BC Election: The key issues and our questions for the main parties

The provincial election on May 9 is drawing close. As we did in the last provincial election, The Federation has sent a series of questions on key issues to each provincial party.

The reason that we (and many other organizations) do this is to make sure that politicians and party leaders know exactly which issues we care most about—issues like reconciliation, contracting, children in care, mental health, and addictions.

If we want our values to show up in the way our province is governed and in the way provincial resources are allocated, we need to make those values known. This is the same reason The Federation submits to the Select Standing committee year after year.

We also want the parties to answer these questions so we can hold them accountable. Once they know what’s important to us, we want to know plain and simple what they will or won’t do to address them.

This election, we chose questions that spoke to key initiatives and activities The Federation is undertaking. In choosing them, we conferred with our allies and were mindful of the questions they were asking—we wanted to cover the important issues without overlapping or sounding redundant.

For issues that don’t appear in the questions below (child care, poverty, domestic violence), we deferred to our allies who were already speaking to these topics. For issues that do appear, we tried to connect them with recent events, news coverage, or important statistics. For example, we know that a large percentage of Indigenous people in BC don’t live in their land-based nation, so our question about reconciliation is mindful of that urban perspective.

Take a look at the questions below and stay tuned for the responses. We will share the answers we get from each party with our members. In the meantime, I encourage you to use the same questions when talking with your local candidates.

Let them know which issues are important to you, inform them of what’s and stake, and ask them where they stand and what they will do to win your vote.

1. Reconciliation 
As many as 70% of Indigenous people in BC live in urban areas, not their land-based nation. With that in mind, what does reconciliation mean to your party? How will your party, as the government, work meaningfully towards reconciliation in BC? 

2. Residential Review 
BC’s new Representative for Children and Youth said in February, that greater attention to the conclusions of the 2012 Residential Review Report (co-authored by The Federation and The Ministry for Children and Family Development) might have prevented the death of Alex Gervais. If your party forms the next government, what will you do to expedite the implementation of the 32 recommendations in the Residential Review Report? 

3. Youth in care 
According to recent figures, approximately 700 youth “age out” of government care each year when they turn 19. Unfortunately, many end up homeless. What are some of your party’s ideas for better supporting youth transitioning out of government care?

4. Contracting & Funding 
Many of our members have contracts with government funding bodies to provide essential services to the people of BC Many of these contracts are short term or year to year and many fail to cover the full cost of providing said services. How would your party improve the funding relationships with community social services? 

5. Addiction Services 
The death of Nick Lang in June 2015 highlighted a series of gaps in our province’s child welfare system. How will your party improve the system of supports for young people with addiction or mental health issues? What services will your party make available so at-risk youth don’t have to be flown across the province away from their family in order to get treatment?

6. Special Needs 
Many BC youth with special needs are falling between the cracks, especially those transitioning to adult services that often have reduced capacity for support. In addition, our province’s long-term care facilities aren’t prepared to welcome an increased number of aging people with disability-related needs. How will your party better support this growing section of the population in the years to come? 

7. Representative for Children and Youth 
Bernard Richard was recently appointed as BC’s new Representative for Children and Youth. What does your party envision for the future of this important role? Should the RCY office be independent? Should its mandate be limited to monitoring? Should the office have greater capacity for advocacy efforts?

Save the date: The Federation’s June conference and AGM

The Federation’s 35 Annual General Meeting will take place on the morning of Friday, June 23rd at the Penticton Lakeside Resort. The AGM will follow Thursday’s Reconciliation in Action Conference and will wrap up by noon so members can catch flights or get a head start on their sunny weekend in the Okanagan.

The AGM will include board elections for the positions of Vice President, Treasurer, and six Directors at Large. This is an excellent opportunity for members to get more involved with The Federation, engage with the Board, and influence the direction of our organization over the years to come.

The AGM will also include time for us to welcome MCFD Deputy Minister Lori Wannamaker who will speak about the Ministry’s ongoing work to implement their Multi-Year Action Plan (MYAP). A recording of the Deputy’s webinar presentation to The Federation is available here.

I will also share The Federation’s 2017 annual report at the AGM. My presentation will review our organization’s past year, highlight some key activities, and map out what is ahead for The Federation—particularly in relation to the results of the upcoming provincial election.

I will also share some stories about the young people that benefited from our Youth Education Bursary this year (see more on the bursary below!) and we will take the time to welcome new Federation members and honour some of our members who are retiring.

We will be sharing more details about Thursday’s Reconciliation in Action Conference in the coming weeks. In the meantime, get a head start on your planning by reserving accommodations for you and your staff at the Penticton Lakeside Resort by calling their reservation line (1-800-663-9400) or emailing lakeside@rpbhotels.com. Just let them know you are attending the Federation of Community Social Services of BC June 2017 event.

I look forward to seeing you in Penticton!

Youth Education Bursary Silent Auction returns!

The June Conference and Annual General Meeting will see the return of a Federation favourite: the Youth Education Bursary Silent Auction! Past Silent Auctions have served as some of the best fundraisers for the bursary program. We are bringing back this popular fundraiser so even more youth can benefit from the Youth Education Bursary.

As such, we are calling for items from members and allies for the silent auction. The majority of our fundraising efforts come from our members (and the bursary program is a great opportunity to help support BC’s youth in care). Contact bess@fcssbc.ca to donate an item to the Youth Education Bursary.


The BC Election: Putting social issues on the agenda

Those of you who have been following The Federation’s election strategy efforts will know that our organization is focusing on two main goals:

  1. We want social issues to make it onto the agendas of a greater number of candidates and politicians across the province.
  2. We also want a greater number of eligible voters across the province to better understand the breadth and impact of the social issues facing BC.

One of the ways we are doing this is by trying to counter the narrative that BC is actually doing great. In fact, we’ve been trying to challenge this prosperity narrative for over a year (and have had a number of editorials picked up by news outlets over the past 12 months).

The attitude that B.C. is strong and prosperous continues to be harmful to the social care sector and the people it serves. Such language places more value on some lives (those who are doing OK) than others (those who are struggling) and it lowers the bar for what people consider a healthy, functioning society.

The notion that we can only afford to help people in prosperous times is just as harmful. Any good parent would starve before they let their children go hungry, and by that same principle, we should be challenging any government that says it can’t afford to take care of its most vulnerable.

I know it can be tricky to push back against such posturing—especially for charities and especially during an election. However, increasing awareness about social issues can be done in a non-partisan way.

The tools we have created over the recent months support this awareness-raising strategy. To be clear, we aren’t picking sides. The only outcome we are working towards is one in which the next government—whoever it is—strives to do better.

The resources we have created are varied; we know very well that there are different tools for different tasks.

We have created an updated series of ‘Snapshot’ fact sheets to share information on key issues. We have created social media messages to leverage those channels that have a broad reach. We have empowered members to speak with local candidates because we understand the power of real relationships between citizens and their elected officials.

We are also working with our allies to develop materials to inspire the broader community serving sector to get out the vote (check out the posters in the sidebar of this email) and have teamed up with a half-dozen member agencies to produce op-eds by frontline staff about the importance of social care.

I hope you take advantage of these resources. And be sure to let The Federation know what you are doing in your communities. We will share these stories in the coming weeks so our members can inspire and motivate each other in the lead up to May 9.

Later this months, The Federation will also be formally asking each major party a series of questions about their stance on social care issues in order to clarify (on the record) each party’s position.

Whoever forms the next government will only care about these issues as much as we make them care; they will only know as much as we are willing to tell them. Let’s make sure every single candidate knows what’s at stake.

Federation and EVA BC announce new partnership

Last month, The Federation and the Ending Violence Association of BC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing a new partnership agreement. Both organizations have committed to a collaborative and mutually supportive working relationship.

While our two organizations have long worked together, this formal agreement opens the door for new opportunities and shared benefits for our respective members, including the following.

As part of this new agreement, Federation members can attend EVA BC’s upcoming conference on Trauma for the same cost EVA members pay. “Working with Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma” takes place May 1st and 2nd in Richmond.

This workshop is designed for a multi-disciplinary audience: psychologists and psychiatrists, counsellors in private practice and the anti-violence field, as well as those in child protection, police, and other human service fields. Learn more here.

The Representative’s report and reconciliation

Last week, the Representative for Children and Youth, Bernard Richard, released a report on the sustainability and capacity issues faced by the delegated aboriginal agencies in this province. If you have not yet read this report I encourage you to do so.

The scale and breadth of these issues should be a concern for everyone working in the social care sector.

The underfunding of resources for Indigenous families is a systemic problem. For things to change, the entire sector needs to better understand the inequalities that undermine attempts to support and nurture vulnerable families.

We have been in contact with the representative and his team and are exploring ways we can work together to address some of these shared concerns.

As you know, The Federation remains committed to reconciliation. Our reconciliation action group is busy mapping ways to continue this important work as part of our June Conference.

Be sure to save the date (June 22 & 23) and think about which of your staff can join us in Penticton. You can read the above-mentioned RCY report here.

The Federation and EVA BC announce new partnership agreement

The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and The Federation of Community Social Services of BC (The Federation) are pleased to announce a new formal partnership agreement in which both organizations have committed to a collaborative and mutually supportive working relationship. 

We are glad to be working alongside each other to address common issues, and to advance legislative, budgetary, policy, and practice matters with the government. This new partnership is built upon a mutual respect for each other’s work and a shared understanding that the specific issues we each focus on affect various other areas of social care.

While our two organizations have long worked together, this formal agreement opens the door for new opportunities and shared benefits for our respective members, including the following.

EVA BC members will have access to the Federation 2020 Leadership programs and The Federation’s annual professional development conference at a preferred rate. In addition, EVA members will have access to Federation insurance programs through the Federation Benefits Associates Program

Federation members will have access to EVA BC’s annual training forum at preferred rates. EVA BC will also provide Federation members access to EVA BC legal analysis and briefing documents on issues related to gender-based violence policy, legislation, and programming.

About the organizations:

The Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) works to coordinate and support the work of victim-serving and other anti-violence programs in British Columbia through the provision of issue-based consultation and analysis, resource development, training, research, and education. Our work is guided by respect for difference, human dignity, and equality.

The Federation of Community Social Services of BC (The Federation) is a group of community-based social services organizations that influence decision-making to improve the wellbeing of communities. The Federation works towards a vision of a society of strong, healthy individuals and families, and caring, inclusive communities strengthened by comprehensive, responsive, high-quality supports and services.