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More Canadians are living in poverty than previously thought, says report

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A new report from Food Banks Canada says 25 per cent of Canadians are experiencing a poverty standard of living, compared to the official Statistics Canada poverty rate of 10 per cent.

The report cites the ‘Material Deprivation Index’ (MDI) using Canadian data, and finds that a quarter of the country cannot afford two or more household essentials.

The report considered responses across 11 different categories:

  • Transportation: Are you/is everyone in your household able to get around your community whenever you/they need to? (3.6 per cent can’t afford)
  • Footwear: Do you/does everyone in your household have at least one pair of properly fitting shoes and at least one pair of winter boots? (3.7 per cent can’t afford)
  • Protein: Are you/is everyone in your household able to eat meat or fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least every other day? (6.7 per cent can’t afford)
  • Temperature: Are you able to keep your house or apartment at a comfortable temperature all year round? (7.2 per cent can’t afford)
  • Special occasions: Are you able to participate in celebrations or other occasions that are important to people from your social, ethnic, cultural, or religious group? (7.9 per cent can’t afford)
  • Gifts: Are you able to buy some small gifts for family or friends at least once a year? (8 per cent can’t afford)
  • Bills: Are you currently able to pay your bills on time? (8.8 per cent can’t afford)
  • Clothes: Do you/does everyone in your household have appropriate clothes to wear for special occasions, such as a job interview, wedding, or funeral? (10.1 per cent can’t afford)
  • Dental care: Are you/is everyone in your household able to get regular dental care, including teeth-cleaning and fillings, at least once a year? (18.1 per cent can’t afford)
  • Spending money: If you wanted to, could you spend a small amount of money each week on yourself? (18.6 per cent can’t afford)
  • Unexpected: If you had an unexpected expense today of $500, could you cover this from your own resources? (21.7 per cent can’t afford)

According to the findings, nearly six million additional Canadians are living in poverty than what’s reflected in Statistics Canada most recent poverty data.

“We’re not looking at just income alone, but we’re looking at what people can actually afford,” says Richard Matern, the director of research at Food Banks Canada. “We’re seeing more people who are perhaps living above the official poverty line, but are still struggling to make ends meet.”

Matern says the findings should push governments to expand dental and drug coverage programs that exclude some benefits based on an individual’s income source.

The report’s findings suggest 30 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 30 years old, 44.5 per cent of single-parent families, and 42 per cent of renters are experiencing a poverty level standard of living.

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