November 25, 2016
Dear BC Members of Parliament,
Yesterday First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition released the 2016 BC Child Poverty Report Card. Campaign 2000 also released the national child poverty report card which can be accessed, along with reports from other provinces, here. Today we are sending our report to all of British Columbia’s federal and provincial elected representatives.
At 19.8% (1 in 5 children), BC’s child poverty rate is higher than the Canadian average of 18.5% and represents 163,260 children, larger than the population of Abbotsford, the province’s fourth largest city. Using the most recent data from 2014, more than half (50.3%) of all children living in lone-parent families, the vast majority of them single mother families, were living in poverty, compared to 12.4% for children in couple families.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Between 2013 and 2014, BC’s child poverty rate decreased very slightly from 20.4% to 19.8%. However, since the passage of the 1989 House of Commons all-party resolution to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000, BC’s child poverty rate has risen from 15.5% to 19.8% in 2014.
- 22 out of BC’s 29 regional districts had at least 1,000 children living in poverty. The highest rate was found in the Central Coast Regional District, with a 52% child poverty rate.
- Over half (51%) of BC’s poor children lived in Metro Vancouver in 2014 (82,960 children).
- Contrary to popular belief, the majority of poor children have parents in paid work. Poor families with one or two children in BC in 2014 had median incomes between $10,000 and $12,000 below the poverty line.
- Between 2007 and 2014 in Metro Vancouver, the 18% increase in family expenses vastly outpaced the 10% increase in family incomes, according to Living Wage for Families Campaign calculations. Child care costs alone rose by 35% and rent by 26%.
- Adjusted for inflation, welfare incomes for a couple with two children decreased from $23,328 in 1989 to $21,924 in 2014, for a loss of $1,404 in annual income.
- 1,000 youth age out of government care in BC each year and 40% of the province’s homeless youth have been in government care at some point in their lives.
- New 2014 data show BC to be the most unequal of all provinces. The average income of the top 10% of families was 13 times the income of the bottom 10%.
- In 2014, the richest 10% of BC families received 27% of the total income, while the poorest half of families shared only 25%.
The report proposes a range of solutions that fall within the scope of both provincial and federal government policies. These are all proposals that have strong support within our broad, cross-sectoral coalition and among the general public.
We urge government to act on the federal recommendations included in the 2016 BC Child Poverty Report Card. In the absence of a British Columbia comprehensive poverty reduction plan, we are encouraged by the federal government’s commitment to develop a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Among the recommendations in our report, there are many actions that the federal government can take as part of the Canadian strategy. They are listed below.
- Governments at all levels should ensure their regular and contract employees are paid a living wage that allows them to meet their basic needs, properly support their children and avoid chronic financial stress.
- We applaud the implementation of the new enhanced Canada Child Benefit and recommend government ensure it reduces the child poverty rate by 50% in 5 years, implement indexation immediately and ensure access to the benefit for families living at higher rates of poverty.
- Guided by the calls to action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the rulings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the federal and provincial governments should immediately increase funding for First Nations child welfare, education and community health services and services for urban Indigenous people, and develop a long-term poverty eradication strategy in collaboration with First Nations and other Indigenous organizations and communities.
- The provincial government should implement the $10aDay Child Care Plan, put forward by the Early Childhood Educators of BC and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, to establish universal access to high-quality, affordable child care for BC children and families. The federal government should support this initiative with a national early childhood education and care program which includes a well-developed policy framework based on the same principles, is guided by targets and timelines and supported by long-term, sustained funding.
- The federal government should increase the maternity and parental leave benefit level to 70% of employment income and reduce qualifying hours to 300 over the best 12 weeks of the 12 months of work. All new parents (regardless of work status) should be included, and a secondary caregiver benefit should be developed to address gender disparities in care work within households.
- The federal government should allow grandparents on CPP Disability who are raising their grandchildren to continue to receive the children’s benefit after they turn 65.
- The federal and provincial governments should intensify their efforts to help immigrants and refugees adjust to life in Canada by enhancing employment assistance, removing long-standing barriers to qualification for professionals trained abroad, making more language training available, and improving employment standards and human rights protections and enforcement.
- The federal government should extend the program that waives transportation loans for Syrian refugees travelling to Canada to all new refugees and immediately cancel all outstanding transportation loan debt.
- The federal and provincial government should do more to improve access to post-secondary education by further removing financial barriers for low-income students and lowering student debt levels beyond the measures announced by the Canadian government in July 2016. Policy options include reducing tuition fees, providing lower-income students with more grants instead of loans and making student loans interest free.
- The federal government should enhance Employment Insurance to expand access, duration and levels of benefits. Reduce the number of qualifying hours to 360 for all workers and enhance benefit levels over a longer benefit period of 50 weeks.
- The federal, provincial and local governments should increase their efforts to provide housing for low-income people. This should include building more social and affordable rental housing and maintaining existing affordable housing stock to reduce the number of families in core housing need and to eliminate homelessness. The national housing strategy must include a long-term funding commitment to meet these goals.
- The federal and provincial governments should work together to introduce universal coverage for all Canadians for prescription drugs, dental care and eye care as essential aspects of health care.
- The federal government should address growing income inequality by continuing to restore fairness to the personal income taxation system and re-introducing the principle of taxation based on ability to pay.
We are pleased to note that the recommendation in our 2015 report calling for government to scrap income splitting provisions for families with children and invest the money saved in the other recommended federal program enhancements was acted upon.
We welcome any questions you may have about these recommendations and we look forward to your response.
First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition