Statistics Canada’s offices at Tunny’s Pasture in Ottawa are shown on Friday, March 8, 2019. The Canadian economy posted its biggest monthly job loss since the financial crisis as the unemployment rate also pushed higher in November. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Bump in low-income rates expected as StatCan sets to redraw poverty line

The measure calculates the minimum a person or family would have to earn for a modest living standard

The national statistics office is looking at changes to the federally adopted poverty line which, if approved, could mean more people are considered to live below the low-income threshold.

The last time the made-in-Canada measure was updated was in 2008 and poverty rates increased by 2.2 per cent because the financial cut-off used to define low-income was raised.

Experts suggest that a plan by Statistics Canada to recalculate the threshold by changing the “market basket measure” early next year could lead to a similar bump in poverty rates.

The measure calculates the minimum a person or family would have to earn to afford a basket of goods and services needed to reach a modest or basic living standard.

The Liberals adopted the measure as the country’s official poverty line last year and set aside $12 million over five years to update the basket, which doesn’t include things like wireless services.

In July, the top official at Employment and Social Development Canada and the minister at the time were told federal officials would decide “on the actions to be taken” with Statistics Canada’s recommendations, including which to implement, and which to send for more research when it comes to making the changes.

A final report from Statistics Canada is expected in February.

The Canadian Press obtained copies of the briefing notes under the access-to-information law.

Statistics Canada has published reports outlining possible updates to the cost and items in the basket of goods and services, as well as “disposable income” thresholds, which are how much income a family has leftover after accounting for taxes and payroll deductions.

ALSO READ: Canada’s GDP falls 0.1 per cent in October

A family or individual would be considered in poverty if the basket of goods strips away too much of their disposable income.

Other updates proposed by Statistics Canada include reflecting changes to the national food guide in the cost of food, and updating transportation costs to reflect census findings that while some low-income earners take public transit, others drive. The agency has also suggested excluding capital gains taxes when calculating disposable income to avoid families “appearing to be in poverty” from a hefty tax bill, and putting homeowners with a mortgage and people in subsidized housing on “more equal footing” with renters when determining who is in poverty.

Garima Talwar Kapoor, director of policy and research at Maytree, said the cost of housing, for instance, has gone up faster in the last 10 years than earnings, which could help increase the percentage of Canadians living in poverty.

She said a similar effect happened in the 2008 update when costs rose faster than incomes.

“That trend is continuing,” Kapoor said.

“The growth in costs is so much faster than the average income … which would therefore translate to a higher poverty level.”

ALSO READ: Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Changes to measuring poverty would likely result in an increase not only in the percentage of people in poverty, but a slight increase in the raw numbers as well, Kapoor said.

The Liberals have touted that under their watch, more than 800,000 people, including some 280,000 children, have been lifted out of poverty, and rates have dropped by about 20 per cent of where they were in 2015. The figures are key benchmarks — politically and from a policy perspective — to track the path of the government’s anti-poverty strategy.

Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, doesn’t foresee a revamped poverty line shifting Canada off the recent decrease in poverty rates.

The changes could drop those just above the line into poverty despite no material changes to their circumstances, she said.

Updates to the measurement will help identify the financial pressure points for people in poverty, which in turn would help governments set anti-poverty plans, she said.

“It’s just important to keep updating these things because sometimes they are used to say we’ve done enough by the government — provincial or federal.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey man to bike across Canada

Last minute decision to take Rajiv Dhaliwal on three-month journey

White Rock RCMP reviews street checks for racial bias

Report indicates checks are being conducted bias-free

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

JULY 11: B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance

Suspect in North Delta home invasion facing attempt murder charge

Blaine Robert Jackson, 37, of no fixed address, faces six charges in relation to this incident

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Man found dead in Sicamous near vehicle linked to suspicious death in Edmonton

The man was found dead on the evening of July 11, 2020

Fraser Valley loses the Keith Wilson Waver as Ron Hupper passes away

Hupper brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of people traveling Chilliwack’s Keith Wilson Road

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Most Read