Canada has fallen from third to eighth place on a United Nations list of the most desirable countries in which to live, a further drop from the No. 1 ranking frequently touted by Prime Minister Jean Chretien as proof of the benefits of his government’s policies.

Canada was No. 1 in the UN agency’s Human Development Index for seven years in a row, until it was edged out by Norway in 2001 and 2002.

The survey ranks countries on a scale based on four criteria: life expectancy, adult literacy, school enrollment and economic prosperity as measured by per capita gross domestic product.

Canada’s drop in the ranking is due in part to the scales that measure poverty and the fact that the economic situation of many aboriginals has not improved, despite $7-billion annually in federal spending.

“That is going to be part of what brings down some of our statistics. They are not going to differentiate between native and non-native but in the compilation, those [native poverty, life expectancy and education] figures obviously bring down our stats,” an official said.

Under the human development index, literacy and school enrollment indices are grafted onto each other and the resulting education index gets a one-third weight. Life expectancy and GDP are also each worth a third of the overall score.