B.C.’s social safety net ‘broken’

The money needed to bring all British Columbians living below the poverty line up to its threshold was $5.8 billion in 2014

British Columbia’s poverty rate — at 13.2 per cent — is the second highest in Canada, according to a new report.

British Columbia’s poverty rate — at 13.2 per cent — is the second highest in Canada, according to a new report.

SURREY — British Columbia’s poverty rate — at 13.2 per cent — is the second highest in Canada, according to a new report.

The report, “Long Overdue: Why BC Needs a Poverty Reduction Plan,” was published last Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the United Way of the Lower Mainland and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

It reveals that the province’s poverty rate has not improved over the past decade, B.C. is the only province without a plan to reduce poverty, and that roughly half of all British Columbians living below the poverty line are the working poor and their children.

“Our report refutes the common misconception that the poor should simply ‘get a job,” said report co-author Seth Klien, BC director of the CCPA.

It also found that the income of a person receiving a basic welfare payment of $610 per month is less that 40 per cent of the poverty line and someone working full-time, all year, at the minimum wage of $10.85/hour annually earns roughly $3,500 below the poverty line for a single person.

Trish Garner, community organizer with BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, notes that families are struggling to make ends meet because of rising housing costs, childcare fees, hydro rates and food getting more expensive.

“The social safety net is broken throughout the province, and our economy loses eight to nine billion dollars annually paying for the costs of poverty,” she noted.

The reports notes that the amount of money needed to bring all British Columbians living below the poverty line up to its threshold was $5.8 billion in 2014, or about 2.4 per cent of B.C.’s GDP.

The report recommends that government increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, significantly increase welfare and disability rates, build 10,000 new social and co-op housing units annually and start a $10-per-day child care plan that would province free childcare for families earning less than $40,000.

Michael McKnight, president and CEO of the United Way of the Lower Mainland, said embracing a poverty reduction plan now would be the “best investment we could make for our future, especially when you consider how poverty robs our future generation, our children, of their potential.”

The full report can be read at policyalternatives.ca/overdue.

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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