________________________________________________________________________________
ADEQUACY OF BENEFITS
________________________________________________________________________________

The incomes in Table 2 are abysmally low. To demonstrate just how low, we compared them with the estimated low income cut-offs of Statistics Canada for 1999. The results are shown in Table 3.

Each year, Statistics Canada calculates low income cut-offs for households of different sizes living in communities of different sizes. They approximate levels of gross income where people are forced to spend much of their income on food, shelter and clothing.

The National Council of Welfare regards the cut-offs as poverty lines. Like any poverty lines, they have their limitations, but they are widely accepted as a benchmark for judging income adequacy in Canada. Other studies of poverty, especially local surveys using a "market basket" approach, have produced comparable results.

Some provincial governments maintain that the poverty lines are an especially imperfect measure of poverty when it comes to welfare incomes, because the lines are based on pre-tax income and welfare benefits are not taxable. In reality, most of the incomes in Table 3 are so low that there is no difference between taxable and non-taxable income. For example, single employable people in Newfoundland with total incomes of $1,341 were abysmally poor by any standard. Even if they had earned income instead of receiving welfare income, they would have been exempt from income tax because their earnings were so low.

Some provinces and territories also contend that welfare is intended to provide only the bare necessities of life, while incomes at the level of the low income cut-offs are high enough to allow some discretionary spending as well. The National Council of Welfare has no sympathy for that argument. The fact is that the cut-offs already represent very low levels of income. The only "discretion" many welfare recipients have is how to cut back on food when the money starts running short toward the end of the month.

As Table 3 shows, no province had welfare rates consistently closer to the poverty lines than elsewhere. Rates in some provinces and territories, especially rates for single employables, are far below the lines. Welfare incomes which reach only one fifth or one third of the poverty line are unacceptably low and should be raised at the earliest possible date. How anyone manages to live on welfare rates of only nine percent of the poverty line - as a single employable person in Newfoundland is forced to do - is beyond our comprehension. Rates this low cannot be described as anything other than punitive and cruel.

Column 1 of Table 3 shows welfare incomes for different types of households in the ten provinces in 1999. None of the territories is included in this table because they are specifically excluded from the survey used to generate the low income cut-offs.

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Column 2 indicates the estimated 1999 poverty lines (the low income cut-offs of Statistics Canada, 1986 base) for the largest city in each province. The poverty gap, or difference between total income and the poverty lines, is shown in the next column. The last column represents total welfare income as a percentage of the poverty line, that is, welfare income divided by the poverty line.

Welfare incomes for single employable people remained by far the least adequate during 1999. Rates ranged from nine percent of the poverty line in Newfoundland to 41 percent of the poverty line in Ontario.

The lowest benefits for single disabled people stood at 42 percent of the poverty line in Alberta. The highest rate was 70 percent of the poverty line in Ontario.

Welfare incomes for single-parent families ranged from a low of 50 percent in both Manitoba and Alberta to a high of 70 percent in Newfoundland.

For two-parent families with two children, welfare incomes ranged from 45 percent of the poverty line in Quebec to 62 percent in Prince Edward Island.

 

 

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TABLE 3, ADEQUACY OF 1999 BENEFITS

 

TOTAL
INCOME

POVERTY
LINE

POVERTY
GAP

TOTAL WELFARE
INCOME AS % OF
POVERTY LINE

NEWFOUNDLAND

Single Employable

1,341

14,727

- 13,386

9%

Disabled Person

8,717

14,727

- 6,010

59%

Single Parent, One Child

13,924

19,963

- 6,039

70%

Couple, Two Children

16,317

29,211

- 12,894

56%

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Single Employable

5,515

14,386

- 8,871

38%

Disabled Person

8,442

14,386

- 5,944

59%

Single Parent, One Child

11,670

19,501

- 7,831

60%

Couple, Two Children

17,799

28,539

- 10,740

62%

NOVA SCOTIA

Single Employable

4,573

14,727

- 10,154

31%

Disabled Person

8,809

14,727

- 5,918

60%

Single Parent, One Child

12,558

19,963

- 7,405

63%

Couple, Two Children

16,633

29,211

- 12,578

57%

NEW BRUNSWICK

Single Employable

3,367

14,727

- 11,360

23%

Disabled Person

6,899

14,727

- 7,828

47%

Single Parent, One Child

12,319

19,963

- 7,644

62%

Couple, Two Children

15,170

29,211

- 14,041

52%

QUEBEC

Single Employable

6,223

16,766

- 10,543

37%

Disabled Person

8,951

16,766

- 7,815

53%

Single Parent, One Child

12,957

22,726

- 9,769

57%

Couple, Two Children

16,020

33,262

- 17,242

48%

25

 

TABLE 3, ADEQUACY OF 1999 BENEFITS

 

TOTAL
INCOME

POVERTY
LINE

POVERTY
GAP

TOTAL WELFARE
INCOME AS % OF
POVERTY LINE

ONTARIO

Single Employable

6,822

16,766

- 9,944

41%

Disabled Person

11,759

16,766

- 5,007

70%

Single Parent, One Child

13,704

22,726

- 9,022

60%

Couple, Two Children

18,130

33,262

- 15,132

55%

MANITOBA

Single Employable

5,551

16,766

- 11,215

33%

Disabled Person

8,257

16,766

- 8,509

49%

Single Parent, One Child

11,328

22,726

- 11,398

50%

Couple, Two Children

16,705

33,262

- 16,557

50%

SASKATCHEWAN

Single Employable

5,739

14,727

- 8,988

39%

Disabled Person

8,385

14,727

- 6,342

57%

Single Parent, One Child

11,877

19,963

- 8,086

59%

Couple, Two Children

17,590

29,211

- 11,621

60%

ALBERTA

Single Employable

5,023

16,766

- 11,743

30%

Disabled Person

7,061

16,766

- 9,705

42%

Single Parent, One Child

11,375

22,726

- 11,351

50%

Couple, Two Children

17,919

33,262

- 15,343

54%

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Single Employable

6,330

16,766

- 10,436

38%

Disabled Person

9,593

16,766

- 7,173

57%

Single Parent, One Child

13,661

22,726

- 9,065

60%

Couple, Two Children

17,830

33,262

- 15,432

54%

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