Mr. Emberly ignored the other half of our approach: a broad suite of supports for low-income British Columbians – Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development.
On Jan. 21, I wrote that the B.C. Liberal’s job creation plan fails to reduce the highest child poverty rate in Canada, or help the 13.2 per cent of B.C. below the poverty line.
I noted the growing number of kids who go to school without breakfast and lunch, seniors who depend on food banks, disabled, under-employed and folks on minimum wage who can’t afford housing or public transportation.
I referenced a report of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, called “Long Overdue: Why B.C. Needs a Poverty Reduction Plan,” which says B.C. needs a poverty reduction plan with specific targets and timelines.
B.C. is the only Canadian province without one.
In the interest of separating the truth from half truths or alternative facts, let’s continue the debate. What follows is the minister’s rebuttal with responses from Trish Garner, community organizer with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, 50 labour, social policy, health, faith, business, and First Nations groups united in a common purpose – “to improve the health and well-being of all British Columbians.”
Cadieux on housing: “We have committed $855 [million] to create up to 5,000 new affordable housing units for families and 2,000 rental units throughout B.C.”
Garner: “It’s an inadequate amount,” and “we’re not seeing it for new affordable housing units. It takes $250,000 for a new unit. At four per million dollars, that’s 3,420 units. We’re asking 10,000 units each year to keep up with homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in general.”
Cadieux on rental housing: “Our Rental Assistance Program helps about 10,800 families per year.”
Garner: “That’s incredibly low. The threshold is low. Those earning $35,000 as a family don’t qualify. It doesn’t capture people on welfare and disability. Housing is the number one expense. So, 10,000 is not meeting the needs. Our poverty rate is over 13 per cent. That’s 600,000 BCers.
Cadieux on children: “Approximately 20,000 low-income children benefit from child care subsidies each month.”
Garner: “One in five kids in B.C. live in poverty. It’s a subsidy that’s not addressing the affordability of child care. We advocate investing in the universal $10-a-day child care plan set by the Child Care Advocates of B.C. and the Early Child Care Educators of B.C.”
Cadieux on minimum wage: “We raised the minimum wage in 2016 and will again in September.”
Garner: “It’s not enough. It was incredibly low, and still puts a full-time worker below the poverty line by thousands of dollars. We advocate for $15 an hour.”
Cadieux on MSP premiums: “About 40 per cent of B.C. families will pay reduced or no MSP premiums.”
Garner: “It’s a repressive flat tax that hits people over the threshold of $40,000 harder. They pay the same as those making $400,000. We’re the only province that pays MSP. We advocate for its elimination.”
Cadieux on jobs to support families: “Our Single Parent Employment Initiative is helping people on low-income and disability assistance re-enter the workforce – while covering costs of transportation and child care during their training … ”
Garner: “The Single Parent Employment Initiative is a good wrap around. It provides tuition, child care, access to training, transportation, but it’s only for a year, and only for a single parent. If they expanded it, that would be great. What’s needed is a plan for everyone – adequate wages, increased welfare and disability, affordable housing, access to education.