Poverty Reduction in BC

Last week, the BC government released a report called What We Heard About Poverty in BC. It reflects the feedback collected from thousands of people across the province who participated in the poverty reduction consultations over the past year.

Those people brought forward a wide range of experiences, ideas, opinions, comments, and suggestions about how to reduce poverty in BC. (You can read and download a copy of the report here.)

A report, a plan, and a call to action

While there is little contained in the report that will come as a great surprise to those of us working in the social care sector, it is nonetheless an important milestone to see these stories and suggestions officially documented by the government.

And the issues identified in the report very much reflect the lived experiences of those in poverty: the challenges of finding and keeping affordable housing; poverty’s impact on physical and mental well-being; the discrimination and stigma people face; the particular vulnerability of women, people of colour, people with disabilities, people with multiple barriers, and LGTBQTS people.

We remain at an early phase of this work, but the report’s introduction gives me hope that the government truly understands what is at stake.

“Poverty and inequality erode society. When our friends and neighbours can’t afford to participate in the community, it is a loss for all of us. When people are struggling to afford the basics, it leaves us all poorer. Equal societies are richer societies, with a greater sense of happiness and well-being. We all do better when everyone is included in our communities and our economy.”

The report includes a summary of the many different themes that emerged during the community consultation process. You can access the full proceedings of those consultations and supplemental reports here. All of this work will serve to guide the government as they develop BC’s first poverty reduction plan.

Minister Simpson expects to table legislation in October (with targets and timelines for a plan) with funding to be allocated in the February 2019 budget.

Accountable, Bold, and Comprehensive

As we await the release of the government’s plan, The Federation (as a member of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition) will continue to advocate for a plan that is accountable, bold, and comprehensive.

We, like all members of the coalition, believe that a truly effective poverty reduction plan must be accountable. It must include legislated targets, timelines, and annual reports. In addition, there must be mechanisms to ensure that all ministries are working together and in a way that respects the rights of people living in poverty.

It must also be bold—especially when it comes to funding. Income supports like welfare and disability rates must be raised to the poverty line. The cost of lifting everyone on income assistance in BC to the poverty line would cost the equivalent of 2% of the provincial budget. The 557,000 British Columbians living in poverty can’t wait for a decade of incremental changes; they need bold and immediate action.

Lastly, an effective poverty reduction plan must also be comprehensive. It must include policy measures that address the full spectrum of issues—income assistance, low-wage work, housing, childcare, education and training, health and food security—and it must include a balance of short, medium, and long-term approaches.

Learn more and get involved

You can learn more about the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s ABC Plan here. And I encourage you to consider joining the coalition if you haven’t already done so! By adding your voice to ours—and countless others—you will help ensure that BC gets a poverty reduction plan that addresses all of the issues facing our communities.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director