The Fraser Institute argues in a report released Thursday that poverty in Canada is much lower than commonly thought, affecting just 5% of the population.
The problem? The conservative think tank minimizes the extent of poverty by pretty much defining it out of existence.
Author Christopher Sarlo developed a "basic need" or supposedly "absolute" poverty measure, based on meeting basic needs, such as minimally adequate food and shelter.
This is contrasted to "relative" poverty lines, especially the Low Income Measure (LIM), which defines poverty as having a significantly lower income than a comparable family (more precisely, less than half of the median or mid point income.) By the LIM measure, the most commonly used low income measure for making international comparisons, 13% of Canadians are poor.
Sarlo's "basic needs" measure is, as he himself admits, "arbitrary," and it is also set relative to the condition of others in Canadian society. For example, his bare bones family budget allows for a telephone, which would be considered a luxury by many poor families in developing countries. But his budget does not include any spending on entertainment or recreation for children.
Progressives view poverty, not as a state of absolute deprivation, but as having an unacceptably lower income than the mainstream of society. By that measure, poverty is a very significant problem.
By contrast, the Fraser Institute thinks there is no problem, so long as low-income Canadians can scrape by from day to day.
Again, nice try.
Photo: ebbsphotography. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.