A report released on Tuesday by Food Banks Canada announced that food bank dependence in Canada is at an all-time high and that usage increased in every province this year, including British Columbia.
Speaking on CHNL radio in Kamloops, the new Minister of Social Development, Kevin Krueger, brushed off concerns about poverty in British Columbia. Krueger said, “there are people who are just determined to paint a black picture of British Columbia.”
The facts that Krueger is dismissing include the reality that there has been an increase of 4500 people relying on food banks, bringing the total users to almost 95,000 British Columbians. Many users are minimum wage earners who haven’t had a wage increase in a decade.
Kevin Krueger is out of touch with the reality facing many British Columbia families:
- 30 per cent of food bank users in B.C. are children
- The child poverty rate in British Columbia remains the highest in the country, for the 7th year in a row
- According to B.C.’s Ombudsman, B.C.’s income assistance system is “unfair and unaccountable” (March 2009 Ruling)
- B.C. has had exponential increases in the number of homeless people living in communities across the province
Food banks were initially established as a temporary relief that would not last. Due to failed government policies, they have become a permanent and necessary aspect of the social safety net.
When elected, the B.C. Liberals promised to make children a priority. Ten years later, B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate in the country for seven years in a row – it is clear that their promise to children is a promise they have broken. Since the B.C. Liberals took office, they have dismantled supports for those living in poverty and have refused to take any action to solve the problem. The B.C. Liberals have:
- Rejected the call of more than 200 community groups to commit to targets for reducing poverty and ending homelessness in B.C.
- Refused to come up with a poverty reduction plan, as is seen in other provinces.
- Refused to raise the minimum wage, and even introduced a $6 an hour “training wage.”
- Repeatedly ignored the advice of experts, including B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond, when she said, “We need a social policy and a government approach that addresses poverty effectively, as has been done elsewhere in Canada.” (CBC, Nov. 24, 2009)
Krueger has a record of dismissing the concerns of people who have raised concerns about poverty, putting down a constituent in a 2003 letter by likening him to a “poverty pimp.”
The Carole James New Democrats have a vision for a fair British Columbia that benefits everyone in the province, including bringing in poverty reduction plan, raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, and investing in education so that our children are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.