Poverty is still a problem

NationalPost.com – FullComment/Today’s Letters – Re: Poverty Is Sinking And No One Cares, Andrew Coyne, July 23.
13/07/31.  Leilani Farha

I read Andrew Coyne’s article on the recently released poverty stats from Statistics Canada with great interest. I agree that progress on poverty is worth noting, and the media certainly needs to pay more attention to poverty numbers. However, I don’t think there is cause for celebration, even though the LICO measurements demonstrate a decrease in the poverty rate.

This measurement tool problematic, as it is based on out-of-date metrics from 1992 that are not longer being gathered by the federal government. The numbers also tell us that the larger problem is the persistence of poverty.

Regardless of the shift of 0.2%, the number of people with low-income hit four million, if you look at the alternate metric, the Market Basket Measure, which takes into consideration the actual costs of a basket of goods in a given area. This is an increase of 100,000 people. The LIM, the measure used internationally, while also demonstrating a slight decrease, still shows that over four million Canadians live in poverty.

Meanwhile, child poverty across the country has increased, moving from 8.2% in 2010 to 8.5% in 2011.  With numbers like this, it would be prudent to suggest it is time to re-evaluate federal programs and policies related to poverty.

What I would like to see is meaningful engagement from the federal government to address poverty, and the creation of a federal poverty strategy grounded in human rights, in keeping with our international obligations. Then we would have actual targets, timelines and accountability that would offer a concrete analysis of poverty in Canada, and end the quibbling over which metric to use and what progress was made, if any.

Fluctuating numbers that give competing results are not something to celebrate. A concrete commitment to ending poverty would be.

Leilani Farha, executive director, Canada Without Poverty, Ottawa.

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