First, Do No Harm

If governments want to reduce poverty, they should stop doing things that make people poor


OTTAWA, ON — A new Official Opposition report today called on governments to remove barriers that keep people in poverty. The call comes in a report following extensive study of poverty reduction strategies at the House of Commons Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.


“Doctors practice medicine with the overriding principle: ‘first, do no harm.’ In other words, the doctor’s intervention must not harm the patient more than it helps. Unfortunately, when it comes to the condition of Canada’s less fortunate, government actions are doing plenty of harm,” found the report.


“Witness testimony found a growing list of government actions that impoverish people and widen the gap between rich and poor. They include regressive consumption taxes which disproportionately burden low-income people to fund complex “green” programs for the rich; inflated electricity costs to subsidize the profits of well-connected, so-called ‘green energy’ investors; building restrictions and ‘snob zoning’ that block affordable housing construction; high marginal effective tax rates that punish poor and disabled people for working; rules forbidding aboriginals from owning homes; and corporate welfare programs that transfer scarce resources from the poor and middle class to politically-connected plutocrats. These are mistakes of commission, not omission. They are the result of government action, not inaction.


“Ironically, governments routinely offer themselves as solutions to the problems governments cause. Municipal red tape stops affordable housing construction and then municipal politicians demand more federal money for affordable housing, for example. It is like a doctor who poisons a patient and declares himself a savior for later administering a life-saving antidote. Likewise, problems of government’s making are not solved through more government action. The government should instead commit itself to “first, do no harm.” To that end, this dissenting report offers practical steps to stop government from doing harm to those less fortunate.


“This minority report rests on the belief that people in poverty desperately want to escape it. They work hard and sacrifice daily to do so. If governments would stop holding them down, many of Canada’s poorest people could achieve their dreams of self-reliance and prosperity. It is time the government stood by their side, rather than in their way.”


The Conservative report recommends governments stop taxing the poorest workers, calculate the costs of red tape on the construction of affordable housing; remove all taxes on donations to charities; and pass a “Make Work Pay Act” that would reduce clawbacks and taxes to ensure that every Canadians is better off when they get a job, work more or get a raise from their employer.


Attached to the report is a Library of Parliament study showing that disabled workers face clawbacks and tax rates of up to 115%, which means they lose money when they work harder—an injustice Conservative committee members propose to fix.



“Our report, ‘First, Do No Harm,’ is the culmination of this almost-year long study on poverty reduction in Canada. For nearly a half-century, governments have been causing poverty and then offering themselves as the solution. Our report is the first time we’re saying government should stop causing poverty before it can solve it.”


  • Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre



Read the Conservative report here.

Read the full report here.