Mr. Speaker, like almost all industrial countries other than the U.S.A., Canada does not have an official measure of poverty.
Since the early sixties Statistics Canada low income cutoffs have often been used as measures of poverty by journalists and by advocacy groups. These cutoffs calculate low income as compared to the average family income.
In 1990 Statistics Canada introduced a second measure called the low income measure which calculates income levels both before and after income taxes relative to the median or middle income level. This is comparable to the way the United Nations calculates international comparisons of poverty.
Today many in Canada favour the development of a third measure, a market basket measure that takes into account the cost of people's essential needs like food, clothing, shelter and essential services.
To adopt an official measure of poverty in Canada, parliament would have to agree on the form such a measure would take and at what income level the measure would be set.
Currently there is no consensus about how to appropriately measure poverty. Most people seem to agree that we need to broaden our understanding of poverty. We believe it is prudent to have a number of complementary measures based on different concepts of poverty. Trends using these various measures can then be followed over time.
Any new measures that we would look at would complement, not replace, existing measures like the LICOs or the LIMs and would build on our knowledge of the real conditions of low income Canadians.