D- Canada Report Cards

Section 1: Experience of Poverty

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
People Feeling Worse off Compared to Last Year
44.4%
D+
C-
People Paying More than 30% of Income on Housing
43.6%
F
D-
People Having Trouble Accessing Healthcare
21%
F
D
Government Support Recipients Who Say Rates are Insufficient to Keep up with Cost of Living
50.8%
F
D
Percent of Income Spent on Fixed Costs beyond Housing
56.8%
C-
C-
Overall
D-
D+

Section 2: Poverty Measures

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Poverty Rate (MBM)
9.9%
F
D+
Unemployment Rate
6.1%
D-
D+
Food Insecurity Rate
22.9%
F
C
Overall
F
C-

Section 3: Material Deprivation

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Inadequate Standard of Living
33.3%
D+
D-
Severely Inadequate Standard of Living
23.7%
D+
D+
Overall
D+
D

Section 4: Legislative Progress

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Legislative Progress
C
D
Overall
C
D
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People from all across Canada are facing increasing poverty and unprecedented rates of food insecurity. From coast-to-coast-to-coast, nearly a quarter of people are facing food insecurity and one in ten live in poverty. Though the federal government has taken some much-needed steps toward addressing affordable housing since the last report cards were published, people in Canada need policies and solutions that offer immediate relief if there is any hope of reducing their struggle.

While Canada experienced a success story in poverty reduction in the second half of the 2010s, the tides have since turned, and rates of struggle, in terms of both poverty and food insecurity, are on the rise. 

In each of the provincial and territorial profiles we compare how the reality of poverty varies across each jurisdiction and how local progress has varied over time in relation to the national average. 

At a national level, we can summarize poverty in Canada as a story in which not everyone is equal. The latest data, from 2022, indicates that roughly 1 in 10 Canadians live in poverty, but when the rates of poverty are broken down by specific groups, we can see they are clearly inequitably distributed: 

1. Age

Across Canada, 8.5 per cent of children live in poverty, which represents a drop of more than 52 per cent in the previous five years, much greater than the national average for all age groups. However, while there has been great progress on child poverty since 2015—specifically thanks to the Canada Child Benefit—one-third of food bank visits still come from children.

Thanks to the success of Canada’s retirement income system, fewer than 1 in 20 seniors (4.7%) live in poverty, which is a drop of about 40 per cent over the same period. However, this group is facing a new risk—the cost of living has risen dramatically, and their fixed incomes may now be stretched too thin—and it appears that their rate of poverty may now be on the rise, as their representation in food banks has risen in the past three years.

In 2021, the Canadian census reported that Poverty rates among young Canadians (aged 18-24) and working age adults were higher at 14 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, compared to 7.4 per cent for Canada as a whole. Governments have typically overlooked this group during the policy creation process. For context, between February and April 2024, 25 per cent of people aged 18–24 had to access a food charity of some kind because of a lack of money—compared to the overall figure of 8 per cent of all people in Canada. 

2. Household structure and living situation

The risk of living in poverty is highest among Canadians who live alone (21.5%) or who are single parents (14.1%). Food Banks Canada has been paying close attention to these two groups for many years, as they represent a disproportionate number of food bank visitors. In March 2023, 17.3 per cent of food bank visits came from single-parent families and roughly 44 per cent came from people who live alone.

3. Racial Status

About 1 in 4 Canadians who identify as belonging to a visible minority (also known as being racialized) live in poverty (26.5%). British Columbia (34.4%), Ontario (34.3%), and Alberta (27.8%) have the highest poverty rates for this demographic.

Overall, racialized people are struggling across all categories when compared to non-racialized people. Nearly half (47 per cent) of respondents to our national poll who identified as racialized agreed that it is difficult to access stable employment opportunities in their communities, while only 28 per cent of non-racialized people made the same observation. Racialized people are also more likely than non-racialized people to say that low wages are affecting their ability to make ends meet. Over half (54%) of respondents who identify as racialized agreed with that statement, compared to 33% of people who did not identify as racialized.

Racialized people are also more likely (40 per cent) to experience mental health challenges that impact their ability to find work compared to 27 per cent of non-racialized people.

4. Indigenous Identity

Approximately 12 per cent of those who identify as Indigenous live in poverty. While this is still a significant figure, it represents a drop of 50 per cent since 2015, when nearly 1 in 4 Indigenous people were categorized as living in poverty. Over this same period, the overall poverty rate in Canada fell by 30%. Poverty among Indigenous peoples is highest in the three Prairie provinces, where rates range between 14 per cent and 15 per cent. Overall, Indigenous people are still overrepresented in food banks—12 per cent of all visits are from someone who identifies as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis, but these three groups combined comprise only 5 per cent of the overall population in Canada.

These inequities are in part a reflection of demographic differences, but they are also rooted in policy choices. The much lower levels of poverty among seniors and children—groups that have been the predominant focus of policymakers over time—offer some hope that the federal government has the capacity to solve poverty for all Canadians, while also reinforcing the need for more comprehensive action.

 

Poverty is not simply the absence of income; it is about not being able to fully take part in your society. When people, families, or communities can’t afford the food, activities, and living conditions that are normal or encouraged in their society, they’re considered to be in poverty.

 

So, poverty is also the lack of opportunity and being locked out of activities that a person with an adequate standard of living should be able to access in a country as wealthy as Canada. As a result, throughout this report we also look at how provinces vary in terms of access to education, childcare, labour force attachment, housing status, and cost of living pressures. These indicators all play a significant role in whether someone can access a job that pays well and live in a stable situation that ensures they do not fall into or poverty or become trapped there.


Inflation and Housing Costs

In this year’s report we place a particular focus on the impact of inflation and housing costs. With Canada’s housing crisis continuing, the largest cost that every person in the country must face has grown to levels that are unsustainable for many people. Recent inflationary pressures have intensified the financial pressure, with many people struggling to afford everyday necessities like purchasing food and paying their bills.

 

Over 1 in 3 people in Canada agree that it is difficult to keep up with the cost of rising rents—and this figure jumps to 54 per cent among racialized Canadians. These numbers represent a year over year increase of 6 and 11 percentage points, respectively. Additionally, the number of racialized Canadians reporting that it is difficult to find adequate housing jumped by 8 percentage points from last year to 38 per cent.

 

Data on core housing need ends in 2021, so this partially limits our ability to see how Canadians have been faring since the Bank of Canada began hiking interest rates that year. Between 2018 and 2021, the proportion of Canadians living in core housing need—that is, their housing was physically unsuitable and/or they were financially vulnerable because they were paying more than 30 per cent of their income toward shelter costs—declined from 8.5 per cent to 7.2 per cent. This decline, although encouraging, was predominantly concentrated among households who already owned a home (−28.6% overall and −38.5% among first-time homebuyers). There was also a decline among those living in rental accommodations, but this decline was much more modest (−9.6% overall and −14% among those in social housing). Despite this, our national survey found that a staggering 44 per cent of Canadians are paying 30 per cent or more of their income on housing.

 

Over the past year, rent and food costs have increased considerably, which has placed a significant burden on families. While the rate of increase has moderated compared to its peak in 2022, the impact on basic affordability for people with low incomes is still severe and punishing. Nearly 2 in 5 people in Canada report that low wages are affecting their ability to make ends meet. This is an increase of 7 percentage points since 2023. For racialized Canadians, the picture is much worse—54 per cent report that they are in this situation, which is an increase of 13 percentage points. Similarly, 32 per cent of people in the country are struggling to access fresh and affordable food in 2024.

 

Recent data is showing us that it is not only people with low incomes who are struggling. This year, 44 per cent of people in Canada are feeling worse off than they did one year ago.

 

As of December 2023, shelter cost had increased by 6 per cent compared to the year prior, with a much bigger increase for renters (7.7%) compared to those who own a home (6.7%). Nova Scotia and Alberta even saw double-digit increases (12.9% and 12.1%, respectively), even though these provinces both have total rent costs that are generally at or below the average national price. These dynamics reinforce our overall concern that unless governments at all levels take further policy action, any progress made to date could be swiftly undone.

 

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Finally, Canadians are also struggling in several less-recognized ways. For example, poor mental health is both a symptom and a cause of poverty and low incomes. Nearly 1 in 3 people in Canada say that their mental health is having a negative effect on their ability to find work, work effectively, and maintain their finances. Related to this is the increasing struggle with addiction in communities across the country. A staggering 52 per cent of people say that addiction is an issue in their community that needs to be addressed. Our governments must do more work to highlight the relationships between mental health and poverty and develop strategies to eliminate poverty with these factors in mind.

 

Of course, government solutions can only be effective if people can access them. Across Canada, 47 per cent of people have difficulty navigating the tax system and are unaware of what tax benefits they are eligible for. This number jumps to 55 per cent among people who are racialized. Furthermore, nearly one-quarter (23%) of people in Canada say that they struggle to access the social services they need, while 1 in 3 (34%) racialized people say the same.

 

When they were asked how poverty should be reduced, the top priorities for Canadians as a whole included reducing the cost of food, strengthening health care, reducing taxes on households with low incomes, and reducing the cost of utilities. Among racialized people, the priorities were similar, but they also noted a need for upskilling and training opportunities.


While many related issues require the attention of the federal and provincial governments, the contributing factors discussed above provide some insight into the most important levers in terms of the development of poverty reduction policies.

Canada’s poverty reduction strategy mandates the federal government to strive to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in poverty by 2030 compared to 2015 levels. While this objective was almost achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that this progress will be maintained, and poverty rates are already increasing as pandemic supports unwind and the full effects of the inflation and affordability crisis are felt. The recently released Canadian Income Survey demonstrated that Canada is indeed taking backward steps—poverty rates increased by over 2 percentage points and food-insecurity rates increased by nearly 5 percentage points between 2021 and 2022.

The challenge for policymakers is to ensure that the significant progress made since 2015 is not lost but improves.

 

Last year we introduced 25 recommendations for how the federal government could build on the progress it has achieved and meaningfully reduce and eliminate poverty once and for all. Limited action was taken on some of our recommendations, with the most important developments being Canada’s latest housing plan to accelerate affordable housing construction and the passage of the Canada Disability Benefit Act last June, followed-on by an implementation plan slated for the summer of 2025.

 

On housing, the government has experimented with a wide variety of tools to help slow down and ultimately end the housing affordability crisis. While the National Housing Strategy made some progress in this area in its early days, a chronic lack of housing supply limited how much these efforts could alleviate price pressures.

 

Since taking on the housing challenge with renewed commitment last summer, the federal government has removed GST on purpose-built rentals (as we recommended last year), sought to reduce development charges and build gentle density, deployed and since topped up its Housing Accelerator Fund, and signed funding deals with many municipalities. It has significantly expanded low-cost loan financing for market rental housing providers, introduced significant new tax write-offs for investments in purpose-built housing, and pushed the provinces and territories to adopt a Renters’ Bill of Rights. While we particularly welcome the federal government’s using its convening and spending power to help accelerate the development of affordable housing, the Renters’ Bill of Rights itself falls short of meaningful reform, as renter regulations are primarily under provincial jurisdiction.

 

In the lead-up to the 2024 federal budget, the government announced its new Canada’s Housing Plan, which represents the second iteration of the NHS from 2017. The plan is described as the most comprehensive housing strategy in Canadian history—and that is likely true, if all of it is fulfilled and all governments work together. The federal government deserves credit for acknowledging this problem and acting with renewed purpose, but its efforts will be meaningless if it cannot get all stakeholders to act together.

 

One very promising reform announced to date in the Canada’s Housing Plan is a new public lands strategy. This strategy flows from our recommendation last year that the federal government consider the creation of a public development corporation that would help to leverage public land, work with non-profits to acquire and secure buildings at risk of losing affordable rental units and help deploy innovative finance tools to kick-start a large amount of construction. While the government has stopped short of creating a separate development corporation, the increased mandate it has given to the Canada Lands Company, the comprehensive review of National Defence and Canada Post properties that it calls for, and the creation of the Canada Builds program are all driven by the same ambition and intent.

 

Beyond housing, action on the part of the federal government has been inconsistent and inadequate. While several helpful policies have been introduced since the last report card (see below), many of them are too long-term to help address the high level of need today, lack sufficient financial commitment to make a real difference, or do not go far enough to address the root causes of poverty.

 

Since 2021, the federal government has taken a mixed approach to income support, with its objective largely being to preserve the standard of living for Canadians with low incomes amid high inflation. Over the last two years, several one-time measures have been introduced, including continued partial enhancement of the GST credit, including a one-time Grocery Rebate, and a one-time broad-based Canada Housing Benefit. In Budget 2024, the government chose not to renew the GST tax credit enhancement and instead shifted some—but, crucially, not all—of this fiscal space over to the new Canada Disability Benefit (CDB).

 

Budget 2024 indicated that the federal government intends to move forward with a design of the CDB. In its current proposed form, it will cost $1.4 billion per year and provide up to $200 per month in additional support—but only to people who are currently eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. While the implementation of the CDB is something that Food Banks Canada has advocated for years, its proposed structure falls far short of the expectations that the government itself created and of the consensus among disability advocates. The benefit is unlikely to have any real impact on direct poverty reduction, although it may help to reduce the extent of poverty experienced by some people who will remain poor. It will be vital for the government to continue to invest in building the benefit in future budgets, as has been done with child benefits.

 

As the Parliamentary Budget Officer has demonstrated, the cost of a program like the CDB is highly dependent on whether provinces and territories claw back a portion of their existing investments. All levels of government must work together now to ensure Canadians with disabilities receive the maximum amount of support.

 

With an insufficient CDB being introduced and the lack of a GST tax credit enhancement in this budget, most Canadians who are struggling today will continue to struggle without reprieve for the foreseeable future. The data in this report and beyond have shown that people in Canada are facing an unprecedented level of struggle. The government must take this situation seriously and recognize that the need for an effective response is highly time sensitive. The implementation of a permanent GST tax benefit would be the fastest and most effective way by far to get money to people all across the country who have low incomes and are struggling. Food Banks Canada has proposed a Groceries and Essentials Benefit, an idea that was initially suggested by the Affordability Action Council. Without a program like this, we fear that food insecurity and poverty rates will continue to skyrocket. 

 

The federal government also announced a new National School Food Program, backed by a $1 billion investment over five years, in its 2024 budget. The aim of the program is to provide meals to 400,000 children who do not number among the 2 million children who already participate in existing programs.

 

Finally, the 2024 budget also included important new measures to automate enrolment for the Canada Learning Bond. This measure, while long-term, will help to give the next generation of children from families with low incomes a chance of breaking the generational cycle of poverty.

 

Meanwhile, in the last year, the government has taken no action to initiate the long-promised modernization of employment insurance. Further action in this area remains crucial, particularly in terms of access to EI, so that all workers are well protected as we face the prospect of an economic slowdown over the next year.


In our recommendations last year, we encouraged the federal government to place a renewed focus on the social determinants of health. It has taken some important steps in this direction, with commitments to increase supports for mental health services for young Canadians and the introduction of the national school food program, as discussed above. Although they are not universally accessible, these are important developments—but it is important to recognize that they deal with the symptoms of poverty rather than the causes. Budget 2024 also made some targeted investments to increase support to Nutrition North, as we recommended previously, but the federal government needs to undertake a broader review of the program.

Improving the Adequacy of Supports for Those in Need


1. In advance of the next federal election, all parties should commit to continuing to enhance the proposed CDB so that it has a real impact on poverty reduction.
PRC New Policy
 
The CDB should provide adequate payments that are in parity with similar robust benefits—for example, benefits for seniors—and, ideally, provide value equal to or above the MBM line. In defining the MBM line for people with disabilities, the government and Statistics Canada should study and account for the impact of inflation on people with disabilities and their higher costs of care and basic needs. In the 2023 report card, we recommended that the federal government bring the CDB into place no later than early 2025. While plans for the benefit have been released, they will not take affect until summer of 2025 and they do not include the consideration of the two requirements listed above. 
2. Immediately introduce a Groceries and Essentials Benefit to help Canadians with low incomes who are struggling today. 
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In accordance with the model introduced by the Affordability Action Council, this benefit should be upheld using the GST tax credit policy lever. 
3. In the short term, allow all households with low incomes to have access to the non-cash benefits that are currently only available to those on social assistance (e.g., childcare subsidies, affordable housing supplements, drug and dental insurance).
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4. Make single adults with a low income a priority consideration in all future poverty reduction measures, including an expanded and modernized EI, to ensure that this population is no longer left behind. 
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As part of this, the government should set a clear timetable for when it will bring forward EI modernization reforms, which have been continually promised since the 2020 Speech from the Throne. 
5. Develop new mental health programs and strategies that include a specific focus on the impact of low incomes on mental health and the acute needs of single working-age adults, people with disabilities, and people living with addictions.
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6. Ensure all federal benefits are indexed to inflation and that agreements with provincial governments explicitly forbid claw backs of provincial social supports for new federal benefit programs.
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Affordable Housing


1. Examine the potential for a national rent assistance program, delivered collaboratively with the provinces and territories as part of the federal-provincial housing agreements. 
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In the development process, the government should consider:

A model based on Manitoba’s Rent Assist program should be considered.
Exploring the National Housing Accord report on affordable rentals, recommendation 9.
2. The federal government should fulfill its promise to develop tools that address the costs of housing, including a review of the tax treatment of residential real estate investment trusts (REITs) and other large corporate owners.
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As part of this work, the government should consider options to preserve or limit tax benefits to help establish conditions that deepen affordability for those currently paying market rent and/or provide guidelines on rent increases and renovictions. 
3. Leveraging its inventory of public lands, and working in collaboration with municipalities and provincial governments, set a target for opening up properties for the possible conversion or development of affordable housing. As part of this, consider innovative approaches such as using Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada Lands Company, or similar entities, to assess the potential for a public development corporation that would enable governments to fully leverage their balance sheet, reduce the cost of construction, and in turn make housing more affordable.  
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While the federal government did not achieve this policy recommendation exactly as written – specifically in regard to the creation of a public development corporation – the spirit of the recommendation has been achieved through the new housing plan for Canada. 
4. Establish a national acquisition fund that complements the recently announced Housing Accelerator Fund to support community-targeted funding for the acquisition of affordable housing. In other words, provide capital funding (loans and grants) to non-profits so they can purchase and provide rental properties at or below the median market rent. 
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As part of Canada's Housing Plan, the federal government has established the Canada Rental Protection Fund to allow non-profit and other community housing providers to acquire and preserve affordable housing. 
5. Building on its recent commitments to tackle development charges, the federal government should work with the provinces to help support a new fiscal relationship with cities and communities that would ultimately enable the elimination of all development charges and help spur new affordable housing.
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6. Introduce new investments to help address an important omission of the National Housing Strategy and build supportive housing for people who have mental and physical health disabilities, particularly among populations that are marginalized or living with low incomes. 
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The recently updated National Housing Strategy alludes to this ideal by announcing nearly one billion dollars over five years in funding for “deeply affordable housing, supportive housing, and shelters for our most vulnerable”. Details are still unclear on the plans for this funding or how it will be targeted specifically. 
7. Work with the provinces and territories to develop targeted and coordinated tax policies to spur the development of purpose-built market rental housing and complement the recent decision to remove the GST from new rental housing construction.
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Through passing the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act in late 2023, the federal government removed GST on new qualifying rental housing and has encouraged provinces to follow suit. 
8. Introduce an action plan to support students—particularly international students—who are struggling with housing and food insecurity. 
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The plan must include: 
i. A funding stream that universities can access to build and develop more affordable student housing. The government has extended low-cost financing through the Apartment Construction Loan Program and the removal of GST on purpose-built rental housing to the construction of student housing. However, no dedicated funding has been made available for the construction of student housing. 
 ii. Awarding an appropriate number of student permits to institutions based on their ability to prove that adequate affordable housing is available to all international students. 
iii. Collecting data on student housing through Statistics Canada to inform better decision-making. 
Although the government didn't create a new funding source for developing additional student residencies, they did extend the federal tax exemption for new rental apartments to include new student residencies.
 

Workers with Low Incomes

1. Develop a new program within EI that specifically supports older workers (aged 45–65) who lose employment at a later age and who may need specific training and education programs to help them re-enter the modern workforce.
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2. Permanently broaden the EI qualifying definition of “employment” to include self-employed and precarious work.
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3. Review and reduce the number of qualifying “hours of employment” needed (currently between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment) to better reflect the nature of modern jobs and working situations.
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 Include a specific stream for seasonal workers who may work as few as 12–16 weeks a year. 
4. Immediately expand the Working-While-on-Claim (WWC) provisions in EI to allow workers to retain more of their income from temporary/part-time work while on EI without losing benefits or having their income clawed back.
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5. Extend the maximum duration of EI benefits beyond 45 weeks to 52 weeks, followed by a staggered reduction in cash benefits while retaining access to non-cash EI supports (such as training and education) so that people are not forced into our broken and grossly inadequate provincial social assistance system once their EI benefits run out.
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6. Work with provinces and territories to reduce the claw-backs and improve harmony between social assistance and EI.
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7. Offer improved support to workers who are currently employed and have a low income.
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Improve the Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) by increasing the maximum payout, especially for people who are earning below the poverty line, and ensure this integrates effectively with similar provincial tax credits such as Ontario’s Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit (LIFT). Introduce government incentives to encourage businesses to pay living wages to all employees.


Northern and Remote Food Insecurity and Poverty

1. Examine options for improving the design of the Northern Residents Deduction (NRD).
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The government has revised the NRD twice since 2015 to assist people in the North with the high cost of living. While each revision has been a welcome development, as a tax deduction, the NRD benefits people with higher incomes more than it benefits those with lower incomes. Making it a progressive, refundable deduction would better help those in need and reduce poverty in areas where it is highest, while maintaining a basic degree of assistance for all Northerners in recognition of the differential cost of living. If developed properly, the new and improved NRD could be the basis for a regional minimum income floor. 
2. In collaboration with Indigenous communities and organizations, the government must continue to review Nutrition North Canada to determine why the program is only minimally achieving its objectives of reducing the cost of food in the North and explore innovative ways in which the program can better support communities.
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Working in partnership with local groups, create a Canada-wide Northern development and revitalization plan that is focused on the research and development of regional programs that aim to train workers and grow commerce in strategic economic sectors like tourism, natural resources, and local/regional business.
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As part of this plan, work with territorial and Indigenous governments to develop a long-term community infrastructure vision that will close gaps in access to housing, food production, and broadband Internet to ensure a degree of parity with the standard of living that Canadians in the south enjoy.
4. Develop funding for a national program of community-based representatives whose focus is on connecting their communities to funds and resources that are available to communities in the North, yet too often go unused for lack of awareness. These representatives will provide an opportunity for knowledge sharing between communities across the North. 
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4. Develop funding for a national program of community-based representatives whose focus is on connecting their communities to funds and resources that are available to communities in the North but are too often unused because people do not know they exist. These representatives would provide an opportunity for knowledge-sharing between communities across the North. 
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5. As part of the federal government’s Critical Minerals Strategy, there must be a clear focus on the development of community infrastructure in Northern communities such as housing, educational institutions, and broadband Internet; the localization of economic and community benefits so that local residents benefit from these projects; and the development of incentives and strategies to retain capital in the North and reduce the reliance on temporary workers.
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6. Offer additional training for remote work skills and funding for the procurement of work-from-home supplies.
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