December 21, 1998
The Globe and Mail
Re: "Drawing the line on poverty lines," editorial, December 19, 1998 There are numerous misconceptions in this editorial. I will address one of the most glaring ones. The editorial concludes by asserting that the Statistics Canada low-income cut-off -- our current measure of poverty -- needs to be abandoned because.. "Continuing to use LICO as the measure is like trying to run up the down escalator. We won't get anywhere."
Wrong. One need only look at Canada's record of reducing the poverty rate among senior citizens since the LICO was first established in 1973. In that year more than 24 per cent of elderly households were living below the LICO. Twenty-three years later, less than nine per cent of senior households lived below the LICO. To me this looks like quite a lot of improvement--about 63 per cent worth. And it occurred during a period when the elderly population was expanding. To revert to your metaphor, it seems like we're running down a down escalator!
Governments' frustration with their lack of progress against poverty among Canadian families is not because the LICO is inherently flawed. And finding a new measure will not solve our poverty problem. The solution to poverty lies in society caring enough to do something about it, as we did for the elderly by developing a host of income support and pension programs in the 1960s and 1970s.
The recent roasting of Canada by a UN committee because of our dismal record on reducing poverty strongly reminds us that despite our enormous wealth, many families are still struggling to get by. And lowering the poverty rate with the stroke of a pen is not going to reverse our decline.
David P. Ross
Canadian Council on Social Development