ANOTHER LOOK AT POVERTY IN CANADA
Joanne Roulston and Lola Fabowalé
In order to assess the effectiveness of poverty-reduction efforts, it is useful to know how many poor Canadians there are, the extent of their poverty and the background factors that contribute to their risks of being poor. Both Statistics Canada and many anti-poverty organizations including the National Council of Welfare use the low income cut-offs (LICOs) of Statistics Canada to differentiate between Canadians living in straitened circumstances and those that are relatively well-off.
However, whereas many anti-poverty groups regard LICOs as poverty lines, Statistics Canada refers to LICOs simply as low-income lines. Moreover, some governments and policy think-tanks have criticized LICOs as being difficult to understand, as over-inflating the level of poverty in Canada, or as glossing over regional differences in costs of living and, therefore, as over-estimating poverty for some areas while under-estimating it for others.
In 1999, Canada’s social ministers set up a federal/provincial/territorial working group to construct a new market basket measure (MBM). Key among the goals the ministers expect the MBM to meet are: to harmonize divergent views on how best to measure poverty in Canada, to include all goods and services that Canadians consider to be essential to normal living, to take regional and annual differences in costs of living into account, and to be easily understood by members of the public. Media reports indicate that the MBM working group has completed and will soon release its report.
The National Council of Welfare is interested in exploring the extent to which the new market basket measure adds to our understanding and will contribute to poverty-reduction in Canada. Accordingly, in this presentation, we will compare the MBM against other poverty lines, including LICOs. Finally, the proposed presentation will issue a policy statement from the National Council of Welfare on the MBM.
Joanne Roulston is the director of the National Council of Welfare, a citizens' advisory body to the Minister of Human Resources Development. Before coming to the
Council in 1997, Joanne worked in the evaluation of health promotion programs at Health Canada and for child protection agencies in Niagara and in Ottawa. Joanne is a
member of the expert advisory committee for the Canadian Institute of Child Health, and has been a member of the editorial board of the Canadian Review of Social
Policy, the scientific committee of the Organization for the Protection of Children’s Rights, and has taught at the School of Social Work at Carleton University. She has
been a volunteer in several community organizations, including women's centres and trade unions.
Lola Fabowalé is the Senior Researcher and Policy Advisor at the National Council of Welfare. Her primary role is to produce the Council’s annual publication Poverty Profile, and to provide advice on emerging issues affecting low-income Canadians. Currently, she manages the Council’s special report on Youth Transitions in Education, Employment and Family Formation. Prior to joining the Council, she was a member of the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal. Previously, while at OXFAM Canada, she coordinated the policy function on issues of gender and diversity, food security and debt relief. She recently joined the APEX’s Ad Hoc Committee on Africa. A former member of the Board of Directors of the Immigrant and Visible Minority Women Against Abuse, she acts as an occasional volunteer advisor to Common Cause Africa Canada.
Back to Papers