Lorraine Copas of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC speaks about the annual report card on child poverty in BC, Vancouver, Nov. 21, 2012.
Credits: CARMINE MARINELLI/Vancouver 24hrs/QMI AGENCY
VANCOUVER -- Living in a basement suite with her family of three is the best immigrant Jenny Zhen can afford, earning $16,000 a year.
She struggles raising her three-year-old son, but remained hopeful Wednesday that a new report condemning the province’s “dismal” childhood poverty rates will finally create an affordable child-care program.
That way, she could hold a day job to offset the cost of living. Housing alone eats up nearly two-thirds of her family’s income.
British Columbia remains near the bottom of the heap when it comes to most major measures of poverty, with a growing gap between families at the top and the bottom of the income scale, according to the 2012 Child Poverty Report released Wednesday by the First Call child and youth advocacy coalition.
B.C.’s child poverty rate dropped to 14.3% in 2010 — still the worst rate of any province except Manitoba, and higher than the Canadian average of 13.7%, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Canada. The number of poor children was 119,000 — or about one of every seven B.C. children. About two-thirds of them live in Greater Vancouver.
The report submitted 15 recommendations to various levels of government, including indexing the minimum wage to cost-of-living, raising welfare rates and establishing universal $10-a-day child care for all children up to 12.
Zhen's situation is dire. Her husband’s part-time security job pays barely enough to heat the home during the coldest parts of the year. Preschool for her toddler next year is out of the question.
The BC NDP said in a statement it would “implement a comprehensive poverty reduction plan,” but blamed the ruling Liberal government for rejecting its proposed legislation.
“We need to refocus resources on growing the middle class and creating economic opportunities through education and skills training so we can help British Columbians break out of the cycle of poverty and prosper,” said NDP MLA Carole James.
To eliminate child poverty in B.C. would cost $4.1 billion in supplemented income, according to the report.
Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux said childhood poverty has declined 43% since 2003, and government would use existing resources instead of adding new money.
“At this time, with the budget the way it is and the revenues to government where they are, these are challenging economic times,” she said.
“So we’re looking first at maximizing the resources that we currently put towards child care.”