August 18-20, 2008
Poverty remains a persistent challenge in Canada. The proportion of Canadians living in low income in 2004 was almost identical to the level in 1980. Yet much has changed in the last quarter century, and we face a new poverty agenda. Who is poor is changing. The incidence of low-income is shifting in response to demographic transitions, the problems facing immigrants, the difficulties confronting trade-affected industries and regions, and other social changes. How long people are poor is also coming into focus. We know far more about the duration of poverty than we did in 1980.
The new poverty agenda demands new policy responses. An effective anti-poverty strategy depends on a wide range of instruments: income transfers, tax policy, asset-building strategies, early childhood interventions, education, labour market programs, housing and social services. An effective response also requires a judicious balancing of general programs and targeted initiatives for particular vulnerable groups, such as children in care, recent immigrants, single-parent families, Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, and displaced workers.
QIISP 2008 tackles the new poverty agenda. It explores the patterns of poverty today, highlighting changes from the past. It assesses policy responses, concentrating in particular on the problems facing working-age individuals and families and their children. The program explores the implications of the new patterns of poverty for key social programs. It also explores the potential contribution of mobilizing networks of public, private and community groups at the local level. Finally, it turns to the politics of poverty in the 21st century, asking whether poverty can be a priority.