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LETTER: B.C. needs to fix its record of brutal inaction on poverty policy

Dear Editor,

In response to Deb McIntosh’s recent letter re: the Community Harvest Food  Bank’s struggles to assist families and individuals living in poverty, we suggest it is high time that our wealthy province makes  some meaningful policy changes so that the families 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 time and/or at one or several jobs.

Change is needed for the individuals who are unable to work for various reasons (such as women leaving abusive relationships) 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 poverty reduction plan?  And now, with the new federal government committing to developing a national plan, it is shameful that our province continues to refuse to develop and legislate clear goals and timelines to substantially reduce the numbers of people struggling 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. The cost for BC of not addressing poverty is currently at least $8-9 billion per year in higher public health care, criminal justice costs 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, adequately fund 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 BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is one way of applying that pressure to the BC government and we hope both the City of Castlegar and 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 and generosity of local people, but in the long run we need to go upstream and change the policies and laws that cause poverty in the first place.

We encourage readers to check out the Coalition’s website  (www.bcpovertyreduction.ca) for more information, links and resources.

Ann and Bud Godderis

Castlegar, BC

PS: We can easily do this AND bring in refugees...We are a rich and generous part of the world... let's also make it a healthy and welcoming place for all.