(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice – financialfairnessforsingles.ca).

Online research shows that more unattached singles are facing extreme poverty.  Canadian singles without dependents are the fastest growing family type on social assistance.  If ten Albertans are receiving social assistance seven of them will be unattached singles.  Food Banks usage is also increasing for unattached singles.


The following article reveals how many right wing think tanks, politicians and families negatively view financial assistance for impoverished unattached singles.

A Fraser Institute’s article (bc-welfare-payments-are-adequate) stated that ‘BC welfare payment for singles [$610 in 2018] are adequate – Fortunately, the B.C. government has set welfare benefits so that total social assistance roughly coincides with the basic needs level. And even in situations where social assistance is not quite enough to meet all of the basic needs it doesn’t mean that these British Columbians are starving or go without adequate shelter. Further, the basic needs income level assumes families have out-of-pocket health (i.e. health premiums) and dental care costs that, in the case of low income British Columbians, are often covered by charitable organizations, community clinics and governments.  In fact, the only cases in which social assistance is significantly below the basic needs level is for single employable individuals. This, however, is deliberate. The level of benefits available to single employable recipients reflects the fact that they are not expected to collect welfare on a long-term basis. Single employable British Columbians should be working and welfare should not be an attractive alternative for them.’

‘Rather than raise welfare benefits, a much better way to help those on welfare, including single employable individuals, is to give them an incentive to work.  For starters, the B.C. government should allow those on welfare to work and keep a certain amount of what they earn without a reduction in their welfare benefits. This would bring balance to the welfare system by helping people in a tough spot while ensuring the program does not create dependency.  Welfare was always intended to be used as temporary assistance for the truly needy, not a permanent source of income.’


The following two reports provide excellent data and research on how unattached singles are being financially compromised with present Canadian financial policies and programs.

“Improving our Knowledge of and Responses to Singles on Ontario Works in Toronto”  report by Toronto Employment and Social Services (Singles-Study-) states ‘Over the past two decades, significant changes have taken place in the composition of social assistance caseloads in Canada, with unattached individuals (singles) replacing lone parents as the “new face of social assistance….. Rather than a public policy priority, low income singles more often represent the “forgotten poor…..singles have limited options for support and are often outside or on the margins of policy discussions.’

‘In addition, singles are rarely the focus of detailed research on social assistance. Notable exceptions include Stapleton and Bednar’s study which noted the rise of a new ‘family bias’ in the amounts of money paid to low-income people, evident not just in basic benefits, but also in the design of refundable tax credits such as the Harmonized Sales Tax and the Working Income Tax Benefit where singles receive significantly less. The study also highlighted important economies of scale that, for example, leave single people paying significantly more for accommodation than other household types. More recently, Food Banks Canada (2017) provided an overview of challenges facing singles (see Box 1).4 Describing singles as being at the leading edge of need, with a high risk of negative physical and mental health outcomes, lacking family supports, and without access to income supports that cover even basic needs, the report concluded that Canada is “utterly failing this population.’

‘From a government program perspective, singles have few places to turn and seem to have been largely forgotten by federal and provincial governments. Indeed, government transfers to singles have declined from 23% of after-tax income in 1994, to 14% after 2007.

‘Strikingly, therefore, although singles represent the largest proportion of the caseload, experience the deepest poverty, and have access to the fewest financial supports outside social assistance, few studies, if any, have developed a detailed understanding of the characteristics of singles on the caseload, and documented their experiences and needs.’

‘In confirming that singles are staying on assistance for longer than was previously the case, the research underlines a simple but significant point – that detailed assessment of need, rather than family type, should be the primary driver of services’.

 The report ‘stressed the need to transform existing income security programs and services to address emerging labour market realities and risks’.

Benefit and financial assistance programs benefiting wealthy married with and without children need to be replaced with programs based on financial need with inclusion of all family types.

TRADING PLACES Single Adults Replace Lone Parents as the New Face of Social Assistance in Canada” (trading_places) by the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the University of Toronto in 2011 states:  ‘This paper examines changes in social assistance caseloads coming out of the major economic recession that began in the fall of 2008. In Ontario and the western provinces, eligibility rules for both Employment Insurance (EI) and social assistance have greatly tightened. Far fewer people can access social assistance, whether they apply before or apply after exhausting an EI claim. Comparing 2007 to 2010, asymmetric EI eligibility has resulted in uniformly lower social assistance caseloads from Quebec to the East Coast but higher caseloads from Ontario to the West Coast. Other changes are resulting in far fewer lone parents receiving social assistance, while single people become the most prevalent social assistance applicants.’

‘From 1990 to 1996, dramatic changes to Employment Insurance (EI) legislation profoundly altered the face of those on welfare in Canada. Equally important cutbacks to social assistance across Canada were made from 1993 to 2001, starting first in Alberta and ending in British Columbia. EI has become a much smaller benefit program than in the past. EI is time-limited, while social assistance benefits are not. For those who do not qualify for, or exhaust, their EI, cannot find work, and cannot get help from family or other networks, social assistance is the only recourse. Now, many more Canadians are in this situation. The shift is most noticeable in the provinces where EI coverage is the least comprehensive. It has been intensified by the recent recession [2008].’

‘In the post-recession world, single people, the majority of them young men, are emerging as a major public policy concern. A number of factors contributing to this need further study. For example, a shifting economy that has eliminated many traditionally male, blue collar jobs and created jobs in the service sector that are largely going to women. The result, however, is clear. Far more young males are forced to rely on social assistance, with incomes that are close to destitution levels—much lower than in other developed countries.’

It is clear that the mix of programs available to lone parents, most of them mothers, is working to help people move out of poverty. For single people, it is the opposite. The only additional income they receive is federal and provincial tax credits. Clearly, targeted changes to Canada’s support system for the unemployed are needed to better and more fairly support those in need while encouraging a more efficient labour market and meeting the human capital needs of a dynamic economy.’

‘Although lone parent caseloads increased during the recent recession, there has been a long term downward trend. This trend is consistent across Canada, regardless of local economies. Lone parents have become a success story, in the sense that fewer are receiving social assistance than at any point in the last three decades. The proportion of lone parent families living in low income is at the lowest point since 1976 (Figure 1). Lone parents are getting education and work. They are accessing child support and child benefits and cobbling these benefits together with income from work. Single people are the major public policy concern in the post-recessionary period. There are many more singles receiving social assistance all across the country. They receive basic incomes that are close to destitution levels—much less than in other developed countries (Immervoll, 2009a: 10). They are not getting work and they are losing ground.’

‘With the advent of child benefits, there is a new and striking ‘family bias’ in the amounts of money paid to low-income people. A two person, parent plus child unit receives $18,351 a year, more than twice the amount ($7,878) paid to a single person. Family bias is not just present in basic benefits. It is also prevalent in the design of refundable tax credits such as the new HST credit in Ontario. A family of two is eligible for more than twice what a single person receives. Added to this is the problem of economies of scale in a household. When single people on welfare live alone, rather than in shared accommodation, they must pay the costs of the household on their own.’


The prevailing attitude of many opinion writers, right wing think tanks, families and politicians that unattached singles financially deserve less and should always be working fails to recognize that singles may also have life altering situations where they may suffer unemployment for extended periods of time.

If newly elected Conservative leader Erin O’toole’s suggested financial platforms for families can provide thousands of dollars in Child Care Benefits, Canada Child Benefits, and refundable tax credits then politicians can for damn sure eliminate the $,8000 taxes that unattached singles have to pay on $50,000 (if-human-rights-say-they-cant-help-in-financial-discrimination-of-singles-who-can).

Government, politicians and families need to eliminate the financial “family bias” where unattached singles in extreme poverty receive less financial assistance than lone parent families and married with and without children.

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice – financialfairnessforsingles.ca).



These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

Revisions were applied to this post on June 19, 2016.

(Preface:  Every political party has introduced tax credits to give financial benefits to certain members of the population more than others.  However, during the reign of the Conservative party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a plethora of tax credits were introduced.  This led to coining of the phrase ‘boutique tax credits’.  Much of the following information has been taken from the ‘Policy Forum: The Case Against Boutique Tax Credits and Similar Tax Expenditures by Neil Brooks’ (brooks).  The Neil Brooks discussion provides an excellent overview of why boutique tax credits are so wrong and discriminatory.  While many families, especially poor families do not benefit from boutique tax credits, ever singles also do not benefit from most of the tax credits.  If there are any negatives to the study it is that financial discriminatory impact of tax credits and expenditures for ever singles and to some extent single parent with children family units is not fully recognized).

The author of this blog has long thought that boutique tax credits are financially discriminatory to singles.  However, we cannot even begin to articulate what Neil Brooks has so eloquently stated in his article.  The entire article is worth a read including the footnotes which provide excellent information on many commentaries and studies of this topic.  For this post, we attempted to condense the PDF from 68 pages to 8 pages, for example, by eliminating the many footnotes – see condensed version at the end of this post.  Blog author’s comments have been highlighted in blue).

This has been a very difficult post to write in terms of length as there is so many excellent points that have been made by Neil Brooks in his study, so be forewarned that the condensed version of the Brook;s article is eight pages long).



Problem 1 – Conservative boutique tax credits purposely target traditional family values (single income families). Boutique Tax Credits initiated by the Progressive Conservative Party under Stephen Harper purposely target traditional family values. The party never gives a definition of traditional family values or who is included in the traditional family.  They talk about the family unit as ‘essential to the well-being  of individuals and society’.  A reflection of their belief in the importance of the role of the traditional family in society, another objective was to privilege single-earner families through the tax system (page 76).   (Blog author’s comments:  Ever singles are generally not included in these boutique tax credits).

Problem 2 -tax expenditures introduced by the Conservatives of Boutique Tax Credits were targeted at relatively narrowly defined groups of potential Conservative voters (page 67).  Finance Minister’s budget moved to put the finishing touches on building a new Conservative coalition through a series of tax cuts, rebates and other subsidies aimed at select segments of the voting population  (page 73).   By enacting these tax expenditures, as opposed to across-the-board tax cuts, the Conservatives were able, at a much lower cost, to favour middle-class families with children, middle-income and well-to-do seniors, and other much more narrowly targeted groups ( page 77).   (This is what this blog author calls ‘selective’ democratic socialism).

Problem 3 – Tax Credits and Expenditures ignore traditional tax criteria that apply to technical tax provisions, namely, equity, neutrality, and simplicity (page 69).

Problem 4 Conservatives were “pleasing their electoral base with . . . dollars in pockets for boutique programs rewarding wealth and socially conservative values  (page 69).  An example is pension splitting where wealthy married/coupled persons benefit the most, poor and married or coupled persons with equal incomes benefited to a lesser extent.(Blog author’s comment:  Ever singles and divorced/separated persons are not able to use this tax credit).

Problem 5Tax Expenditures Can Serve as a Bribe to Potential Voters (page 77)    By enacting these tax expenditures, as opposed to across-the-board tax cuts, the Conservatives were able, at a much lower cost, to favour middle-class families with children, middle-income and well-to-do seniors, and other much more narrowly targeted groups.

In 2011, the average taxpayer with an income between $100,000 and $150,000 paid $3,633 less in taxes.  The average taxpayer with a very modest income of between $20,000 and $25,000 saw only $475 back in the same period.  These numbers are before the impact of the new Family Tax Cut and the doubling of the Child Fitness Tax Credit – both of which are likely to accelerate the same trend.  (/canada2020).   (Blog author’s comment:  Poor families and ever singles including seniors are least likely to benefit (senior-singles-pay-more).

Problem 6 –  It is very difficult to get rid of tax expenditures or tax credits once they are  implemented.  Political parties are reluctant to eliminate them even if they are discriminatory for fear of losing votes.  Also, tax expenditures are extremely hard to repeal, even the truly awful ones, since eliminating a tax expenditure will be framed as a tax increase (page 78).   (Blog author’s comments:  Will it ever be possible to eliminate the pension splitting from which wealthy families benefit the most?  And, who is paying for this?)    Neil Brooks calls pension splitting an “outrageous pension income splitting scheme that should be repealed and the revenue used to enrich, or reduce the clawback, of the old age security pensions” (page 122).   Reducing clawback will not solve problem of inequality if clawback is not increased for singles and reduced for married or coupled persons through income-testing.

Problem 7 Tax expenditures that are relief measures transfer income from one group of individuals to another.  (Blog author’s comment:  Instead of these relief measures targeting lower income individuals and families, many have benefited wealthy families the most.  Ever singles benefit the least).

Problem 8Psychological impact of tax credits or expenditures (The Public Appears to Favour Policies Framed as Tax Breaks-page 83).  people’s psychological biases predispose them to favour tax expenditures, certainly over direct spending programs……label—tax relief versus direct outlay—matters.”  These studies are also consistent with other survey results in which respondents admit to have benefited from tax expenditures and yet deny ever having used a government social program.(Blog Author’s comments:  The reverse effects of Tax Credits and Expenditures are often not discussed, that is, the anger and financial despair that some citizens feel towards those that are receiving more of the benefits without, for example, application of income-testing  principles).

Problem 9 – Tax Expenditures Reduce the Political Pressure for Public Programs (page 84)  One of the Conservatives’ major political goals has been to resist the public provision of social programs. Hence, another explanation for the popularity of tax expenditures under the Conservatives is that they were a step forward in implementing a broader political project, a private-sector welfare state.Tax credits for private caregiving work reduce the political pressure for publicly provided long-term care facilities.. …. Supplementing the wages of low-income workers with a tax credit reduces the pressure to offer public service jobs to the unemployed…..The tax subsidization of tuition fees, textbooks, and interest on student loans reduces the political pressure for more direct government support for universities.

Problem 10 – Tax Expenditures Make the Tax System Less Transparent (page 94) and Tax Expenditures Divert the Resources of the CRA and Create Administrative Problems That Damage Its Reputation (page 94)

    • Complexity and number of tax credits make them very difficult to interpret and lawyers and accountants become intimately involved in their implementation.  As a result attention is directed towards interpretation of these credits instead of tracking abuse of the tax system.
    • Many are badly designed (page 96)
    • Tax Expenditures Often Do Not Serve Important Objectives of Government Policy (page 97)
    • Tax Expenditures Often Do Not Achieve Their Objectives Equitably (page 104)
    • upside-down effect of tax deductions
    • all tax credits should be refundable.

(Blog author’s comment:  Past posts have talked about upside-down financial effects (housing),  and tax credits should be refundable and income-tested.  To have someone else confirm these facts is reassuring.  It would be nice if political parties and governments also realized these facts.)

Problem 11 Education – Conservatives completely exempted certain scholarships and fellowships from tax in their first budget in 2006.  The exclusion of a $10,000 scholarship for a low-income student who has no other income provides that student with no implicit subsidy. However, the same exclusion will provide an implicit subsidy of $2,200 to a higher-income student in the 22 percent tax bracket. If the point of the exclusion was to benefit needy students, this upside-down effect is perverse (page 104)

Problem 12 – Low income individuals and families benefit the least.   A credit that can be offset against a taxpayer’s tax liability is of no value to a low-income person who has no tax liability because his or her income is less than the amount of the basic personal tax credit, for example. Hence, all tax credits should be refundable (page 106)…..In terms of delivering subsidies equitably through the tax system, if the primary purpose of a tax credit is to incentivize or assist low- or middle-income individuals, entitlement to the credit should be income-tested so that it vanishes when a taxpayer’s income reaches a certain amount (page 108).  Income-testing so that it vanishes when income reaches a certain amount should vanish quicker for for married or coupled persons than singles as it costs more for singles to live than married/coupled persons as a family unit.

Neil Brooks has also stated that analysis of  financial formulas such as distributional tables should show beneficiaries by income class, gender, household type, age cohort, and geographical region.  This is based on known facts that females and disadvantaged persons based on race likely benefit least from tax credits (page 111). (Blog author’s comments:  Analysis of household types is important as ever singles and early divorced singles are likely to benefit the least from all tax credits).

Problem 13 – The proliferation of tax expenditures, such as the boutique tax credits, gives rise to significant rent-seeking social costs. (page 114) and encourages relevant interest groups to lobby for analogous tax expenditures. (page 114).  (Blog author’s comments:  Powerful lobby groups such as families and seniors often lead to tax credits and expenditures targeting these groups.   Ever singles do not have this kind of financial and lobbying power.  As a result they are likely to receive less of these benefits).

Problem 14 – Boutique tax credits are useless when they target everyone in a group, for example, seniors.  Giving age credit to all seniors benefits wealthiest seniors more as poor seniors do not have enough income to apply tax credits (page 122).

Problem 15 – This problem as been added by the blog author, that is there is a compounding effect to tax credits when they are applied one on  top of another for specific groups.  An example is when child tax credits are given to married or coupled family unit, who then are also able to use pension splitting credits as seniors.  As a result, married or coupled persons with children are able to gain more wealth than ever singles who are not able to use any of these credits.

Problem 16 –  This problem has been added by the blog author,  that is the so called ‘merry go round credits and expenditures which disappear and reappear.  Some citizens can never  get on the merry go round because their place in line keep getting pushed back or they are kicked out of the line or they excluded from the lines.  For example, there are some parents who have never benefited from any the child tax credits because they had no children during implementation of some tax credits only to have these tax credits abolished when they do have children.


(Blog author’s comments: it would seem that a solution to the elimination of Tax Credits and Expenditures with fairness, equality, neutrality and simplicity for all, perhaps, should be to provide three government funded basic rights: healthcare, college/university education, and universal day care).


This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.