 2021 report card shows Digby (34.7%) and Annapolis (33.7%) now have higher rates of child poverty than Cape Breton — although Cape Breton’s rate, at 33.5%, remains high. In all three areas, more than 1 in 3 children lives below the poverty line.

The lowest rate of child poverty in the province — 4.8% —  is in Stillwater Lake, Upper Tantallon (HRM) while the highest — 73.3% — is in the postal code of Micmac, which includes part of the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

child poverty by Census Areas, NS, 2021 Report Card

Poverty rates vary according to a number of factors — they’re higher for children under six, for children in single-parent homes, for visible minority children and for people with disabilities. And, the report notes:

What is not captured in this data is the intersectionality of poverty and how many families and children experience multiple barriers preventing them from achieving their full potential and trapping them in the vicious cycle of poverty.

The authors say “getting at the root causes of poverty” in this province means addressing income and wealth inequality:

Nova Scotian families with children under 18 in the lowest income decile, have an average income of only $13,192 in 2019 and held only 1.4% of the income share in Nova Scotia versus 26.6% for the highest income decile which had an average income of $247,571.

The report notes that the new provincial government has spoken of “reducing” child poverty but says “eradicating” child poverty must be the goal. The authors then list 17 steps to accomplish this goal.

I don’t have time to cover any of this in depth this week, but will come back to it after I’ve had time to read the full report. But you don’t have to wait for me, I’ll post the report below and you can draw your own conclusions:


2021 RC child family poverty NS Final