Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Will we look away while the BC government fails children who live in poverty?

Dear Saanich South,

A new report out today by First Call BC again reveals that BC again has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada.

Other grim statistics:
  • The province’s youngest children are often the most negatively affected, with more than 20 per cent of children under the age of six currently living in poverty.
  • 50% of children in single-mother families in BC lives in poverty! In 2010, it was 22%. 

Clearly this is a crisis and it is getting worse not better.

No-one should question the cruel impact of poverty on kids: there are short-term and long-term negative health effects, children living in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school and obtain good employment, and they are more likely to struggle with drug abuse and crime. 

This is common sense. And even if you are mostly concerned with your own pocketbook, consider that according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, poverty could be eliminated for three to four billion dollars a year in BC but instead, taxpayers are hit with approximately eight to nine billion dollars per year in costs for poverty-related health care, policing and crime expenses and lost productivity.

And yet the BC government refuses to seriously take on this urgent challenge. Why?

This is not a new problem. In fact, this terrible situation has been ongoing for a decade. We’ve had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada for nine of the last ten years.

MLA Carole James, the Opposition Critic for Children Families has argued strongly against the experimental piecemeal approach concocted by the BC government. It ended up serving only 72 families in the last year, when there are 153,000 kids are living in poverty in B.C. today! And now the BC government has cancelled that grossly inadequate programme as well.

The worst child poverty rates in Canada. What a horrible failure for BC. Surely we can all agree that urgent change is necessary. We expect so much better from our government.

The Official Opposition, and child-poverty experts, have argued for years that the obvious first response is for the BC government to develop a province-wide poverty reduction plan. This is what other provinces do. It will help identify the problems and set targets to address them. 

Please join me in demanding that the BC Liberal government take this first step immediately.