The Liberals’ decade-long minimum wage freeze may have thawed, but their response to poverty as a systemic issue remains as cold-hearted as ever. While big bonuses are the norm for Crown Corporation executives – including those at Community Living BC who have overseen policies that have created crises and chaos for adults with developmental disabilities – life is not getting better for thousands of British Columbians who live at or below the poverty line in B.C.
- Worst child poverty in the country for almost a full decade: B.C. has had the distinction of having the highest child poverty rates in Canada for almost a full decade, with one in four children living below the poverty line, according to the latest numbers available.
“Provincially, 25.1% of children lived in poverty in 2009.” – Victoria Foundation, Vital Signs report 2011
- No plan to address rising hunger: Too many people are still going hungry. More than 90,000 British Columbians used a food bank in the past year – up more than 15 per cent from 2008. Almost one-third of those using food banks are children.
“Low income, whether in the short or long term, is at the root of the persistent need for charitable food assistance in Canada.”—Food Banks Canada, Hungercount 2011
- Refused to bring in a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy: Despite repeated calls from New Democrats, the Liberals have refused to follow the lead of other provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, by bringing in a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy. Meanwhile, food banks have seen a sharp increase in the number of hungry British Columbians coming to them for help.
“The need has increased 100 per cent since 2003. About 30 per cent are children.”— Rev. Chris Riddell, executive director of the Mustard Seed Food bank, Times Colonist, Oct.20, 2011
- Refuse to close loopholes that allow renoviction: The Liberals have repeatedly refused to support New Democrat legislation aimed at ending the practise of renoviction – where property owners engage in fake renovations in order to evict long-term tenants (often seniors on fixed incomes) in order to jack up rental rates.
“It's not a matter of left versus right. It's a matter of right and wrong. In my view, and I hold it strongly, this is a matter of abuse on the part of the owners of one particular group of buildings. It's elder abuse. It's taking advantage of a situation that it needn't do.”– Bill Good on the renoviction of Lynn Stevens, an 82 year woman who had lived in the same apartment for 41 years, CKNW, May 11, 2010
- Restricted legal aid to women in need:In 2002, the Liberals slashed legal aid funding by 38.8 per cent. Since then women have been largely denied legal aid funding for family law disputes, which leaves women, especially women trying to leave violent relationships, vulnerable and at risk of further victimization.
“Women are disproportionately affected by inadequate legal aid in family law because they are frequently in a situation of relative economic disadvantage and they often bear the lion’s share of both the short-term and long-term consequences of our failures in this regard. ” Leonard Doust, Report on the Public Commission on Legal Aid in British Columbia
- Made post-secondary unaffordable for low-income students: B.C. has the highest interest rates on provincial student loans in the country. These interest rates mean that low-income students actually pay more for their post-secondary education than their more affluent peers. The Liberal decision to eliminate needs-based grants has left low-income students out in the cold.
“B.C. provides the least amount of upfront, non-repayable student aid in Canada – 70 per cent below the national average. Students who need help are forced to take out loans instead. In fact, 72 per cent of financial “aid” in B.C. is in the form of student loans that have led students to take on mortgage-sized debts. The average student debt in B.C. is $ 27,000. When you add the 5.5 per cent student-loan interest rate, the highest in the country, the average graduate will repay $39,000 over 10 years.”— Jordan Harris, Vice-President External, Thompson Rivers University Students Union, Kamloops Daily News, Sept.10, 2011