Welfare in Canada

Nova Scotia

Last updated: December 2021

This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in Nova Scotia seeking financial assistance should visit this page.

Components of welfare incomes

In Nova Scotia, households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for:

  • Recurring additional social assistance payments from the province;
  • Federal and provincial child benefits (for households with children); and
  • Federal and provincial tax credits or

Together, these combine to form a household’s total welfare income. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, or more if they have special health- or disability-related needs. In 2020, these households were also eligible for benefits introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The table below shows the value of the welfare income components of the four example household types in Nova Scotia in 2020. All four households are assumed to be living in Halifax. The child in the single parent family is two years old and the children in the couple household are ten and 15. COVID-19 pandemic-related payments are included in the basic social assistance, child benefit, and tax credit/benefits amounts, where applicable.

Components of welfare incomes, 2020

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Total annual welfare incomes in 2020 ranged from $7,920 for the unattached single considered employable to $30,331 for the couple with two children. The income of the unattached single with a disability was $11,092 and that of the single parent with one child was $20,009.

Basic social assistance: The new Standard Household Rate was introduced as of January 1, 2020, which combined the Personal Allowance and Shelter Allowance. This change increased the basic social assistance benefit by two per cent for the unattached single considered employable, the single parent with one child, and the couple with two children, and by five per cent for the unattached single with a disability. In addition, all four households received a one-time provincial COVID-19 pandemic emergency assistance allowance of $50 per individual, paid in March 2020.

Additional social assistance: Only the couple with two children received additional benefits. The annual School Supplies Supplement provided $50 for the ten-year-old and $100 for the 15-year-old.

Federal child benefits: Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which increased with inflation in July 2020 from $553.25 to $563.75 per month for a child under six years of age and from $466.83 to $475.67 per month for a child aged six to 17. In addition, they received a one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related CCB top-up payment of $300 per child in May.

Provincial child benefits: Both households with children received the Nova Scotia Child Benefit (NSCB). For the first six months of 2020, NSCB amounts were $52.08 per month for the first child and $68.75 per month for the second child. Starting in July, the NSCB amount for the first child increased to $77.08 per month while the second child amount remained the same.

Federal tax credits / benefits: All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2020 with inflation. The unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability both received $293, the single parent with one child received $586, and the couple with two children received $894. The unattached single with a disability also received $44.49 through the GST/HST credit supplement, while the single parent with one child received the full amount of $154.

A one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related GST/HST credit top-up payment, delivered in April 2020, provided the base amount of $290 to the unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability, $733 to the single parent with one child, and $886 to the couple with two children.

Provincial tax credits / benefits: All four households received the Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit which provided $255 per single adult or couple and $60 per child.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments

Pandemic-related payments available to the example Nova Scotia households came from both federal programs (i.e., the GST/HST credit and Canada Child Benefit) and provincial programs (i.e., the emergency assistance allowance for households receiving social assistance), with more provided through federal programs. In total, the unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability received an additional $340 related to the pandemic, the single parent with one child received $1,133, and the couple with two children received $1,686. These amounts are included in, and are not in addition to, the benefits described in the Components section above.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, 2020

 

Changes to welfare incomes

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four example household types have changed over time. Note that the values are in 2020 constant dollars, and not in nominal dollars. This takes into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index given that inflation reduces real dollar values over time.

The total welfare income for the unattached single considered employable declined between 1989 and 2000, which was followed by a generally increasing trend. The noticeable drop in 1997 was due to the amalgamation of the municipal and provincial social assistance systems which removed geographical variations in social assistance rates across the province. As a result, payments to recipients in the City of Halifax (where the example households reside) were considerably smaller than before the amalgamation. The welfare income of the unattached single considered employable saw a low of $6,571 in 2000. The 2020 amount of $7,920 is $2,980 lower than the 1989 peak. The 2020 increase was due primarily to increases in federal COVID-19 pandemic-related benefits, as well as an increase in basic social assistance benefit amounts.

The unattached single with a disability saw a steady decline in total welfare income over the time series, until 2020. The increase in 2020 was due primarily to COVID-19 pandemic-related benefits and a five per cent increase in basic social assistance benefits. Total welfare income for the unattached single with a disability stood at $11,092, which is more than $3,000 lower than the 1991 peak of $14,395.

The welfare income of the single parent with one child has stayed relatively stagnant over the past three decades, varying by about $4,000, while that of the couple with two children has fluctuated more widely. Both incomes have seen an increasing trend since 2014. From 2015 to 2017, the maximum welfare incomes of households with children rose, largely due to changes to federal child benefits. Declines through to 2019 were followed by an increase in 2020.

In 2020, the welfare income of the single parent household was $20,009, while that of the couple with two children was $30,331. These are the highest values across the time series, due primarily to federal COVID-19 pandemic-related payments.

Adequacy of welfare incomes

The adequacy of a household’s total welfare income can be assessed by comparing it to a set threshold of poverty and/or low income.

In Canada, there are two commonly used measures of poverty:

  • Canada’s Official Poverty Line, the Market Basket Measure (MBM), identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a basket of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
  • Deep Income Poverty (MBM-DIP) identifies households whose disposable income is less than 75 per cent of the MBM.

There are also two commonly used measures of low income:

  • The Low Income Measure (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  • The Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

Note that MBM thresholds vary by province and community size, and LICO thresholds vary by community size, and so those for Halifax are used in the analysis below. As well, both the MBM and LIM thresholds are estimates based on increasing the 2019 thresholds to account for inflation.

Note also that none of the poverty or low-income measures currently in use in Canada account for the higher cost of living faced by persons with disabilities, and thus these additional costs are not reflected in our analysis.

More information about the thresholds is available in the methodology section.

A table containing comparisons of the welfare incomes of the four example household types in Nova Scotia with all four poverty / low-income thresholds is available for download.

Poverty threshold comparisons

The figures below compare welfare incomes for the four example household types to the MBM and MBM-DIP thresholds for Halifax.

The welfare incomes of all four example household types in Nova Scotia were below, and in some cases very far below, Canada’s Official Poverty Line in 2020, which means that all four households were living in poverty. All four households were also living in deep poverty in 2020, as defined by the MBM-DIP.

The unattached single considered employable had the lowest income relative to the poverty thresholds. Their income was $9,474 below the deep income poverty threshold and $15,272 below the poverty line. This means their income was only 46 per cent of the MBM-DIP and only 34 per cent of the MBM.

The unattached single with a disability fared only slightly better. Their income was $6,302 below the deep income poverty threshold and $12,100 below the poverty line. This means their income was 64 per cent of the MBM-DIP and only 48 per cent of the MBM.

Note that the poverty experienced by persons with disabilities is under-represented given that neither the MBM nor the MBM-DIP account for the additional costs of disability.

The single parent with one child had a welfare income that was $4,590 below the deep income poverty threshold and $12,790 below the poverty line. In other words, their income was 81 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 61 per cent of the MBM.

The couple with two children fared best of all four example households relative to the poverty line. Their welfare income was $4,458 below the deep income poverty threshold and $16,054 below the poverty line. This means their income was 87 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 65 per cent of the MBM.

Low-income threshold comparisons

The welfare incomes of these households were also below and, in some instances, far lower than the low-income thresholds, as shown in the table linked above.

The lowest income relative to these thresholds was that of the unattached single considered employable, whose total welfare income was 31 per cent of the LIM and 42 per cent of the LICO. The highest income relative to the LIM was that of the couple with two children, at 60 per cent, while their income relative to the LICO was 86 per cent. The highest income relative to the LICO was that of the single parent with one child, at 88 per cent, while their income relative to the LIM was 56 per cent. The income of the unattached single with a disability was 44 per cent of the LIM and 59 per cent of the LICO.

Changes to adequacy of welfare incomes

The graph below shows the total welfare incomes of each of the four example household types in Nova Scotia since 2002 as a percentage of the MBM, which indicates changes in their level of poverty over time. A rise in the trendline indicates an improvement in their level of poverty while a decline indicates a worsening of their poverty.

Note that the MBM thresholds reflect the base in use in each year in question (i.e., the 2000, 2008, and 2018 bases; the latter two are indicated with vertical lines in each graph). Rebasing creates a sufficiently higher threshold than that using a previous base, which typically results in a worsening of poverty in the year in which the new base is used. As noted above, MBM thresholds vary by province and community size, and so Halifax is used. Also note that the 2020 MBM thresholds are estimates. More information is in the methodology section.

The welfare income of the unattached single considered employable generally declined across the time series. It hovered at around 40 per cent of the poverty line between 2002 and 2017, with a slight decline accompanying the rebasing of the MBM in 2008. A similar decline was seen with the MBM rebasing in 2018, to 33 per cent of the poverty line. A slight worsening of poverty in 2019 was followed by a slight improvement in 2020, at which point their welfare income stood at 34 per cent of the poverty line.

The welfare income of the unattached single with a disability also declined across the time series, but to a greater degree. The high point in 2002 of 65 per cent of the poverty line was followed by decline and an even greater worsening of poverty with the 2008 rebasing of the MBM. General stagnation at about 53 per cent of the poverty line continued until 2017. Another decline was seen in 2018 with the rebasing of the MBM. A slight improvement in 2020 resulted in a relative income of 48 per cent of the poverty line.

The welfare income of the single parent with one child also declined, but to a lesser degree. It stood at about 65 per cent of the poverty line for the first four years of the time series, with an increase in 2006 to 67 per cent and another in 2007 to 69 per cent. A worsening of their poverty accompanied the 2008 MBM rebasing. For the succeeding six years their income hovered at around 62 per cent of the poverty line. Their income then began an increasing trend and reached a high of 69 per cent of the poverty line in 2017. Another worsening of poverty was seen with the 2018 MBM rebasing, at which point their income dropped sharply to 57 per cent of the poverty line. Their 2020 income stood at 61 per cent of the poverty line.

The welfare income of the couple with two children fared best relative to the poverty line among all four households. After hovering at about 67 per cent of the poverty line for the first six years, their poverty worsened with the 2008 MBM rebasing. Their income stagnated at about 62 per cent of the poverty line until 2014 when an increasing trend began, with a high of 74 per cent reached in 2017. Another sizable decline was seen with the 2018 MBM rebasing, with their income dropping to 61 per cent of the poverty line. In 2020, their income stood at 65 per cent of the poverty line.