Between 1994 and 2008, social-assistance usage rates across Canada fell at a remarkable rate, with the fraction of the non-elderly population drawing social assistance dropping by half over the 14-year period. Because social assistance
can be considered the final layer of the public social safety net — designed to catch those people in need of support but unable to find it from family, friends or non-government agencies — such a dramatic decline in social-assistance usage deserves attention and explanation. Is it a positive sign suggesting that the country has made significant strides in keeping people from needing to receive social assistance or is it a sign that public policies have simply made it too difficult for those deserving of support to receive it? We do not try to answer these questions in this briefing note. Our goal is rather more modest; to simply draw attention to a dramatic fall in social assistance usage across Canada to levels not seen since the early 1970s.