June 28th, 1998.
"Poor Children in Canada."
There is an agenda being served in Canada in our fight against poverty, and I fear it is not the agenda of the poor.
We might define poverty at least in two ways: The first way is to establish "official poverty lines," this is how Statistics Canada has defined it. This is a relative definition of poverty, it focuses on a person's standard of living in comparison to others within the community. This approach presumes that we as human beings measure our well being in relation to the possessions of others. By this definition we are poor if our standard of living is substantially below what most others have, regardless of whether we have met our basic needs or not. This concept of our basic needs brings us to the second definition: one is poor where he or she cannot acquire all the basic needs required for physical survival; this is the more traditional way of defining poverty; it is an absolute and not a relative definition. To accept the first definition means that most all of us are poor, as most everybody will find someone else who possesses more stuff; while under the second definition a state of poverty will only exist if there exists a situation of genuine deprivation of certain of the necessities of life, a situation in which the physical well being of a person is threatened, a situation where the person is on the borders of being cold, hungry and sick. To accept the relative definition of income is to accept: there are, where everyone is equally deprived, no poor people in Somalia; that in an economic depression, given that everyone's income decreases at the same rate, there are no more poor in the country then there was before the depression began. Thus, it can be seen, why it is socialists readily accept the relative definition of poverty. To accept such a definition means one must accept the manner in which poverty is to be fought: redistribute income and property from those who have more to those who have less. It may well be a worthwhile object to redistribute wealth; but it is not honest, and brings fog to the field of battle, when we redistribute wealth in the name of fighting poverty.
Why is it that we are getting the impression from our journalists that Canada is full of "poor children." What is the source? The source is Campaign 2000, a national network of anti-poverty groups who are pressuring government to redistribute $20 billion to low income families by the end of the century. The statistics used by these people are those developed by our federal government, Statistics Canada. The statistics used are "Low-Income Cut-Offs" (LICOs). These are not poverty lines; and, indeed, Statistics Canada takes great pains to point out that a LICO is not a 'poverty Line' and should not be confused as one. There is a method (the Orshansky method) by which a true poverty line might be struck, and, by using such a method, the poverty line for a family of four in Canada would currently be $20,683, not the LICO, which is $30,708.
I don't mind people pushing their own particular view of how society should be "organized," but I wish they would make an honest presentation of their case. The argument for the redistribution of income and property ought to be heard, but not from people who intentionally mislead. This is not a fight to be fought under the banner that there are - using a LICO - 1.5 million poor children in Canada: because, while there undoubtedly are poor children in Canada, there are far fewer than the number which these social organizers have seized upon.