BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Cut the rhetoric
The common theory is opposition parties are great for pointing fingers but not that hot when it comes to solid options.
That certainly appeared to be the case when B.C.’s NDP fired off a press release slamming the Liberal government for provincial food bank use increasing twice as fast as the national average.
“The report shows that over the last four years an increasing number of people who rely on food banks are working Canadians,” said Carole James, social development critic, in the release.
“This is not a simple issue that can be fixed with band aid solutions. British Columbians deserve solutions to the problems they face today, and the Liberal government has refused to take the problem seriously.”
Now, there is no question that financial conditions are extremely difficult for many people, including here in the North Okanagan.
Food Bank Canada’s 2012 hunger report indicates that food bank use in B.C. increased by 6.6 per cent and one in 10 people using a food bank between 2011 and 2012 was employed.
The provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives have nothing to brag about. Despite all of the talk about economic recovery and job creation, people continue to struggle. Decent paying jobs are hard to find and the cost of housing, food and utilities continues to skyrocket.
A single-person in B.C. receives a disability benefit of $906 a month. That is almost $500 below what is required to cover basic essentials.
So James is correct when she says, “These recent numbers are unsettling and unfortunately show that life is getting harder for many people in our province.”
However, while the NDP press release was heavy on criticizing the Liberals, it was completely devoid of any solutions.
In fact, the only reference to what an NDP government may do to reduce food bank use was, “Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats are committed to implementing a provincewide poverty reduction strategy that sets out clear targets and timelines to tackle growing inequality.”
Great, but what exactly does that mean? Will the minimum wage be increased? Will disability pensions be boosted? Will there be a focus on apprenticeship training? Is the NDP planning to force high-income earners to pay more taxes?
The NDP may actually have a firm strategy in place, but it wasn’t mentioned in the press release nor was anything on the party website.
James missed a significant opportunity to tell the public what her party would do differently to reduce the lineups at food banks and help families become more self-reliant.
As we just saw with the U.S. presidential vote, negativity dominates the political landscape these days. In Canada, the federal Conservatives have staked out a reputation for undermining anyone who rises in opposition to them.
But at a time when our neighbours are torn between putting food on the table and paying the rent, rhetoric and name-calling isn’t helpful. What they require are firm, concrete details.
Many British Columbians remember the NDP’s reign during the 1990s and some will be reluctant to give them another chance if it’s not exactly clear what they plan to do.
James and leader Adrian Dix have six months to clarify the situation.