Social programs in Canada

Social programs in Canada

Social programs in Canada include all government programs designed to give assistance to citizens outside of what the market provides. The Canadian social safety net covers a broad spectrums of programs, and because Canada is a federation, many are run by the provinces. Canada has a wide range of government transfer payments to individuals, which totaled $134.8 billion in 2005. [ Government transfer payments to persons] , Statistics Canada, 8 November 2007, URL accessed 4 December 2007] Only social programs that direct funds to individuals are included in that cost; programs such as medicare and public education are additional costs.


Generally speaking before the Great Depression most social services were provided by religious charities and other private groups. Changing government policy between the 1930s and 1960s saw the emergence of a welfare state, similar to many Western European countries. Most programs from that era are still in use, although many were scaled back during the 1990s as government priorities shifted towards reducing debt and deficit.


All provinces in Canada provide universal, publicly funded healthcare, with their costs partially subsidized by the federal government. Services not "listed" (covered by provincial plans) can be purchased privately, however Canada is unusual in banning the purchase of private insurance or care for any services that are listed.


Mandatory primary education is provided by all provinces for a nominal cost. Private education is also available but its comparatively high costs and the relative quality of public education prevent many parents of using it as compared to the United States or Britain. Secondary education is optional and therefore more expensive, while post-secondary is yet more expensive but it still subsidized to a great extent by the federal and provincial governments. Student loans also exist to ease costs.


Canadian mortgages are insured by the federal Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and most provinces have ministries in charge of regulating the housing market.

Unemployment benefits

Canadian workers who are laid off can receive what is now known as Employment Insurance, but until 1996 it was called Unemployment Insurance. Canadian workers pay into a central fund that contributors can draw on if later unable to work. Since 1990, there is no government contribution to this fund. The amount a person receives and how long they can stay on EI varies with their previous salary, how long they were working, and the unemployment rate in their area. The EI system is managed by Service Canada, a service delivery network reporting to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

Low-income support

All provinces maintain a program of this sort known by names such as "social assistance", "income support", "income assistance" and "welfare assistance"; popularly they are known as "welfare". [ [ Canadian Social Research - Welfare] ] The purpose of these programs is to alleviate extreme poverty by providing a monthly payment to people with little or no income. The rules for eligibility and the amount given vary widely between the provinces.see|Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped


Most Canadian seniors are eligible for Old Age Security, a taxable monthly social security payment. In addition, most former workers can receive Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan benefits based on their contributions during their careers. As well many people have a private pension through their employer, although that is becoming less common, and many people take advantage of a government tax-shelter for investments called a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or may save money privately.

Regional aid

Because Canada is highly regionally disparate, the federal government has several agencies dedicated to developing specific regions. It should also be noted that regional disparities are also a source of tension within other programs listed above, especially healthcare and Employment Insurance.

*Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
*Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
*Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
*Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
*Western Economic Diversification Canada

Aboriginal peoples

Because responsibility for "Indians" was given to the federal government in the constitution, because of cultural and historical differences from the rest of the population, and because aboriginals in Canada suffer from higher rates of most social problems, social programs for Indians, Metis, and Inuit, are often run separately.

Children and families

Usually each province has a department or ministry in charge of child welfare and dealing with adpotion, foster care, etc. As of 2007 the federal government also offers the Universal Child Care Benefit to subsidize the cost of daycare spots or other forms of childcare. [ [ Canada Revenue Agency - UCCB] ]

ee also

* Matthew effect#Social policy
* Poverty in Canada
* Welfare
* Welfare state
* Social safety net
* Social security
* Social policy


* Social Security (United States)
* Social Security (Australia)
* Italian welfare state
* Scandinavian welfare model:also Swedish welfare and Social Security (Sweden)
* Social welfare in New Zealand


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