Newfoundland, the small Atlantic province that we don’t hear much about, is light years ahead of BC when it comes to addressing poverty. And the funny thing is that just a few years ago, Newfoundland and BC had the same sky high poverty rates of upwards of 15% where the Canadian average hovers around the 11% mark.
But then, the poverty rate in Newfoundland went from 17% to 6%. And it wasn’t because the government created new jobs. In 2006, Newfoundlanders came together to implement a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.
Poverty affects certain demographics disproportionately, and that was certainly the case in Newfoundland where 44% of single family households were below the low income cut offs. At the same time, the rate in two-parent households was more aligned with the provincial rate. And single women were much more likely to be in poverty than their counterparts. This was particularly evident among seniors where the low-income rate of senior women was twice that of senior men.
The strategy Newfoundland used was multi-fold to address the many different needs of the population. Their actions, led by their premier Danny Williams (because it is absolutely critical that the government address the issue head-on instead of skirting or pretending that it doesn’t exist), included: funding community-based approaches, income support programs, increasing the minimum wage, increased the amount of housing support and affordable housing units, increasing formal education levels, and developing a mental health and addictions policy framework among many other projects.
And the province’s strategy certainly paid off and dramatically reduced the number of people living in poverty among most demographics.
Unfortunately, in recent times the poverty rate in Newfoundland has been inching back up because of the lack of rigorous focus/interest in the plan. That is to mention that it is nowhere near its former levels. As for BC? Well, things are far from rosy here.
Hundreds of organizations and thousands of passionate individuals are advocating for the government to stop turning a blind eye to the masses of impoverished people in the province. They have laid the ground work and done the research. All that’s needed is one crucial component, government support by way of legislation. It is mind boggling that one of the wealthiest provinces in one of the richest countries in the world has such high poverty rates (2nd highest in the country) and adamantly refuses to introduce a poverty reduction plan.
Newfoundland and every other province in the country has done it, why won’t BC?
The longer we wait, the more British Columbians are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty when there is something that could be done about it now (and it’d cost us just ½ of what we are currently paying every year for poverty).
Check out BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s website for more info http://bcpovertyreduction.ca/