Trish Garner: Stats show B.C. still has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada

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      The latest poverty statistics were released by Statistics Canada last Wednesday (December 10), and the data once again shows that B.C. has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada.

      Using the Low Income Cut-Off–After Tax (LICO-AT) as the poverty line, one in 10 British Columbians are living in poverty. That’s 469,000 people struggling to make ends meet. In relation to the rest of the country, B.C. is tied third with Quebec after Ontario and Manitoba.

      As always, there’s a two-year delay in the data from Statistics Canada so these numbers describe the situation from 2012. However, this year there’s also another challenge with the data—it’s produced from a new survey so we cannot compare to previous years. The silver lining perhaps is that it may stop the government from saying that we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in poverty by choosing their reference year from the past as that which had the highest poverty rate (neglecting to mention that it spiked due to government cuts at the time).

      So, we can’t say whether we’re improving or slipping backwards but, whichever way the trend might be going, one in 10 people living in poverty should be a concern for government and should drive serious action.

      While the LICO-AT is a useful measure, in part because it gives us one of the most conservative estimates of poverty and because the government themselves have begun to use it, it has some big problems. For one, the base year from which the relative family expenditure underlying the data is drawn is 1992 and family spending on food, shelter, and clothing in relation to their income has changed significantly since then. It also does not capture any geographical changes in the cost of living, which are especially significant in Metro Vancouver.

      So let’s look at the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which is based on up-to-date costs of an adequate standard of living and reflects regional differences in living costs. As Statistics Canada describes, it “attempts to measure a standard of living that is a compromise between subsistence and social inclusion….The MBM represents the cost of a basket that includes: a nutritious diet, clothing and footwear, shelter, transportation, and other necessary goods and services (such as personal care items or household supplies).”

      Using the MBM as a poverty line, we find over one in seven British Columbians living in poverty. That’s a shocking 670,000 people. B.C. now has the second highest poverty rate in Canada after Nova Scotia.

      Breaking the data down by age reveals a very interesting feature of the landscape of poverty in B.C. While B.C. is in the middle of the pack in relation to other provinces in terms of child and senior poverty rates, we have the very highest poverty rate in Canada for working age people (18-64 years) across all poverty measures provided. This highlights that there is much more support needed for this age group, many of which are the working poor.

      However, this new survey, as with most others, does not count “persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces,” and while these exclusions are said to be less than three percent of the total population, it is worth noting that the age demographics of the aboriginal population might make this more important in counting poverty among the younger ages.

      If we add this to the mounting evidence I documented here, including the recently published B.C. 2014 Child Poverty Report Card based on a different (taxfiler) data source that found one in five B.C. children are poor, there clearly continues to be an urgent need for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for B.C. with legislated targets and timelines.

      Despite the numbers and the heart-rending stories behind them, B.C. is now the very last province without a poverty reduction plan. It’s time for the government to listen up!

      Trish Garner is the community organizer with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, a broad-based network of over 400 organizations throughout B.C. calling on the government to implement a poverty reduction plan.

      Comments

      5 Comments

      More Info Please

      Dec 18, 2014 at 7:23am

      It would be helpful to know where these 'poor' people live and if their situation is based upon regional employment problems and if they are chronic or temporary. What is surprising is that BC is tied with Quebec. I thought Quebec was the shining example for the world when it comes to social programs and they have been willing to let their bridges, roads and sewer systems degrade considerably to provide social housing, daycare and low university tuition. Shouldn't they have the lowest poverty rates by far?

      Beautiful BC

      Dec 18, 2014 at 11:05am

      This year the province is automatically granting all persons with disabilities receiving assistance a $9600 earnings exemption, even if they don't apply for it. IMO that is an admission that they underfund the disabled and seniors by at least $9600 per annum, or $800/month, which is just a bit over what they pay in Alberta per month, ~$1600.

      There is plenty of money for bridges and roads as well as welfare. All welfare is spent into the local community, none of it is invested or sent off-shore, except through the fault of local businesses being destroyed, but the poor haven't done that, so for them to bear the burden is unfortunate. Welfare provides for a very efficient economy. Certain inefficiencies, like using taxation to raise funds for welfare payments, are unfortunate, too.

      We spend enough

      Dec 18, 2014 at 3:27pm

      but it does not get where it should. The self-rghteous embezzlement by folks in groups like the Portland Hotel Society, the ridiculous salaries paid to a range of "executives" in the poverty industry, the myriad "non-profit" groups duplicating services and each driven by their own financial or ideological greed plus the provincial bureaucracy waste millions a year that should be helping those in need. The saddest thing is how many folks only care about "facts" like this when they don't like the government of the day.

      View from the Coast

      Dec 18, 2014 at 6:10pm

      Let's face it, right wing governments don't give a shit about people living in poverty, they knew this would happen before they started cutting taxes to the wealthy and corporations. The poor don't vote for them unless they are brainwashed.

      With out

      Dec 19, 2014 at 7:51am

      Again I have hurd the government dance around the round table like little kids blind siding us with sit that they have been working on to take care about the under dogs. Us the poor that are trying so hard to keep it together. We will be dead before anything happens and then our children grow up to end up in the same thing we are trying to end. What you say nothing will ever happen. They would rather rise taxes and build new homes for the offshore people that don't even live here. Let's cater to them .the government is only in it for the money. They don't care about the poor. Even if you do have a job cause you don't pay enough tax.