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Inequality

Health

Housing

Crime

Children

Costs

  • Inequality

    Inequality negatively impacts physical and mental health, education outcomes, trust and community life, homicide rates, children’s health and wellbeing, drug abuse, and more. As a result, more equal societies have far less health and social problems.

    While the U.S. currently has the worst record on income inequality, the gap is growing in Canada at a faster rate and, within Canada, the trend in B.C. is much worse than in most other provinces. In the last ten years, the average household income of the top 1% in B.C. has increased by 36% while, for the rest of us, real median incomes have stagnated, even though we’re working harder.

    This isn’t just about market forces. Government policies keep incomes at the bottom low and give tax breaks to those at the top. Our welfare rates are completely inadequate at $610 a month for a single person. And the final minimum wage rate of $10.25 an hour will not put a worker above the poverty line in Vancouver and other large cities in B.C. But the view from the top is pretty rosy, with the top 1% of B.C. households paying a lower overall tax rate than others. In fact, provincial income tax cuts introduced since 2001 have delivered, on average, $41,000 to the top 1%.

    Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, lone-mother households and single senior women, so the negative effects of inequality are more likely to be experienced by these groups.

    Let’s get to the heart of the problem. Economic growth doesn’t make societies more equal; in fact, it may do the opposite. A poverty reduction strategy and a fair tax system would make our society more equal and our communities healthier, both physically and socially.

    Resources

  • Costs

    Resources

    1. The Cost of Poverty in BC (CCPA, July 2011)
    2. The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty (National Council of Welfare, Autumn 2011)
  • Children

    We have one of the highest child poverty rates in Canada at 10.5% and, before this year, we had had the highest for 8 years in a row. We are doing a great disservice to our future generations.

    Poverty has a profound impact on the health and well being of children and families. When children go to school hungry or poorly nourished, their energy levels, memory, problem-solving skills, creativity, concentration and behaviour are all negatively impacted. As a result, these children may not reach their full physical and social developmental potential.

    The under-funding of public education has meant an increase in school fees, such as those now collected for field trips, supplies, sports and arts, and specific course materials. This causes great family stress and children from low-income families often exclude themselves from activities and programs. The role of public education in giving every child an equal chance is seriously undermined by the inequity created by school fees.

    Post-secondary education is inaccessible. Tuition fees put such studies out of reach of too many and fear of debt keeps many low-income people away.

    Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants and lone-mother households, so children within these families are far more likely to live in poverty.

    Let’s get to the heart of the problem. The best returns on investments are the ones contributing to the well-being of children, as dollars spent in the early years create savings in future spending on health, social and justice services.

    Resources

    1. 2012 BC Child Poverty Report Card (BC Campaign 2000, FirstCall with SPARC BC, November 2012)
    2. $10 a day Child Care Plan: Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning (Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, Early Childhood Educators of BC, April 2011)
    3. Are We Doing Enough? A status report on Canadian public policy and child and youth health (Canadian Paediatric Society, January 2012)
    4. BC’s Shame: Radio Documentary on Child Poverty (BCIT, December 2011)
    5. Precarious & Vulnerable: Lone Mothers on Income Assistance (SPARC BC, December 2008)
  • Housing

    B.C. is in a housing crisis. We have the worst record of housing affordability in Canada, with almost 1 in 3 households spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs and the situation is far worse for renters. We also have the highest rate of households in severe housing need, living in unsafe, crowded or relatively unaffordable homes. Owning a house is no longer a reality for most younger families.

    Homelessness is also a significant issue in B.C. There are approximately 2600 homeless people in Metro Vancouver and an estimated 11,750 homeless people across B.C. This is primarily a failure of our social assistance system, which is supposed to help people in dire need bounce back but instead keeps them in grinding poverty. Welfare is inaccessible, with multiple administrative hoops to jump through, and inadequate, at $610 a month for a single person.

    Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, lone-mother households and single senior women, so inadequate housing and homelessness are more likely to be experienced by these groups.

    Let’s get to the heart of the problem. Housing the homeless saves us money in the long-run and taking the housing pressure off low-income families puts more money in their pockets, which, in turn, boosts the local economy and improves our communities.

    Resources

    1. 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count (Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, February 2012)
    2. Unpacking the Housing Numbers: How Much New Social Housing is BC Building (CCPA, September 2010)
    3. Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed (Auditor General of BC, March 2009)
    4. Housing and Support for Adults with Severe Addictions and/or Mental Illness in British Columbia (SFU, 2008)
  • Crime

    In B.C., the costs of crime associated with poverty are $745 million. This includes direct costs, such as policing and the criminal justice system, as well as intangible costs, such as pain and suffering and loss of life.

    People living in poverty are vastly overrepresented in Canada’s prison population, and they are also more likely to be victims of crime. Extreme poverty and financial stress can lead to crimes of desperation and/or living in unsafe situations. Extremely low welfare rates lead people to make harmful “choices,” such as staying with abusive partners, resorting to survival sex (trading sex for shelter, for example), panhandling, and stealing.

    Growing up poor is also closely linked to low school achievement and lower literacy rates, and one of the strongest predictors of being incarcerated is low literacy. Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants and lone-mother households, so children within these families are more likely to grow up poor.

    We all pay for increasing crime in our neighbourhoods, whether it’s through property damage or lower levels of trust and feelings of safety within our communities.

    Let’s get to the heart of the problem and reduce poverty in order to decrease crime associated with poverty and desperation.

    Resources

    1. The Cost of Poverty in BC (CCPA, July 2011)
    2. Kids ‘N Crime: Economic Aspects of the Development and Prevention of Criminality among Children and Youth (The Vancouver Board of Trade and the Justice Institute of BC, September 2010)
  • Health

    Poverty is a fundamental determinant of both physical and mental health. This isn’t surprising, given that living in poverty means you are more likely to live in cold, damp or unsafe housing. You are also more likely to suffer more illness, have a chronic health condition, and die earlier.

    A significant cause of these health problems is lack of food. B.C. is facing a chronic hunger problem and significant food insecurity. After paying for rent, heat and electricity, people with low income have little money left over for food so they are less likely to eat fruit, vegetables, milk products, and other food that provide the nutrients they need for good health.

    Poverty is concentrated in specific populations, such as Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, lone-mother households and single senior women, so poor health is more likely to be experienced by these groups.

    Addressing long-term health issues associated with poverty adds up to a cost of $1.2 billion a year. Or, in other words, our public health care system could save $1.2 billion a year if poverty reduction initiatives reduced health care costs of the poorest 20% of British Columbians by raising their incomes. By not taking action on poverty reduction, our health care system is overburdened and we all face the consequences of long wait-times, overworked doctors, nurses, and medical staff, and unsafe hospitals.

    Let’s get to the heart of the problem and reduce poverty so that the health care system we, as Canadians, pride ourselves on can be accessible and effective for all.

    Resources

    1. The Cost of Poverty in BC (CCPA, July 2011)
    2. The Cost of Eating in BC 2011 (Dietitians of Canada, BC Region, February 2012)
    3. Are We Doing Enough? A status report on Canadian public policy and child and youth health (Canadian Paediatric Society, January 2012)
    4. HungerCount 2012 (Food Banks Canada, November 2012)
    5. Investing in Prevention: Improving Health and Creating Sustainability (BC Provincial Health Officer, September 2010)
    6. The Cost of Eating in BC 2009 (Dietitians of Canada and Community Nutritionists of BC, November 2009)
    7. The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2009: Growing Up Well-Priorities for a Healthy Future
    8. Health Inequities in British Columbia (Health Officers Council of BC, November 2008)
    9. Healthy Futures for BC Families (BC Healthy Living Alliance, September 2009)