Child poverty still a problem in B.C.

Goldstream News Gazette

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP talks child poverty in latest column

In June earlier this year, the B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition released the results of nation-wide research conducted by Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada, and the figures are alarming.

While identifying the national average of 17.4 per cent of children who are living in poverty, the report’s analysis of B.C. also shows a breakdown of its 42 federal ridings. Although our riding – Cowichan-Malahat-Langford – fares better than many, it still ranks 13th, and three of the seven federal ridings on Vancouver Island are among the 10 highest in the province for percentage of children living in poverty, ringing-in at between 21 and 24 per cent.

That means when you step into a classroom of 20 children, the tragic reality is that four or five of those kids are subsisting below the poverty line. In a country and a province as prosperous as ours, it’s a blight on our society that this remains the case.

Campaign 2000 has made a number of excellent recommendations to the Government of Canada to help lift children out of poverty, with timelines attached. Some of these recommendations include: reducing child and family poverty by 50 per cent by 2020, using 2015 as the base year; ensuring the poverty rate for children and youth under 18, female lone-parent households, single senior women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, and racialized Canadians also declines by 50 per cent in four years, and by 75 per cent in 10 years; recognizing poverty is concentrated within these populations; ensuring there is sufficient stock of quality, supported, and affordable housing for all in 10 years; and within four years, reducing by half the number of households who report food insecurity.

While many municipal, regional, provincial and territorial governments have made poverty reduction a priority, without leadership from the federal government, we can’t expect to see these appalling figures change. We are now almost three years into the current federal government’s first term, which suggests the much-celebrated Canada Child Benefit is still not up to the task of solving the problem. A national childcare plan would go a long way toward helping struggling families, especially in allowing them to find employment, but this is yet another area where the follow-through has been lacking by government.

As we look toward a return to parliament for the fall session, this topic will be among the many important issues I will be working on, applying pressure on the government whenever possible, and encouraging them to show leadership to lift Canadian children and families out of poverty. In a nation as prosperous as ours, there is no excuse for these statistics; children who grow up in poverty are having their future potential compromised. The time for action is now.