National Council of Welfare

Conseil national du bien-être social



             Does Canada need a new way of measuring poverty?  That's the
big question the National Council of Welfare is asking in a
discussion paper published today.
             The paper contains a questionnaire for readers about poverty
and poverty lines. Among other questions, the paper asks whether
readers would prefer a poverty line based on the cost of a "market
basket" of goods and services or a statistical measure such as the
"low income cut-offs" of Statistics Canada.

             The National Council of Welfare has long used the low income
cut-offs or LICOs in its own work, but believes it is worth taking
a closer look at the market basket approach. The Council's
uncertainty about the outcome of the debate is reflected in the
title of the paper, A New Poverty Line: Yes, No or Maybe?

             Poverty lines are only a means to an end, the report says.

             "Counting poor people is always going to be unsatisfying work.
It only makes sense if we take the next logical step and do our
best to eradicate poverty in all its forms."

             The report contains information on the actual spending
patterns of Canadians and examples of several possible ways of
drawing market basket poverty lines. It also urges governments to
do extensive consultations of their own, especially among poor
people and anti-poverty groups. -2-

             "Poor people have a detailed understanding of poverty from
their personal experiences, and it would be stupid for governments
to ignore this valuable source of expertise," the report says.

             The National Council of Welfare will publish the results of
its readership survey later in the year.

             The Council is a citizens' advisory group to the federal
Minister of Human Resources Development. Its mandate in federal
law is to advise the Minister of matters of concern to poor people.

             From its work over the years, the Council is convinced that
most of the complaints about Statistics Canada's low income
cut-offs are ideologically motivated and ignore the four most
basic facts about poverty lines: * All poverty lines are relative. * All poverty lines are arbitrary. * Poverty lines are a research tool for measuring the incomes of groups
of people, not a measure of individual need. * Some poverty lines are better than others, but none of them is perfect. __________________________ For more information, please contact: National Council of Welfare 1010 Somerset Street West, 2nd Floor Ottawa K1A 0J9 (613) 957-2961

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