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Important: please renew your endorsement for poverty reduction!

Dear friends and concerned British Columbians,

 

As you likely know, the past year has seen a growing call for British Columbia to commit to legislating targets and timelines to dramatically
reduce and ultimately eliminate homelessness and poverty in our province.

Below, you will find an Open Letter entitled “A Call for a BC Poverty Reduction Plan”.  Your organization may have already signed an earlier Open Letter (prior to the May 2009 provincial election) making a similar call. But we are seeking to revitalize this effort, and so, we are asking you to once again add your name to this new and updated call. We hope to recruit as many organizational signatories from across the province as we can. Along with your sign-on we are asking for a renewed commitment to poverty reduction from your organization. After you’ve signed the letter where can you go with it?

Will you take this letter to your board?
Will you send a note to your MP or MLA and tell them about your organization’s endorsement?
Will you forward the letter to all of your members and networks?

This Open Letter has been drafted by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (bcpovertyreduction.ca to learn more about who we are). We plan to publicly release this new Open Letter (listing the signatories to date) in late March.

Our aim is to show all political parties the high level of community support for a bold and realistic plan to reduce poverty in BC. And we will use this Open Letter to mobilize as broadly as we can for such a plan.

We are seeking organizations and individual “community leader” who are prepared to sign the Open Letter (please note, at this time, we are not seeking broad sign-on from individuals, but we will do so after the Letter is public). The deadline for initial sign on to the statement (before we go public) is Monday March 29. If you or your organization are willing to add your name to the Open Letter (or if you have questions), please email Nikki Scott at <info@bcpovertyreduction.ca>. (And please give Nikki your contact information, so she can confirm your endorsement and keep you informed regarding the letter’s public release.)

Thanks in advance for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition
New BC Poverty Reduction Coalition Open Letter:

A Call for a BC Poverty Reduction Plan

As British Columbians determine what our post-Olympics legacy will be, a
clear and accountable plan to end poverty and homelessness in our province
would represent an ideal goal, capturing the hopes and aspirations of all.
British Columbians are eager to rally behind such an initiative, and would
enthusiastically help to see such a vision realized. Now is the time to face
this next challenge with confidence, creating a profound and lasting legacy.

No matter what method is used to measure poverty, too many people in our
province struggle to make ends meet, and too many children start their lives
living in poverty.

We know that all of us pay for poverty. We pay in increased health care
costs. We pay in higher crime. We pay in higher demand for community, social
and charitable services. And we pay in lack of school readiness, reduced
school success and in lower economic productivity. People who are poor get
sick more, die sooner, and lack many opportunities that others take for
granted. There is a false economy in failing to act boldly.

We know that British Columbians are ashamed of the levels of poverty and
homelessness in a society as wealthy as ours. We can drastically reduce
poverty in British Columbia by mobilizing sectors and citizens to join hands
and work together for a common goal that touches the hearts and lives of
each of us. But we must act boldly.

We, the undersigned, re-affirm the call for the Government of British
Columbia to launch a comprehensive and accountable poverty reduction plan,
aimed at dramatically reducing homelessness and poverty in our province.

Six Canadian provinces ­­ Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Manitoba ­­ either have such plans or are in the
process of developing them. In almost all cases, these plans have been
initiated and adopted with all-party support. They are also characterized by
a cross-government approach, with a lead cabinet minister coordinating an
inter-ministerial secretariat, based upon the understanding that successful
poverty reduction requires action across many policy areas.

In this current climate of global economic downturn and uncertainty, a bold
poverty reduction plan also makes good economic sense. Low-income families
spend all the money they have, and do so in our local communities.  When we
focus resources on the people and communities hardest hit by the economic
downturn, we are likely to see the maximum economic bang for our stimulus
buck.

BC has seen some modest reduction in poverty up to 2007 (the last year for
which statistics are available). But with the onset of the economic
recession in 2008, we fear this trend will now reverse, heightening the need
for action. We are encouraged by the move towards universal access to
all-day kindergarten. The government has also taken some important steps in
recent years with respect to housing and homelessness, but more is needed.
Together we can build on these actions and strengthen the outcomes with a
coordinated and comprehensive approach.

We urge the provincial government to provide leadership, and to adopt and
legislate poverty reduction targets and timelines. Such legislated targets
(much like the government’s climate action targets) will serve to galvanize
efforts, and ensure accountability towards meeting our common goals. As a
first step, we call upon the government to appoint a lead minister for
poverty reduction (a champion for this initiative), have them oversee a
cross-ministry poverty action secretariat, and have them report annually on
their progress.

We recommend the following targets and timelines:
* Reduce BC’s poverty rate by 30% within four years, and by 75% within 10
years.
* Ensure the poverty rate for children, lone-mother households, single
senior women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and mental
illness, and recent immigrants and refugees likewise declines by 30% in four
years, and by 75% in ten years, in recognition that poverty is concentrated
in these populations.
* Within two years, ensure that every British Columbian has an income that
reaches at least 75% of the poverty line.
* Within two years, ensure no one has to sleep outside, and end all
homelessness within eight years (ensuring all homeless people have good
quality, appropriate housing).

In order to achieve these targets, we call upon the province to commit to
specific policy measures and concrete actions in each of the following
policy areas:

1. Provide adequate and accessible income support for the non-employed, and
remove policy barriers so that recipients can build and maintain assets.
2. Improve the earnings and working conditions of those in the low-wage
workforce.
3. Improve food security for low-income individuals and families.
4. Address homelessness and adopt a comprehensive affordable housing and
supportive housing plan.
5. Provide universal publicly-funded child care.
6. Enhanced support for training and education for low-income people.
7. Enhance community mental health and home support services, and expand
integrated approaches to prevention and health promotion services.

There is nothing inevitable about poverty and homelessness in a society as
wealthy as ours. Other jurisdictions that are setting clear targets are
getting results. A comprehensive approach needs to boost the incomes of
those living in poverty, but also build the social infrastructure, public
services and assets that are vital to providing a path out of poverty and
improving quality of life. If we commit to a bold plan, a dramatic reduction
in poverty and homelessness within a few short years is a perfectly
achievable goal.