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In 1986, The New Republic held a contest to find history’s most boring headline. The magazine’s nominee was “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.”

“Is it possible even to imagine a more boring headline?” asked the editors. “Each word taken alone is sleep-inducing. Taken together, they are virtually lethal.”

It’s not just Americans who yawn at Worthwhile Canadian Initiatives. So do Canadians. So do Canadian journalists. News gets defined as what went excitingly wrong yesterday, not what’s been going monotonously right. As such, little credit goes to the choices that made things go right – or the politicians who made them.

This country is getting a lot of things less than right. As I’ve harped on in recent columns, Canada’s economic productivity is too low, housing prices are too high, millions of us can’t find a family doctor, the justice system plays catch and release with repeat violent offenders, and the student visa system is broken, as is much of the immigration system.

Canada is not as successful as it should be, nor as boringly un-newsworthy as it deserves to be. But this country still gets some things right. The best way to see it is by looking south.

A number of U.S. policy experts have long urged the United States to copy a signature Canadian anti-poverty policy. In 2021, the Biden administration persuaded Congress to do exactly that.

Result: Between 2019 and 2021, the level of child poverty was more than halved.

The Canadian initiative that the Americans copied is one of the Trudeau government’s best ideas: the Canada Child Benefit.

The Liberals ran on the CCB in 2015, and introduced it the following year. Low-income families receive up to $7,437 for each child under the age of 6, and a maximum of $6,275 for each child from 6 to 17. Families with incomes of less than $34,863 receive the maximum amount, with payments falling as income rises. The benefit, which expanded and improved on a previous program, is indexed to inflation and paid monthly.

According to Statistics Canada, child poverty dropped to 9.7 per cent in 2019 from 16.3 per cent in 2015. The CCB was a big contributor.

Statscan measures poverty according to a market basket measure, which draws the poverty line at the amount of money needed for a moderate standard of living. In 2022 in Toronto, that was $55,262 for a family of four. In Vancouver and Calgary, it was almost $56,000. In rural Manitoba, it was just over $45,000.

Canadian child poverty continued falling in 2020, thanks to temporary income-support programs unleashed by the pandemic. There was a slight uptick in poverty in 2021, and once the 2022 data comes in, it may show another increase, owing to the wind down of pandemic income supports. But child poverty remains well below where it was in 2015. The CCB is a major driver.

My usual criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is that it’s overly focused on comms policy rather than policy execution, and image management over actual management. But the CCB is excellent policy, excellently executed.

That it’s become the humdrum status quo may explain why the government gets little public credit.

The U.S. has long had something called the Child Tax Credit. It’s like the CCB, but far less generous. The maximum benefit is just US$2,000 per child. It’s received annually. And it’s a non-refundable credit – so the lowest-income families, who pay little to no income tax, receive little to no benefit.

In 2021, Congress transformed the program into something like the CCB. The benefit was raised to as much as $3,000 for children between ages 6 and 17, and $3,600 for children under 6. The credit became refundable to parents with low or no income, and it paid out monthly.

But Republicans in Congress refused to make the enhanced program permanent. It was a one-year experiment.

American child poverty had been trending down since the mid-2010s, thanks to a steady economic recovery. And when COVID-19 hit in 2020, and the first pandemic benefit programs landed, child poverty dropped some more. The arrival in 2021 of further income supports, led by the enriched Child Tax Credit, cut child poverty down to just 5.2 per cent, a record low.

But with pandemic income supports ended in 2022, and the enhanced Child Tax Credit gone, child poverty more than doubled, to 12.4 per cent.

The results of the experiment were as predicted. What happens when you give poor people money? They become less poor. What happens when you take the money away? Guess.

Republicans worry that programs like the CCB discourage low-income people from working, but there’s little evidence of that. Canada has higher labour force participation than the U.S., including more women in the labour force. There are even signs that lifting people out of poverty, along with the obvious benefits it has on children, makes low-income parents more likely to work.

It’s a Worthwhile Canadian – and Trudeau government – Initiative.

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