Newsletter: Thank you, let’s keep up the pressure!

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Thank you to everybody that has sent a clear strong message to the government: we urgently need a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.

Thank you for attending community meetings and small group discussions, and hosting your own events. Thank you for emailing the Minister and writing submissions to the government.

Thank you for filling out our survey and conducting it with others. Together, we have clearly demonstrated to the government what they should include in their poverty reduction strategy. 

Now that the government’s consultation process has closed, we need to turn up the pressure to make sure that they launch a bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan to make a meaningful difference.

And we need your help so watch this space for ways to get involved. We are currently preparing a package that you can use to meet with your MLA and email the Minister to tell them that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure a strong plan.

Thanks to your contributions, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition made not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 submissions:

Our main submission outlines our vision for a Poverty Free BC:

“The provincial government should provide and adequately fund public poverty reduction to provide universal basic services to end poverty and significantly reduce inequity in BC.”

Click here to read the full submission.

Thanks to your input, we created a submission based on the the valuable insight of almost 1,000 survey respondents.”

“You’ll never get away. It traps you on a system because you can’t get ahead.” -Betty

Click here to read the full submission.

We recognized that low-wage workers were not well-represented at the larger community meetings, so we held two focus groups with low-wage workers in Burnaby and Vancouver

“One participant worked 3 jobs while pregnant to try and reach the maximum amount for maternity leave benefits under Employment Insurance but the income was still not enough to support her and her baby.”

Click here to read the full submission.

Graduates of the first Community Action Network program, our community-based leadership initiative, facilitated a series of small group discussions at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House.

“Temp work is just like a band-aid for a broken arm.”

Click here to read the full submission.

We need rent control now!

One message that we heard loud and clear in the consultation process is that we need stronger, enforced rent control now!

80% of survey respondents said that they supported tying rent control to the unit and implementing other tenant protections. Research from our member groups reinforce the need to urgently address the cost of rentals.

In March, the Carnegie Community Action Project released their annual housing and hotel report, and found that the average rent in the Downtown Eastside’s privately owned and run hotels increased by $139 in 2017, wiping out the 2017 $100 increase in welfare rates.

Meanwhile, the Living Wage for Families Campaign just released updated 2018 calculations of the living wage—the hourly wage needed to cover the costs of raising a family—for nine communities across BC. Despite reductions in Medical Service Plan premiums and child care costs, the Living Wage increased in all nine regions due to the increasing costs of rent.

Liquor servers to join minimum wage, but farmworkers and others still left out

In February 2018, the government accepted the Fair Wages Commission’s recommendation of a slow increase to a $15/hour minimum wage by 2021.

In April, the government responded to the Fair Wages Commission’s report on exemptions to the minimum wage.

They accepted the Commission’s recommendation to slowly phase out the lower minimum wage for liquor servers, while rejecting the recommendation to include farm workers in the basic minimum wage. 

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition congratulates the government for ending the exemption to the minimum wage for liquor servers.

However, while the minimum wage itself continues to be a poverty wage, it is unacceptable to keep piece-rate farm workers, resident caretakers, and live-in camp leaders earning even less than that.

Read our reaction to the government’s latest decision here.

Small steps on welfare and disability assistance

Another clear message from the consultations is that we need a massive overhaul of the welfare and disability system to address its continued inaccessibility, its stupid rules, and its poverty-rates.

Thank you to many of you who supported the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s May 2015 complaint to the BC Ombudsperson.

This complaint resulted in the Ombudsperson’s recently released report Holding Pattern: Call Wait Times for Income and Disability Assistance and some small changes to income assistance workers’ practice including:

  • allowing staff to respond to multiple requests at a time
  • phasing out the practice of recording and not immediately helping with any phone call that would take longer than five minutes to resolve
  • establishing clear public service standards

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition acknowledges and honours the fact that our communities lie on unceded Indigenous lands.

Special thanks to Vancity, United Way of the Lower Mainland, the Vancity Community Foundation, and the Vancouver Foundation for their financial and in-kind support of the Poverty Reduction Coalition. Support for this project does not necessarily imply funders’ endorsement of the contents of this email.