Surrey Monday, March 18, 2019 10:45 AM
British Columbia’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC, outlines programs and initiatives that will help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and cut child poverty in half, over the next five years.
“Together, we can build a fairer province by bringing down barriers and giving people the services and supports they need to break out of the cycle of poverty,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “TogetherBC is our roadmap for a better British Columbia, where everyone, regardless of their background or income, is treated with dignity and has access to opportunity.”
“For too long, too many people in British Columbia have been left out and left behind,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction. “With TogetherBC, we’re tackling the discrimination and stigma that keep people from reaching their full potential so we can build a province we can all be proud of – one that’s more inclusive and more affordable for everyone.”
Using a 2016 baseline, the strategy aims to lift 140,000 people out of poverty, including 50,000 children. Further poverty reduction goals will be established as these targets are met.
Developed with feedback received through an extensive provincial consultation, the strategy is anchored by a number of key initiatives including the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit and Childcare BC, as well as other actions that will increase household incomes.
TogetherBC ties together actions government has taken to increase affordability, increase access to opportunity and reduce poverty since 2017, under six priority areas:
- affordable housing
- supports for families, children and youth
- expanding access to education and training
- more opportunities for people
- improving income supports
- investing in social inclusion
A Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee has been appointed to advise the minister on matters relating to poverty reduction and prevention. This advisory committee includes advocates, experts, Indigenous peoples and people with lived experience from around the province.
This committee also serves an important oversight role. Under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, government is required to report out on progress to reach its five-year targets each year, starting in 2020. The committee will include a letter in each of these reports, outlining its views on progress made and progress required.
“People created poverty, and it’s up to people to solve poverty,” said Sarah Brownlee, a member of the committee. “I have experienced poverty first-hand, I have seen my friends and family experience it and I have seen the destructive consequences of lack of opportunity and access. As the poverty reduction strategy moves forward, I will be making sure that the voices of those with lived experience are represented and heard.”
“Poverty reduction is about putting people and communities first,” said Catherine Ludgate, chair of the committee. “It is good for individuals, families, communities and our economy. Creating opportunities for people to participate fully and with dignity requires us to invest thoughtfully in programs, policies and procedures to tackle poverty. I look forward to supporting government in this critically important work.”
B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy is a shared priority developed in consultation with the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement. The strategy includes the work of the Fair Wages Commission and Basic Income Expert Committee, work that will continue to be reflected as the strategy evolves and is updated in coming years.
“If we are going to be everything we can be, then we must address poverty,” said Simpson. “After so many years of social priorities being ignored and underfunded, we know we can’t solve this overnight, but we have set the course and I look forward to working across all sectors to address the breadth and depth of poverty. Poverty is a complex problem, yes, and it’s one that we can solve.”
Quick Facts (2016 Market Basket Measure):
- British Columbia has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and has for decades; it also has the second-highest overall poverty rate in Canada.
- About 40% of people living below the poverty line are working.
- B.C.’s child poverty rate is above the national average, with approximately 99,000 children living in poverty in B.C.
- Children who live in single-parent families are more than three times more likely to live in poverty than children in two-parent families.
- The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, which embedded the poverty reduction targets and timelines in law, was passed unanimously in November 2018.
Read TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
Advisory committee members’ biographies:
Read the consultation report, What We Heard About Poverty in B.C.:
A backgrounder follows.
TogetherBC: British Columbia’s poverty reduction strategy
British Columbia has one of the strongest economies in Canada, and at the same time, the second-highest rate of poverty. TogetherBC is B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy, outlining actions government is taking over the next five years to reduce the overall poverty rate by 25% and the child poverty rate by 50%.
TogetherBC is built on the four guiding principles of affordability, opportunity, reconciliation and social inclusion that will guide each policy change or initiative to reduce poverty in B.C. between now and 2024.
Five foundational elements of the strategy will make people’s lives better and lift thousands of people out of poverty as B.C. reaches its five year targets by 2024:
- the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit;
- increases to the minimum wage;
- ChildCareBC – making child care more available and affordable;
- income assistance and disability assistance rate increases; and
- leveraging federal initiatives and supports.
- 290,000 families will receive extra support from the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit. Families with one child will receive up to $1,600 per year, those with two children will receive up to $2,600 and those with three children will receive up to $3,400. The new benefit will support children up to the age of 18 years. With the highest benefits going to the families most in need, the B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit will lift thousands of children and their families out of poverty.
- More than 400,000 people, including more than 150,000 people living below the poverty line, will benefit from increasing B.C.’s minimum wage to $15.20 by 2021; harmonizing minimum wage rates for people in the service industry and increasing the minimum wage for farm workers paid by piece rate by 11.5%.
- Over 80,000 families will benefit from the Affordable Child Care Benefit, the Child Care Fee Reduction and the creation of new licensed child care spaces throughout the province. Nearly 27,000 families with incomes under $45,000 a year will eventually pay little or nothing for child care, contributing to both the overall and child poverty reduction targets.
- 195,000 people who rely on income and disability assistance will benefit from a $1,800 annual rate increase, higher earnings exemptions, expanded crisis supplements and the elimination of mean-spirited policies that hold people back, like ending the requirement to apply for early Canada Pension Plan retirement pension.
- Building on the success of the Rapid Response to Homelessness, the Office of Homelessness Co-ordination was formed to move beyond reactive emergency responses to homelessness and toward a co-ordinated, effective approach that focuses on prevention.
- Improving access to quality, affordable dental care through a $3.6-million grant to the BC Dental Association to help not-for-profit clinics purchase equipment and provide more services to people in need.
- An expert committee is studying the potential to use a basic income approach to reduce poverty and prepare for technological change and the emerging economy. The committee is overseeing research to assess the feasibility of a basic income for B.C. and how basic income principles might be used to improve the existing income and social support system. It will submit its recommendations to government in 2020 to inform the next steps in poverty reduction.
The members of the Minister’s Advisory Committee are:
- Catherine Ludgate, Vancouver – chair
- Sarah Brownlee
- Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Summit political executive, Ktunaxa First Nation
- Zahra Esmail
- Murry Krause, Union of BC Municipalities
- Rosanna McGregor
- Brad Mills, BC Chamber of Commerce
- Adrienne Montani
- Tabitha Naismith
- Krishna Pendakur, Simon Fraser University
- Lissa Smith, Métis Nation BC
- Stephanie Smith, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union
- Caitlin Wright
This on BC Govt Website go to link here