B.C. needs to tackle child poverty: report
Despite the economic boom of recent years in B.C., there is a growing number of British Columbians who aren't sharing in the wealth, according to a new report, and many of them are among the most vulnerable.
The report, called A Poverty Plan for B.C., looks at the province's child poverty levels, which are the worst in Canada.
The report calls for aggressive action: a 50 per cent increase in welfare rates, a jump in the minimum wage, more social housing and a universal child care plan.
"I think all of us should be embarrassed. Poverty risks getting worse in a recession unless a government decides to focus on that in a very concrete and deliberate manner," said Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which produced the plan.
Over 500,000 British Columbians live in poverty and one in six children survive under the poverty line in the province. The report says poor government funding for social problems is a key cause of the problem.
In Victoria, Heike Black has come a long way from a life of prostitution in order to take care of her two daughters, Sadie and Gracie. But the poverty line has been a more difficult to escape.
"It's scary because if I don't end up with that full-time job or go back to school to obtain a career then I don't know how long I'm going to stay in poverty and what sort of repercussions there might be for these two," she said.
Black, who is currently on EI, said there are no presents under the tree this year and there likely won't be.
"It is okay, even if we are in poverty, we'll make the best of what we have and continue to go forward and go on," she said.
Brent Palmer of the Mustard Seed Street Church food bank said it is hard to take when he sees poor children.
"I've got to face poverty every day and the thing that disturbs me, it's really heartbreaking to look at a child. They are the innocent victims of what's happening today," he said.
The premier admitted more work is necessary, but showed no signs of legislating poverty reduction targets.
"We've made progress but there's more progress to be made and the strongest progress comes from a strong stable economy that people can have confidence in," he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jim Beatty.