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

Medical staff at Bulkley Valley District Hospital urge everyone to continue to follow public health guidelines to combat the spread of coronavirus. (File photo)
COVID-19 and influenza update from Bulkley Valley medical staff

Local MDs urge vaccinations and mask wearing to combat virus duo

This photo of approximately 10 years ago shows Laureen Fabian, on the left, and daughter Caterina Andrews. Fabian went missing last October and her daughter is looking for answers. (Contributed photo)
Laureen Fabian’s disappearance remains a mystery

It’s been a year since she went missing

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Most Read