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.”
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
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
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