Carole James: B.C. needs poverty reduction plan

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      As the New Democrat critic for social development, I see and hear the challenges vulnerable people in our communities face each and every day. The stories I’ve heard while in this role are often heartbreaking, and they reinforce the need for a real strategy to address inequality in our province.

      People who live in poverty come from many different backgrounds and experiences. A variety of circumstances, often beyond their control, have brought them to a difficult time in their lives. They work hard to survive with the resources they have. For those on income assistance that means finding a place to live, food to eat, and any other basic expenses on $610 a month. They also face the discrimination that comes from reaching out for government help.

      For 10 years people on income assistance also faced an additional roadblock on the way to self-sufficiency in the form of a Liberal policy that clawed back any money they made by working from their next assistance cheque. This backwards policy, which was brought in by the Liberals in 2002 while Christy Clark was the deputy premier, actually punished people for trying to get back into the workforce.

      Premier Clark finally reinstated earnings exemptions for people receiving income assistance. While this change is welcome, given the fact that B.C. was only one of two provinces in the country without these exemptions, the Liberals are only playing catch-up.

      But the government also made another change—extending the waiting period for applicants needing income assistance from three weeks to five weeks. People go to income assistance as a last resort. This change will hurt people when they’re at their most vulnerable and put further strain on community organizations like shelters and food banks that will have to fill in the gaps.

      New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix has been calling for the Liberal government to follow the lead of governments across the country and bring in a poverty reduction plan that examines issues like housing, childcare and education and how they contribute to reducing poverty in British Columbia. Regardless of whether the plans were brought in by Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat governments, they have been successful in tackling poverty and providing opportunities to those in need.

      As part of our plan to reduce inequality, New Democrats are committing to bringing in non-repayable, needs-based student grants so that everyone has an opportunity to get the training they need to be successful in our twenty-first century economy. Right now we have people without jobs, and jobs without people—which is why we need to make investing in higher education and trades training one of our top priorities. Giving people the opportunity to improve their lives through education is good for both the individual and for society.

      Addressing inequality is good for families, good for communities and good for our economy. Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed and New Democrats are committed to improving opportunities for every British Columbian.

      Carole James is the B.C. NDP critic for social development and the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill.




      Jun 15, 2012 at 4:42pm

      Give it a rest Carole! Anyone remember the mid 1990s, the NDP solution to reducing people on welfare was to give them a one way ticket out of the province. The NDP finished what the Socreds started by dumping the poor and disabled on to the street with none of the support they promised. I detest the Liberals but the NDP are just as bad. People on welfare usually do not vote and have little to no representation. It is real easy to make promises you will never keep!

      jonny .

      Jun 15, 2012 at 5:10pm

      here's a plan: tax foreign investors and large corporations. provide low income housing throughout the city, not segregated into slums. provide assistance that covers the REAL cost of housing and food, so people are actually able to get themselves ready to work. Keep raising the minimum wage on a regular basis. take off the gas taxes, because it only hurts the poor.

      Rob Roy

      Jun 15, 2012 at 6:55pm

      Any serious poverty plan in BC has to deal with entrenched poverty in the DTES.

      Poverty there is embedded in a ghetto of drug addicts, prostitutes, and the mentally ill. Poverty is reinforced by drug dealers and pimps who need a churning cycle of despair to stay in business. The DTES has a higher rate of HIV/AIDS than Botswana. We all know why.

      Poverty is enabled by those who rationalize the drug dealers and the pimps as part of the status quo they defend. These enablers defend the status quo by opposing outsiders, donut shops, mixed housing, and economic opportunity. For them, the only answer to all these problems is state housing, and more state housing. That's a dead end. It has failed.

      That view is, literally, hopeless. We need to de-institutionalize poverty in the DTES. We need to break the ghetto mentality, and replace it with hope and a chance to get out of the craziness.

      It's important for the NDP to tell us how they will end the status quo in the DTES. Until they do so, nothing important will change, and the drug dealers will remain in control.


      Jun 15, 2012 at 8:05pm

      Call me cynical, but I see this as just another cheap political stunt. The NDP is just like every other political party; they decry poverty but do next to nothing when in power. Moreover, let us not forget that many mentally ill people were tossed out onto the streets because Glen Clark and the Provincial NDP government closed institutions, group homes and reduced funding when they ran our province.


      Jun 15, 2012 at 8:35pm

      What is written here is a place to begin, but it needs so much more detail if as a province we are all committed to supporting action plans that will over time truly address inequality.

      I am looking to each party to spell out in detail and with proposed timelines, key parts of their provincial policies and funding commitments e.g., for workers to earn a living wage, for families to access a universal and affordable child care system, for those in need to access welfare and disability programs at rates that actually allow people in need to afford to eat nutritious food and access decent housing, grants etc for those wishing to further education and training to be able to afford educational opportunities and more......

      We are falling farther and farther behind and we need to support our provincial government to take some giant steps that will truly make BC a better place to live and a more caring society. And of course we need to pressure the municipal/regional and federal governments to do their share too with our tax dollars.


      Jun 16, 2012 at 4:11am

      IMHO, fighting poverty at this point in time is a multi-pronged battle: a) we have to do much more immediately to help those currently living on welfare and barely staying alive b) we have to develop a sustainable plan to help those who are barely managing this way to access schooling to attain needed certificates and to access higher learning to be able to have a much better life without future government help and c) we have to resolve the issues of the DTES, once and for all. If building bridges and highways will quarantee many more jobs, then so, too, will the building and staffing of appropriate government facilities to house many of the current residents of the DTES. The past government created this mess and the current ones must work to clean it up. How can someone hope to get clean from drugs when he hasn't a cent to buy proper food, move to a drug-free part of the city or to be recivilzed in his appearance and health?

      The government ...and society...has to stop leeching every penny from the lower income sectors of society. Every cost of living increase is immediately followed by everyone single person on the food chain of those people raising their product/service by an even higher amount. None of the increase results in an absolute betterment for the indigent. We see this every single time.

      The Liberals can't and won't change this sad situation re: poverty; it is up to the NDP (or the Conservatives) to start contributing to possible solutions. You don't have to be elected before you can effect change change in some way. If you start now, you'll have a much better chance of getting elected later.


      Jun 16, 2012 at 9:03am

      Nicholas, you may well be right about how the NDP dropped the ball on poverty, but that in now way should excuse the present regime for purposefully ignoring the ball all together!
      Nor does it account for the fact the LIBs removed rental controls, allowed developers to capitalize on speculation, and helped drive the cost of living in this province through the roof while ignoring the province's poor!
      At least the NDP kept the cost of living down, instead of heightening it by adding service fees to govt services.

      2nd Nation

      Jun 16, 2012 at 9:57am

      Here's a poverty reduction plan: work.

      Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. But teach a man about welfare and he'll eat your fish for a lifetime.

      something is fishy around here

      Jun 16, 2012 at 1:03pm

      The reason a person collects welfare is because they are in need of employment or are unable to work. Those who are employable are off as soon as they find employment and it is usually on their own, It is in the stats. Women and children find themselves on and off the system because they lack the supports. More money for schools says 2nd nation even if the children in the classroom live on the street and have nothing to eat.
      What is needed is a Revolution and then things will be all right because when it comes to First Nations things are a disgrace on a National scale.
      Nobody wants welfare unless they have no where else to go, another criteria for collecting welfare. That is what is needed is a Revolution then things will be all right because the poverty affects all on the system and not those just on the DTES, everyone forced to live on welfare, because that's right it is a last resort but the only resource for many as the disabled health is in serious jeopardy while others take their lives forced to live in misery and without dignity in their final years of illness.
      Fishing classes now give me a break because when it comes to education and training the low income are pushed to the side while immigrants picking up a condo or two is more what the province is fishing for than British Columbians in need of jobs and training and a living wage.


      Jun 16, 2012 at 2:24pm

      eliminate free healthcare and free money (welfare)
      and just watch productivity rise and poverty fall