B.C. receives failing grades in national poverty report card

Food Banks Canada has given B.C. a failing grade on its Poverty Report Card, saying the province can do more to lift British Columbians out of poverty. Kate Walker reports.

British Columbia has a lot of extra work to do when it comes to helping people with the cost of living and supporting them out of poverty, with a new report giving the province a D+ for its efforts.

Food Banks Canada released its “Poverty Report Cards” Tuesday morning.

In its key findings, FBC found almost 40 per cent of B.C. residents pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing — giving the province an ‘F’ in this category.

It also found that almost 50 per cent of British Columbians feel “worse off financially vs. last year,” while almost 60 per cent said that social assistance rates are “not enough to keep up with the cost of living.”

FBC says the report cards provide a “devastating look” at the ways poverty impacts people around the country.

B.C.’s results are on par with those found across the country. FBC says almost 45 per cent of Canadians feel financially worse than last year, 20 per cent are experiencing food insecurity, and almost 30 per cent of people are “coping with an inadequate standard of living.”

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“Until now, information about poverty has been scattered across the country and difficult to compare from government to government,” said Phil Ozga, chief network and government relations officer.

“An overall lack of action on affordable housing, and improving social assistance lies at the heart of Canada’s growing struggle with poverty and food insecurity. All governments must find a new sense of urgency and act together to combat this issue.”

Eight of 14 jurisdictions across the country received a D+ or lower, “for their weak approach to poverty reduction,” the organization explained.

To help British Columbians move out of poverty, FBC says the provincial government “must: improve accessibility to, and availability of affordable housing, and address the provincial mental health and addictions crisis.”

“While many programs and initiatives currently in place are helpful in addressing short-term policy gaps, they are not leading to meaningful progress toward enabling people to permanently move out of poverty,” FBC said.

“To make a real impact and establish long-term initiatives, experts suggest that politicians must be willing to step back and invest political capital in long-term initiatives that might not benefit them directly.”

FBC notes that while the province is taking some steps to address poverty in B.C., its 2023 budget “fell short of expectations.”

“The budget finally introduced the new income-tested renter’s tax credit, which was first mentioned in 2017. However, while households with an adjusted income of up to $60,000 will appreciate the $400 annual tax credit, it will do very little to stop skyrocketing rents and create sustainable affordable housing.”

With files from Sonia Aslam

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