No new plans in B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – In an effort drastically reduce the number of people living in poverty, B.C. has unveiled its first official poverty reduction strategy, but it doesn’t include any new plans.

Rather, the TogetherBC, strategy, puts existing plans, which were announced in the last budget or in previous years, under one umbrella.

“We knew that we needed to start moving on actions, particularly those actions that can’t happen overnight like the child care initiative, the commitment to housing, and the minimum wage,” Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson said Monday. “These were all pieces of a plan that we knew would fall into place and what you’re seeing today is the road map as we weave these pieces together into one place.”

The plan focuses on affordable housing, supports for families, better education opportunities, and income supports, but aspects like the Child Opportunity Benefit, increasing child care space, and increases to minimum wage and disability assistance were already in the works.

“When we started this process back in 2017, and there were people at that time who said ‘you know what you have to do, how come you’re not getting started right now? How come this consultation process?'” Simpson said. “The consultation process was an integral part of the success of this plan I believe, because it was the very first time that we talked to people with lived experience.”

RELATED: Affordability to be focus of B.C. budget, says finance minister

The province claims the strategy will reduce B.C.’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within five years.

The strategy brings B.C. in line with all the other provinces.

Additional plans may be added to the strategy in the future, Simpson says.

Despite no new plans, Sarah Brownlee, a mother of two who had to move from Vancouver out to East Kootenay to afford housing, says she’s happy everything is being placed under one strategy.

“It’s something tangible and accountable. Having it all together in one, I think, is crucial. So, we see everything that we need to work on and gives us a starting point to move forward,” she said.

Sarah says the plan will help her push through a glass poverty ceiling.

“I have lived in four different places and my son is two years old. I know that is not good for his well-being when he grows up. Those are his formative years and moving and moving and moving again because we can’t find safe, affordable housing is going to affect my children,” Brownlee said. “Something needs to stop. We need to be able to know that our children can have housing where you’re not paying 75 per cent of your wage just to have a roof over top. That’s not good enough.”

BC Liberal critic Marvin Hunt says the NDP government is not taking any meaningful action to fight poverty, after wasting $1.2 million and 15 months developing this strategy.

“After nearly two years in office, the NDP has released its long-awaited poverty reduction plan – except there’s nothing new in this plan to actually help people out of poverty,” Hunt said.

He adds it contains significant gaps because it doesn’t address the need for well-paying jobs that would help people often working two or three jobs to make ends meet.

 – With files from The Canadian Press

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