Based on the latest data available from Statistics Canada (2016), British Columbia has the second-worst rate of poverty in Canada with 557,000 people, or 12% of the population, living in poverty.
British Columbia’s first poverty reduction strategy will be introduced in early 2019. The strategy will lift thousands of people out of poverty, create more opportunities and make it easier for people to connect with their community.
Legislated reduction targets
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act was introduced on Oct. 2, 2018. The act defines the scope for the strategy and sets poverty reduction targets that government must meet.
Shaped by the experiences, voices and hopes of more than 8,500 people who took part in a broad public engagement on poverty, the proposed legislation requires that government:
- Reduce B.C.’s overall poverty rate by 25% and the child poverty rate by 50% in the next five years, using Canada’s Official Poverty Line (formerly known as the Market Basket Measure).
- Establish an independent advisory committee drawn from key sectors critical to developing solutions to poverty. The committee will advise the minister on matters relating to poverty reduction and prevention.
- Report annually on progress to reduce poverty.
- Release a strategy that must focus on the key issues faced by people living in poverty, including housing, education, employment, income supports and social inclusion.
Consulting people on poverty reduction
- A broad public engagement process took place from Oct. 30, 2017 to March 31, 2018 to inform the poverty reduction strategy.
- A consultation report, What We Heard about Poverty in B.C., was released in July 2018.
- The engagement included:
- Twenty-eight community meetings (2,500+ participants).
- A distinct Indigenous engagement that included the First Nations Leadership Council and the First Nations Health Council, seven engagement sessions by Métis Nation BC, 27 engagement sessions by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and community meetings in rural and remote Indigenous communities.
- 100 small group discussions led by community organizations.
- Roundtables with business, labour, local governments, community organizations and Indigenous peoples and leaders.
- Sixty-eight policy briefs from organizations.
- A website where more than 1,600 people provided feedback (16,800 site visits).
- The key themes heard during the consultation include:
- housing and homelessness
- supports for children and families
- financial security and income supports
- compassionate care for mental health and addictions
- food security
- access to health care
- education and training
- creating good jobs for people throughout B.C.
- connecting the most vulnerable with the services they need
- safe, affordable transportation
- ending discrimination and stigma
- access to justice
Poverty reduction initiatives to date
Government has already started to make the investments needed to reduce poverty. In the last year and a half, new and increased supports have been put in place that include:
- A $100 per month increase to income and disability assistance rates (July 2017).
- A $200 per month increase to earnings exemptions for people on assistance so that they can keep more of the money they earn (October 2017).
- A new transportation supplement for people receiving disability assistance (January 2018).
- A $6.6-billion investment over the next 10 years for a comprehensive plan to tackle the housing crisis, including:
- Partnerships that will deliver 114,000 new affordable homes.
- $734 million in funding to provide safe and secure places for women and children fleeing violence and abuse.
- A $291-million investment to build 2,000 modular housing units, with 24/7 support services, for people experiencing homelessness.
- Funding for 2,500 new supportive homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness was announced in Budget 2018.
- Closing renoviction and lease loopholes, creating new laws to protect renters, and increasing subsides for the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER).
- Reducing the maximum rent increase, from the current inflation plus 2%, to inflation only.
- A Child Care Fee Reduction of up to $350 a month that has reduced the cost of licensed child care spaces and is expected to benefit up to 50,000 families.
- An Affordable Child Care Benefit that will provide up to $1,250 a month for eligible families. Families earning less than $45,000 a year will receive the full benefit.
- Charting a path to a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2021. On June 1, 2018 wages went from $11.35 to $12.65 an hour.