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Poverty: Most say governments are doing too little, but disagree on what should be done

Canadians overwhelmingly see poverty in their communities as increasing, rather than decreasing, and they believe their federal and provincial governments aren’t doing enough to reverse this trend. Just what should be done, however, is the subject of considerable disagreement.

Part Two of the Angus Reid Institute’s in-depth study of poverty in Canada finds Canadians largely agree wealth and poverty are more the result of circumstance than of personal character, that rising income inequality is unacceptable, and that a national infrastructure program would be a good idea for addressing these issues.

The population is considerably more divided on questions of government benefits for the poor, with wealthier individuals and political conservatives generally opposed to increasing spending on these programs and preferring to place greater emphasis on hard work.

These findings also play out across the four segments of the spectrum of lived experience identified in Chapter 1 of this report: The Struggling, the On the Edge, the Recently Comfortable, and the Always Comfortable. The four groups hold strikingly similar attitudes on many aspects of poverty in Canada, but there is significant disagreement between the two Comfortable segments and the two Struggling ones over the role of government in addressing poverty today.

More Key Findings:

  • Two-thirds of Canadians (65%) say the federal government is doing too little to address poverty, and approximately the same number (64%) feel this way about their provincial government
  • More than seven-in-ten (72%) say poor people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control, rather than a lack of effort on their part
  • A similar number (65%) say wealthy people are wealthy because they had more advantages in life, rather than because they worked harder than other people
  • More than eight-in-ten Canadians (82%) say “the growing gap between the rich and everyone else is unacceptable,” and nearly three-quarters (74%) say it’s getting harder to maintain a middle-class standard of living where they live

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