B.C. NDP releases proposal to reduce child poverty

Critics say party’s proposed increase to welfare rates is not enough

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      A new “family bonus” program is among the pledges made by the B.C NDP today (April 19) as part of a plan to reduce poverty and income inequality.

      In a $210-million proposal that the NDP says will bring an estimated 8,400 children out of poverty, the party is promising to provide up to $70 per child each month for low and moderate income families if elected.

      “It would be inexpensive to implement administratively, and it would ensure that the money that we direct goes to families directly, to reduce poverty and to reduce inequality,” NDP Leader Adrian Dix said at a press conference at the Marpole Oakridge Community Centre.

      But a proposal from the party to raise income-assistance rates by $20 a month for all singles and couples within two years is being criticized by advocates who have been calling for a significant increase to the provincial rates.

      “Twenty dollars a month within the next two years is pathetic,” Adrienne Montani, the provincial coordinator of First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, told the Straight by phone. “We were looking for a much more significant lift in the welfare rates immediately…because it’s just abysmally low right now.”

      Under current welfare policies, a single employable person receives $610 a month. Couples receive $877 per month, while the rate for a lone parent with one child is $946, and $1,101 for couples with two children.

      Bill Hopwood, an organizer with the anti-poverty advocacy group Raise the Rates, said the $20 a month “will make no difference whatsoever” and predicted the small increase would see many landlords raise rents in low-income housing by the same amount.

      “Twenty dollars divided by 30 days is…pretty miniscule,” he said. “And that’s a big disappointment.”

      As Dix stood in front of a group of parents with young children this morning, the party leader acknowledged that the plan “doesn’t respond to all the problems,” but called the strategy a start.

      “These are practical solutions for today, and…they don’t meet the high bar and the big program costs that some people would hope for, but they’re practical and they’re what we can afford right now,” he told reporters. “We know we’re going to inherit a terrible fiscal situation from the Liberals…and our plan reflects that.”

      The NDP proposal also includes pledges to index welfare rates to inflation, and double the monthly earnings exemption for people on welfare to $400 a month—measures that were met more positively by Montani.

      The family bonus program was also good news to the advocate, who said it’s positive that the proposal consists of an actual bonus rather than a tax credit, and applies to children up to the age of 17. The B.C. Liberals’ plan for an Early Childhood Tax Benefit, which was announced in the 2013 budget, would allow eligible families to receive a tax credit of up to $55 per month for each child under the age of six.

      The proposal announced by the NDP today would also see lone parents on income assistance given an exemption on child-support payments of up to $100 a month.

      Montani noted this will bring the province back to where it was 10 years ago, when she said the B.C. Liberal government removed the exemption and implemented a 100-percent clawback of child maintenance. First Call and other groups have been advocating for a $300-a-month exemption.

      “It’s hard to get excited about going back 10 years, I’ll just say that,” said Montani. “But we’re happy…to see it in principle.”

      Dix, who held his press conference in the riding of B.C. Liberal social development minister Moira Stilwell, noted that B.C. has had the second-highest child-poverty rate in the country for the last eight years.

      “This plan makes sense—it’s a practical plan,” he said. “It’s not all that we would like to do of course, but reflects, I think, our priorities in this province, and it reflects a fundamental fact about the economy—that in this day and age, we can’t afford to leave people behind.”

      The proposal also includes a plan to boost funding to increase front-line staff at the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and increase support for Community Living B.C.

      The NDP say the cost of implementing the platform would be $28 million in 2013/2014, $248 million in 2014/2015, and $282 million in the third year, for a total of $558 million. This amount would include $146 million the party would re-allocate from the B.C. Liberals’ early childhood tax benefit program.

      Stilwell issued a news release criticizing the NDP’s spending promise.

      “The difference between our two parties has never been more clear,” she said. “Today’s BC Liberals have a plan to control government spending and grow the economy while Adrian Dix, wants to spend money faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 metre dash."

      The B.C. NDP’s proposed family bonus program would apply to families earning up to $66,000 annually. Families earning an annual income of $25,000 or less would be granted $829 a year, and those earning $50,000 would see $329 annually. Parents on income assistance would also be eligible for the bonus.

      Comments

      9 Comments

      W

      Apr 19, 2013 at 2:43pm

      Its better to something than deliberately do nothing

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      Willa

      Apr 19, 2013 at 3:05pm

      "He said an NDP government would also raise welfare rates for singles and couples by $20 per month in their second year of government, and immediately tie all welfare rates to the rate of inflation."

      I'm hoping the "$20" a month is some sort of typo. In times when a loaf of healthy bread costs over $5, a dozen eggs nearly $5, and vegetables are selling for two to four dollars a pound, a $20 a month raise, in the second year yet, would be unnoticeable, and would do nothing to ease poverty, decrease dependence on food banks and social institutions, curb health care costs related to malnutrition, or ease the burden on our most desperate citizens at all.

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      McBurp

      Apr 19, 2013 at 3:26pm

      Willa,

      What have the BC Lieberals done other than line their own pockets, and those of their corporate puppet master friends over the past 12 years?.

      0 0Rating: 0

      here yesterday, gone today

      Apr 19, 2013 at 5:33pm

      Willa: then that's a healthy loaf or dozen organic eggs each week. i'd be stoked to get that for free!

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      Lisa Arlin

      Apr 19, 2013 at 11:34pm

      Obviously Adrian dix needs a reality check and doesnt realize the cost of raising a child and 70 dollors really get a grip this is why I dont vote that is what your going to do for parents and children in poverty? I say everybody dont vote then the government wouldnt exist dont vote NDP or liberal if yoy do it is your own dam falt!

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      R.

      Apr 20, 2013 at 1:52am

      $20 isn't much, but a $400 earning exemption is huge. It gives anyone who works a regular shift a decent part time income, and makes it easier for people to work themselves out of needing IA.

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      Bruce Dean

      Apr 20, 2013 at 10:38am

      Why does my daughter deserve to live in poverty because of my crimes?

      All I did "wrong" was save a woman while I was working, on the job, and I have been forced into poverty.

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      David L.

      Apr 21, 2013 at 4:35pm

      Another "promise" of more money for the people , all well and good but I have to ask , Just where is it coming from ??.
      I am sorely afraid the NDP is leading us down the garden Path , or put more bluntly , B*%L S*%#T

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      R.

      Apr 21, 2013 at 10:07pm

      David, most of the money for people on IA will come from their own jobs, it's simply allowing people to make their own money. Previously, and even with the $200, anyone on welfare was better off not working and not looking for a job, as the screwed up calculations for deductions were likely to leave you short - which is very bad when you're making only $610/month.

      With the NDP you can take a part time job with one shift per week and not get any deducrtions. That gets you into the workforce, and once you're there it's easy to get more money. Long term it'll mean less people are getting IA, because they can actually work, and the money that would normally be put to IA could be funnelled elsewhere.

      That particular part of the plan is good because it benefits those in poverty as well as taxpayers. The income assistance becomes a temporary pay out, support while people get back in the work force, instead of something people get trapped in.

      For parents it's great as well, with the income exemption they can work part time, still get support and still be around to support their kids. They'll have money to spend on some extra-curricular activities which give their children more experience that helps them get jobs as adults.

      This is an investment in the economy, not an expense.

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