Government inaction leaves one fifth of BC’s children poor


THE 2014 BC Child Poverty Report Card released on Monday by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition shows little progress has been made to reduce child and family poverty in wealthy BC.

This year marks 25 years since the unanimous House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. However, since 1989, there has been an increase in BC’s child poverty rate from 16% to 21% in 2012 (the latest figures available from Statistics Canada).

At 21%, BC’s child poverty rate is higher than the Canadian average of 19% and represents 169,420 children — enough children to fill the Canucks’ stadium over nine times.

“We have failed miserably to take action to reduce child and family poverty in this province,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator. “And the federal government has not only dropped the ball on this issue, they are making things worse with new tax policy such as family income splitting, that will primarily help wealthy, single earner families and do nothing to help lone-parent and low income families.”

Other key findings in the report include:

* One out of every five BC children live in poverty.

* Children living in lone-parent families, the vast majority of them single mother families, had a shocking 50 per cent poverty rate in 2012, and were living on average $10,000 below the poverty line.

* The poverty rate for BC children living in two-parent families  was 13% and these families were on average more than $10,000 below the poverty line.

* 24 out of BC’s 29 regional districts had at least 1,000 children living in poverty. The highest rate was found in the Central Coast Regional District, with a 55% child poverty rate.

* 80% of all Metro Vancouver census tracts had at least 100 poor children living in them, and most  municipalities had multiple numbers of census tracts with child poverty rates of 20% or higher.

* There was a slight decrease of 0.2% in the child poverty rate between 2011 and 2012, and a nearly 5% decrease in the 13-year period from 2000.

“Concerted government action in the form of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for the province is long overdue,” said Cheryl Mixon, Chairperson of the First Call Coalition. Community and business groups, local governments, the Representative for Children and Youth and the Legislature’s Finance Committee have all recommended that we develop a plan, and we are still the only province in Canada without one.”

The Report Card makes 19 public policy recommendations that would help reduce the child poverty rate to seven percent or less by 2020. These recommendations include adopting the $10 a Day Child Care Plan; increasing and indexing the minimum wage, welfare rates and federal child tax benefits; paying living wages; enhancing Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility; increasing affordable housing options for families; and improving the affordability of post-secondary education, among others.

“Consistently high child poverty rates should worry us all,” said Scott Graham, Associate Executive Director of SPARC BC. “The social and economic costs that result from poor nutrition, limited opportunity, and chronic family stress are huge. Failing to invest now to decrease the negative effects poverty has on child development for such a large percentage of our child population is a false economy. BC is not a poor province and we can afford to take better care of each other.”

Viveca Ellis, of the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC noted, “Child poverty is not a given, or an inevitable fact, it is a crisis, a policy-failure crisis that violates the fundamental rights of the child. The crisis of poverty can come for any of us, at any time.”

First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is part of Campaign 2000, a national network that marks the anniversary every November of the 1989 pledge by the House of Commons to work to end child poverty by the year 2000. The 2014 BC Child Poverty Report Card was prepared by the First Call Coalition with the help of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC).