British Columbia’s government has introduced legislation aimed at reducing the provincial poverty rate by 25 per cent and chopping the child poverty rate in half over the next five years.
Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson says B.C. currently has the highest overall poverty rate in Canada but this strategy would move the province to the third-lowest rate overall.
The New Democrats promised to introduce B.C.’s first poverty reduction plan during the 2017 election campaign.
Simpson says the proposed legislation reflects the findings of a public consultation process where more than 8,500 people attended information meetings and told their stories about the challenges of living in poverty.
READ MORE: More housing, subsidies urged for B.C. poverty reduction plan
Last fall, Simpson said an estimated 678,000 people are living in poverty in B.C., including 118,000 children.
He said those numbers were based on the federal government’s Market Basket Measure indicator which includes the costs of food, clothing, footwear, transportation, housing and other expenses for a family with two children.
The legislation introduced Tuesday requires the government to release its strategy by March 31, 2019.
Simpson says a major reason B.C. has a high poverty rate is because the former Liberal government did not make fighting poverty a priority.
“The government was steadfast in saying we don’t need a poverty plan,” said Simpson after introducing the legislation. “We had a government that said we are going to meet our minimal statutory obligations to those who are vulnerable.”
The Liberal government said repeatedly that its poverty reduction agenda involved helping people find jobs to improve their standard of living rather than introduce a poverty plan in name only.
The Canadian Press