Poverty reduction plan needed in BC

About a month ago I wrote a column incorporating the recent statistics showing BC has the highest rate of child poverty in our country – for the seventh year in a row.

In that article, and several others over the past few years, I have highlighted some of the many ways in which poverty negatively affects not only the physical and mental health of an individual, but also the health and productivity of our society as a whole.

It seems obvious to me that one of the first and best ways to improve our province would be to put forth a real strategy for reducing poverty. This doesn’t need to be overly difficult – there are some key areas we could improve that would make a great difference in the lives of many. A real plan for more affordable housing would help many individuals and families get off the street. A better minimum wage would help the working poor afford appropriate shelter and food. Increased social assistance amounts would ensure dignity for those without work or who cannot work due to disability.

Although these are just a few areas where improvement could make a big difference, our provincial government has shown a lack of true concern for the plight of the poor. There has been very little leadership shown in this area over the past few years.

Now there is a real call for a plan in BC. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is calling on all of us to get involved in several initiatives to encourage our government to take action against poverty.

Bill C-304 is a new act to ensure adequate affordable housing across Canada. This was introduced by the federal NDP party as a step toward a national housing strategy and would provide needed support to provincial efforts. You can support this bill by writing to your local federal representatives and also writing to Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, as the support of that party is necessary to keep this bill moving forward.

An all-party committee of parliament has also recently put forward a report calling the federal government to commit to an action plan to reduce poverty in Canada. The more the public calls for this report to be heeded, the better its chances. A federal plan would likely lead to good support for all the individual provinces.

While the majority of provinces and territories have already committed to anti-poverty strategies, BC has yet to follow suit despite our poor track record in this area. Now is the time to let our voices be heard on this matter. With Gordon Campbell heading out, we need to ensure the new leader of our province truly takes leadership on this issue and helps BC gain credibility not only for being the most beautiful place to live, but also the best place to live in Canada.

 

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