January 25, 2016 7:19 pm
Updated: January 25, 2016 10:33 pm

Fraser Institute finds majority of Canadians experience poverty only for a short time

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A Fraser Institute study says the true rate of long-term poverty is much lower than commonly reported with only 1.5 per cent of Canadians being stuck in low income every year between 2005 and 2010.

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Charles Lammam, Fraser Institute director of Fiscal Studies and co-author of “An Introduction to the State of Poverty in Canada“, says this means that the majority of Canadians experience poverty temporarily. Lammam added that this number is down from the 3.6 per cent of Canadians stuck in low income from 1993 to 1998.

“On average, you can expect someone to experience poverty for about two years. If you look at just over a one year period, Statistics Canada say people who are in low income in one year, exit in the following year. So really, this is highlighting people’s temporary experiences with low income… someone who is living on their own in university can be considered to be low income, but they won’t be there for very long.”

He says this group of people experiencing temporary poverty should be distinguished by Canadians who are stuck in low income year after year, unable to exit; which is something he calls “persistent low income”. People in this category often have other risk factors like having a severe mental health disability, being a single parent, or living in a single parent household, or not completing a high school education.

Lammam wants government to create policies that distinguish between the two groups to better help those who are affected by persistent low income. But not everyone agrees with the poverty measures used by the Fraser Institute.

Trish Garner, a community organizer with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, says low income measures don’t reflect true living conditions.

“Can you imagine living on $26,000? A family of four? No,” Garner told Global News.

“Even Statistics Canada itself, their basic needs market measure is set at $35,000, and a basic living wage sets the line at $75,000. So a difference of $50,000 between the poverty line that they’re talking about and the actual cost of living that a family is facing.”

Garner says that according to the $35,000 Statistics Canada measure, there are over 450,000 people living in poverty in B.C.; which is about 10 per cent of the population. Of that number, she says 308,000 live in Vancouver (about 12 per cent of the city population).

Furthermore, the data from the report is only accurate up to 2010. Lammam said the Statistics Canada survey that this report is based on is no longer in use.

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