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Our New Year’s Resolution

Greetings open letter endorsers,

Our sincere thanks for your support over this past year. Thanks to you, the endorsement of 300 organizations, and a growing list of individuals from around the province, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition managed to launch a call that was undoubtedly heard through the last election and continues to build momentum.

We don’t believe that anyone in BC thinks that the current rates of poverty and homelessness are acceptable. Poverty is not inevitable, but we need a plan.  We resolve to continue the push for a comprehensive strategy with legislated targets and timelines. It sounds like a mouthful, but it really is the least we could ask.

News and Updates

A note to our volunteers

Thanks again for your willingness to visit your MLA on our behalf. We had scheduled a number of conference call sessions to prepare you for these visits and unfortunately, due to some technical problems on our end, some of you were not able to reach us to sign up. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

In light of this we have scheduled another call-in session for Tuesday, January 5th at 4PM. If you are able to join us please let us know at info@bcpovertyreduction.ca and we will set you up with the number you need to call and resources to make your visit successful. Of course we are still looking for more volunteers so please let us know if you are able join us in this push and pay a visit to your local MLA any time through January.

Healthy eating out of reach for the poor

This week the Dietitians of BC released their new report, The Cost of Eating in BC 2009. The Dietitians publish this annual report to bring attention to the fact that not all British Columbians have enough money to buy healthy food.  While shelter and food costs have risen significantly over the past decade, income assistance rates have remained virtually unchanged and minimum wage, once the highest in the country, has remained at $8.00/hour. For those receiving income assistance or earning minimum wage there simply is not enough money to pay for housing and food, let alone other necessities. Unemployment is up and more people are relying on assistance.

There are too many living in poverty in BC and too many lined up at food banks. Dietitians are calling for the provincial government to take some additional action to address poverty in this province. Other provinces are taking action.  Quebec and Ontario have anti-poverty legislation, while Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and New Brunswick all have poverty reduction plans.  Common to them are significant changes to income assistance and increases to minimum wage. View the report.

The report was endorsed by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and many of our members. Visit the CCPA’s Policy Note blog to view Seth Klein’s commentary on the report.

Ontario’s progress report

While BC awaits a plan, Ontario has released its first annual report on their poverty reduction strategy, Breaking the Cycle: The First Year. The report provides an introduction to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy followed by achievements and success indicators from the last year, as well as some direction for how to continue moving forward. Ontario’s plan includes targets and timelines including a reduction of the number of children living in poverty by 25% in 5 years. The Government of Ontario notes that the global economic recession and financial crisis have had a serious impact on the province and that the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy is critical for supporting low-income families during these challenging times. View Ontario report.

The 25 in 5 Network, the coalition that advocated for Ontario’s plan, also released a progress report. The Network affirms that investing in poverty is a crucial component in immediate economic recovery, as well as in future prosperity. The 25 in 5 report acknowledges some advances made by the Ontario government , but urges “there is much more work to do in order to make the 25 per cent target by 2013. With an economic recovery that is expected to be slow and an absence of federal commitments to poverty reduction, the province runs a very real risk of falling short of its poverty reduction goal unless bolder action is taken, and soon.” View 25 in 5 report.

 

Senate issues a call to action on poverty reduction

In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing, and Homelessness was released this month by The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Cities. In the press release accompanying the report, Senator Art Eggleton expressed frustration over government policies and programs that made living in poverty more manageable, but did nothing to lift people out of it.  The report focuses onthose living in poverty in Canadian cities, and was informed by expertwitnesses, site visits, roundtables, and testimony from those living in poverty and homelessness. The report makes numerous recommendations in line with the calls of anti-poverty advocates in BC and across Canada.

In a Toronto Star article, Carol Goar writes:

The senators tackled two fundamental problems. The first was the failure of
Canada’s existing income-support policies to lift people out of poverty
(unsolved since Croll’s day). The second was the broken link between a job
and a decent standard of living (new in the last 15 years.)

They vigorously debated ­ but did not recommend ­ a guaranteed annual
income; a single cash payment replacing all the current benefits and social
programs; and creating an income floor through which no Canadian could fall.

Instead, the senators proposed an incremental approach, calling for a series
of reforms that would move Canada toward that objective.

As a first step, they called on Ottawa to adopt a core goal of eradicating
poverty. This would mean rethinking all programs that merely make poverty
more manageable.

Harper will have trouble dismissing their report as a Liberal fantasy, when
it has the strong backing of two prominent Conservative senators, Segal and
Wilbert Keon, a world renowned cardiac surgeon. But he could cherry-pick a
couple of market-friendly recommendations or simply ignore it.

The seven senators aren’t expecting a warm reception. But they believe they
have a responsibility, as parliamentarians, to keep poverty on the national
agenda and a duty, as public figures, to speak for the voiceless and
vulnerable.

View the Senate’s report.

Looking forward to continuing our work together in the new year!

Warmest regards,
The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition