Friday, June 23, 2017 

Pov News

Minimum Wage Hike Needed

Gaps in platforms increase the 'Working Poverty'  class

Trish Garner/BC Poverty Coalition

 

Trish Garner rallies at Five Corners in August 2015. Voice file photo.

oday the Liberals join the NDP and Green parties in pledging their commitment to a poverty reduction plan for BC.

BC once again has the highest poverty rate in Canada at almost 15 per cent, according to the latest statistics released a month ago, and has had one of the highest rates for the last 15 years. Yet BC remains the only province without a poverty reduction plan.

“After years of community pressure, it’s exciting to see all of our major parties recognizing the urgency of tackling poverty in BC through a poverty reduction plan. Poverty is a non-partisan issue and should have political support from all parties,” says Trish Garner, Community Organizer with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

“Now we need to make sure that any plan implemented is meaningful and accountable to people living in poverty. Poverty reduction plans across Canada are most successful when they are fully-funded and have legislated targets and timelines.”

Since 2009, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC) has been advocating for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan, which includes raising income assistance rates and the minimum wage, providing social infrastructure, such as affordable housing, childcare, education, and health care, and reducing barriers for members of equity seeking groups. The BCPRC now has the support of over 400 organizations throughout BC.

Poverty currently costs B.C. approximately 8-9 billion dollars per year while a comprehensive poverty reduction plan would cost less than half that at 3-4 billion dollars, according to The Cost of Poverty in BC from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Seth Klein, Director of the CCPA says, “at least we all now recognize we have a problem.”

The full details of the poverty reduction plan put forward by the Liberals have not been outlined. However, one of the promises is an immediate raise of $100 to welfare rates, which have been frozen at $610 for a decade.

“$100 is far too little to make a dent in the wellbeing of those on assistance,” says Viveca Ellis from the Single Mothers’ Alliance. “It does not pull people above the poverty line.”

Another significant promise is an investment of $1 billion towards child care but, as the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC highlight, “throughout 16 years in government, the BC Liberals could have chosen to make quality child care available and affordable across the province. Instead, they allowed the crisis to grow, particularly over the last four years. While parent fees skyrocketed, the BC Liberal Government consistently underspent their child care budget.”

Before this announcement, the Liberals repeatedly said no to a provincial poverty reduction strategy, instead asserting that their Jobs Plan was a poverty reduction plan.

However, most poor people in BC are working – while 15 per cent of British Columbians are living in poverty, only between 3-4 per cent are on income assistance. Notably, the new promises from the Liberals do not include anything to address working poverty, while the NDP has made a commitment to raising the minimum wage to $15/hour.

“With this all-party support for a provincial poverty reduction plan, we now have an opportunity to achieve a poverty-free BC. Let’s hope any new government lives up to this vision,” says Trish Garner of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.


 


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