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Canada (Finally) Setting A Poverty Line

People frequently argue that as a caring society we must ensure that nobody is forced to live with an income that falls below the poverty line. The problem is Canada has never actually agreed on an official poverty line.

When we hear reference to the poverty line, it is most commonly referring to a set of Statistics Canada figures known as the Low Income Cut-Offs. They are not measurements of poverty, but an income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family.

On Tuesday, November 6th, the Federal government introduced the Poverty Reduction Act that it hopes to pass into law before the next election. The bill proposes to entrench into legislation an official measure of poverty: Canada’s official poverty line. The aim is to reflect a “market basket measure” that will be based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that people and families require to meet basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living in communities across the country.

Community Living Ontario has long called for the establishment of a market basket approach for identifying a poverty line, and we are pleased that the government has introduced legislation to enact this change.

The bill entrenches in legislation a poverty reduction target; a 20% drop in poverty by 2020, and a 50% reduction in poverty by 2030 relative to 2015 levels. The government claims that these targets will lead to the lowest poverty rate in Canada’s history.

Finally, the bill proposes to create an arms-length National Advisory Council on Poverty, which will provide advice to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, include a dedicated adviser on children’s issues, and an annual public report on progress made toward the poverty-reduction targets.

To assist the Government with the implementation of this change, Statistics Canada is currently conducting a survey to gather information regarding the cost of paying for basic necessities in different parts of the county. If you would like to assist in the implementation of this change, you can do so by taking a few minutes to fill in the online survey information, which can be found by clicking here.

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