A B.C. child and youth advocacy coalition called First Call is saying the provincial government is not doing enough to end child poverty in B.C.
According to the organization’s 2015 B.C. child poverty report card released last week, one in five (almost 170,000) B.C. children were poor. The report uses Statistics Canada’s data from 2013, the most recent data available.
The Bulkley-Nechako region had a child poverty rate of 21.7 per cent while British Columbia as a whole had a child poverty rate of 20.4 per cent. The Central Coast region had the highest child poverty rate in the province, 50.6 per cent.
The coalition says B.C.’s continued failure to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction plan has left the province’s child poverty rate unacceptably high.
“I really don’t understand why B.C. is the last province in the country not to have a provincial poverty plan,” said Coalition Spokesperson Adrienne Montani at a news conference last week.
Michelle Mungall, the New Democrats’ Social-Development Critic, has also pointed out that B.C. is the only province without a poverty-reduction plan. In a recent press release, she blames the premier.
“New Democrats have introduced legislation for a poverty reduction plan four times, yet each time the Liberals have ignored it,” said Mungall. “Christy Clark has an abysmal record when it comes to poverty reduction.”
The report found that single-parent families are at a much greater risk of poverty, with 50.3 per cent of children from those families living in poverty.
In 2013, the median after-tax family income for poor lone-parent families with one child was $14,300, or $10,019 below the poverty line of $24,319 for that family type. The poverty gap for poor couple families with one child was even larger: their median after-tax family income of $17,680 was $11,851 below the poverty line of $29,531.
First Call has been tracking child and family poverty rates in B.C. for nearly two decades. Their first provincial report card containing data for 1994 showed that one in five B.C. children were poor.
“It is profoundly disappointing that 19 years later the data still shows that one in five B.C. children are poor,” says the organization.
The 2015 report card issued 21 recommendations to government including raising the minimum wage and welfare rates, as well as adopting a $10-per-day childcare plan.
Recommendations also included adopting a comprehensive provincial poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines; a cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to ensure government is achieving its targets on time; and a goal of reducing B.C.’s child poverty rate to seven per cent or lower by 2020.
In addition, the report says it’s important to recognize that children of recent immigrants and refugees, Aboriginal children, children of female lone-parent families, children in racialized families and children with a disability, are at greater risk of living in poverty. Therefore efforts should be targeted to achieve significant reductions in poverty levels for these populations.