Vernon-Monashee’s MLA insists that children living in poverty are not being ignored.
The 2013 report card by First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition indicates that 18.6 per cent of B.C. children were poor in 2011, up from 14.3 per cent in 2010. This is more than five percentage points higher than the average across the country.
“If one family is in poverty, not enough is being done, but we have done a lot. We have increased the minimum wage and rent subsidies,” said MLA Eric Foster of the provincial government’s actions.
“We keep working at it and it is a priority.”
Foster points out that one of the challenges is the increasing cost of living, particularly with housing.
The coalition report states that the number of poor children in B.C. was 153,000, up from 119,000 in 2010).
Children living in single-mother families had a 50 per cent poverty rate in 2011, an increase from 21.5 per cent in 2010.
“B.C. stands out as having done the least among all provinces to bring down child and family poverty through government supports and programs,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s provincial co-ordinator.
“Concerted government action in the form of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for the province is long overdue.”
According to the report, nearly one-third of B.C.’s poor children lived in families with at least one parent working full-time all year.
The report card makes recommendations to reduce child poverty including adopting the $10 a day child care plan, paying living wages; enhancing Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility, increasing affordable housing options for families and improving the affordability of post-secondary education.
However, Foster says many of these items can have a direct impact on taxpayers and employers.
“If the service industry wages go from $10 to $18 an hour, it will all go to food because the cost of everything (consumer items) will go up. Or there could be fewer jobs,” he said.
Foster believes a major focus for reducing poverty is to bolster the economy.
“If we can get good jobs, that makes a difference. And we are working on bringing in industries here that service the oil and gas sector,” he said.