(Vancouver) Amid rising public concern about poverty and homelessness, the provincial government is being urged to adopt a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy in its next budget. “With a surplus that is likely to pass the $4 billion mark next year, there is no reason why we can’t address the growing problem of poverty amidst plenty,” says Marc Lee, CCPA–BC’s Senior Economist.
Lee and CCPA–BC Director Seth Klein will appear before the legislature’s finance committee today as part of its Budget 2007 Consultation process. Their submission calls on the province to invest $2.3 billion in new anti-poverty measures in 2007/08, which would use up about half of an anticipated $4.4 billion surplus (based on realistic estimates of economic growth and provincial revenues). The money would be spent on:
- A 50% increase in welfare rates. For people without disabilities, rates are 20-26% lower, after inflation, than they were in the mid-90s. For people with disabilities, they are 12.5% lower than in the mid-90s. Rates should also be indexed to inflation.
- Changes to the welfare eligibility rules and application process that would result in fewer people in need being denied or discouraged from assistance, making them less likely to end up on the street.
- Creating post-secondary training and education opportunities for welfare recipients to improve their long-term wage prospects and employment security.
- Implementing a comprehensive Early Learning and Child Care program.
- 2,000 new social housing units per year beginning in 2007/08.
- A major expansion of community health care services in the areas of mental health and addictions.
- Restored funding for women’s centres and poverty and family law legal aid.
- Enhanced family supports through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“There is nothing inevitable about poverty in a province as wealthy as BC,” says Seth Klein. “We can choose to substantially reduce poverty before we host the Olympics, but our government must show it has the vision and the will to do it.”
Taking Action on Poverty, the CCPA’s submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, is available at www.policyalternatives.ca. To arrange an interview, call Shannon Daub at 604-801-5121 x229.