Welfare in Canada, 2017

Components of welfare incomes

Households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for other financial support including:

  • GST/HST credit
  • Provincial/territorial tax credits or benefits
  • Federal and provincial/territorial child benefits (for households with children)
  • Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance)

Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments to form the total welfare income of a household. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, while some households may receive more if they have special health- or disability-related needs.

The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four household types living in St. John in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$6,444$7,956$10,644$11,940
Additional SA benefits $1,200$1,224$1,224
Federal child benefits  $6,400$10,800
Provincial child benefits  $250$500
GST credit$278$281$702$848
Provincial tax credits/benefits$400$400$700$1,100
Total 2017 income$7,122$9,837$19,920$26,412

Note: Starting in 2017, the School Supplement, which was reported as an additional SA benefit in previous editions of this report, is reported as a tax credit. In 2011, the program was expanded to include all low-income households with children, and it is now paid through the income tax system.

Download the data in a table

In New Brunswick, all of the example households received Transitional Assistance except the single person with a disability, who received Extended Benefits. On top of the basic social assistance amounts, the single person with a disability received $100 per month through the Disability Supplement, while the households with children received the Income Supplement Benefit to offset high shelter costs.

Provincial tax credits included the Home Energy Assistance Program ($100 per household per year), the New Brunswick Harmonized Sales Tax Credit, and the School Supplement. The maximum New Brunswick Child Benefit payment was $20.83 per child per month.

Total welfare incomes in New Brunswick ranged from $7,122 for a single person considered employable to $26,412 for a couple with two children.

Changes to welfare incomes

There was only one substantive change that affected welfare incomes in New Brunswick in 2017. This was the first full year the new Canada Child Benefit was paid, resulting in higher welfare incomes for the two household types with children.

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four illustrative household types have changed over time. The values are in constant 2017 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation.

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  • A single person considered employable had a very low welfare income in New Brunswick until 2010; it then jumped significantly. This was due to the province’s decision to abolish the Interim Assistance program, so all single persons considered employable became eligible for Transitional Assistance benefits.
  • Following this rise in 2010, the welfare income of a single person considered employable declined, and by 2017 stood at $7,122.
  • A single person with a disability had a maximum welfare income over $12,000 until 1993; it then dropped significantly. Since then, it has hovered around $10,000, and in 2017 stood at $9,837.

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  • The welfare incomes of a single parent with one child and a couple with two children have, overall, been increasing since 1986.
  • The maximum welfare incomes of households with children have risen at a faster rate since 2015, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • In 2017, the welfare incomes of a single parent with one child and a couple with two children stood at $19,920 and $26,412, respectively, the highest they have been over the past 31 years.

Adequacy of welfare incomes

The adequacy of a household’s total welfare income can be assessed by comparing it to a set threshold of low income. In Canada there are three commonly used measures:

  1. The Market Based Measure of poverty (MBM), which the National Poverty Strategy set as the official poverty measure, identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a basket of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
  2. The Low Income Measure of poverty (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  3. The Low Income Cut-Off measure (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

The table below shows how welfare incomes in New Brunswick for the four household types compared to the three low income thresholds (after tax). The LICO and MBM thresholds are for Moncton, the largest city in New Brunswick.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$7,122$9,837$19,920$26,412
MBM threshold (Moncton)$18,281$18,281$25,854$36,563
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$11,159-$8,444-$5,934-$10,151
Welfare income as % of MBM39%54%77%72%
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$23,020$23,020$32,555$46,039
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$15,898-$13,183-$12,635-$19,627
Welfare income as % of LIM31%43%61%57%
LICO threshold (Moncton)$17,758$17,758$21,612$33,575
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$10,636-$7,921-$1,692-$7,163
Welfare income as % of LICO40%55%92%79%

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For each household type, the maximum welfare income fell well below all of the low income measures. As a proportion the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable — their welfare income was between 31 and 40 per cent of the low income thresholds. The smallest gap was for the single parent with one child, ranging between 61 and 92 per cent of the low income thresholds.

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