In response to Deb McIntosh’s recent letter re the Community Harvest Food Bank’s struggles to assist families and individualsliving in poverty, we suggest it is high time that our wealthy province makes some meaningful policy changes so that thefamilies of one in five children in BC don’t have to be dependent on charity to survive.
Change is needed so that poverty in BC is no longer a low wage story where over half of those living in poverty work full timeand/or at one or several jobs.
Change is needed for the individuals who are unable to work for various reasons (such as women leaving abusiverelationships) and who currently try to survive on a grand monthly total of $610 from social assistance.
We wonder how many Castlegar residents know that BC is the only province in Canada not to have adopted a povertyreduction plan? And now, with the new federal government committing to developing a national plan, it is shameful that ourprovince continues to refuse to develop and legislate clear goals and timelines to substantially reduce the numbers of peoplestruggling to “pay the rent and feed the kids”.
According to the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, a BC poverty reduction plan would cost between $3-4 billion per year. Thecost for BC of not addressing poverty is currently at least $8-9 billion per year in higher public health care, criminal justicecosts and lost productivity.
We need a BC plan that will increase the minimum wage, significantly increase welfare rates, build new social housing, adopt a$10/day child care plan, expand essential health services such as dental, optical and community care for seniors, adequatelyfund education and reduce barriers for adults accessing skills training and education.
In other provinces, it has largely been public pressure that has pushed governments to create and adopt plans. Joining the BCPoverty Reduction Coalition is one way of applying that pressure to the BC government and we hope both the City of Castlegarand the Harvest Food Bank are already members.
We know many individuals and families need immediate help and right now have to depend on the understanding andgenerosity of local people, but in the long run we need to go upstream and change the policies and laws that cause poverty inthe first place.
We encourage readers to check out the Coalition’s website (www.povertyreduction.ca) for more information, links andresources.
Ann & Bud Godderis