The proportion of Canadians living in poverty fell
to 4.9 per cent in 2004, the lowest level in history, according
to a new report published by The Fraser Institute, Poverty in Canada: 2006 Update
"Poverty rates have decreased substantially, falling to 4.9 per
cent in 2004 from 7.8 per cent in 1996," said report author Chris
Sarlo, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and Nipissing
University economics professor. "This fall in poverty rates is
especially encouraging following a lengthy period of stagnation
throughout the 1980s and early to mid-1990s."
Dramatic improvements were also recorded in the proportion of
children living in poverty. Child poverty rates nearly halved
between 1996 and 2004, falling to 5.8 per cent from 10.9 per
Sarlo uses the "basic needs" approach to measure poverty by
determining the level of income individuals or families need to
buy the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing,
shelter, and other household essentials. Canadians are considered
to be in a state of poverty when they lack the income necessary
to buy these basic needs.
"All too often, claims about the number of poor in Canada are
based on Statistics Canada's low income cutoff lines (LICO).
However, Statistics Canada repeatedly warns that it is not a
poverty measure but rather a 'relative' measure of how well off
some Canadians are compared to others," Sarlo said.
"Poverty is fundamentally a problem of insufficiency, not
inequality. If we want to understand how Canadians are doing, we
need to know how many of our fellow citizens cannot afford the
basic necessities of life."