Poverty reduction plan for BC - an update

At the beginning of this year I wrote a column discussing the need for a true strategy to reduce poverty in our province and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s initiatives working toward that end.

Since we are now just past the midway point of the year, I thought it fitting to update on this organization and what is happening in our province when it comes to fighting poverty.

One potentially exciting news item occurred a few weeks ago when our province’s official opposition tabled a private member’s Bill proposing a BC Poverty Reduction Act. If this garnered the necessary support from all sides, it would mean a true poverty reduction strategy to be developed by the government with specific targets and timelines over the next year.

I agree with our Opposition party, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, the Public Health Association of BC and other key groups that a well-rounded, comprehensive poverty reduction strategy is needed in BC and overdue.

It is shameful to continue holding the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country for seven years and to see no leadership coming from our provincial government to change things for the better.

If you want to read the act, you can view it online at www.leg.bc.ca/39th3rd/1st_read/m216-1.htm

To show your support, consider writing a letter to our Premier or your local provincial representative.

In addition to the poverty reduction act, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is calling for a lead minister responsibly for poverty reduction in the province and a commitment from the government that poverty reduction is a priority. Again, I think this only makes sense and I applaud their efforts.

One of the key ways to reduce poverty in our province is to increase the minimum wage as well as social assistance amounts so that all people can afford safe housing and nutritious food. Although our recent minimum wage increase and plans for future raises are a welcome change, they don’t go far enough toward ensuring all our citizens are able to earn a livable income. Have you seen recent grocery prices or what it costs to rent an apartment these days?

Some political groups and advocacy organizations are starting to endorse the idea of a living wage. The idea behind this is to base minimum payment on the actual cost of bare bones living in a given area. For example, in Metro Vancouver, the living wage is calculated to be $18.81 per hour or $34,234 per year for each parent working full time. It is lower in smaller or less expensive regions of the province and is not intended to cover any luxuries, debt payments, savings or owning a home.

I think this is another interesting idea in the fight against poverty – and certainly worth investigating and discussing at a government level.

We can all be involved in the solution to poverty in our province by plugging in, learning about the ideas and programs that are out there and having a voice in the provincial and national discussion by engaging with your elected officials. It’s high time this issue takes a front seat in our policy and planning.

 

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