Time is right to address poverty and homelessness

December 11, 2008

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An economic downturn is the perfect time to tackle poverty, say the co-authors of a new report, A Poverty Reduction Plan for B.C.

SFU political scientist Marjorie Griffin Cohen, who co-authored the report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says “Maintaining the purchasing power of large numbers of people who spend all their money locally on necessities like rent, food and transportation will reduce the severity of a downturn.”

She also notes that a new, national Environics poll reveals that eliminating poverty and homelessness is a key concern for British Columbians.

According to the report, B.C. has the highest rate of poverty in Canada, and for the last five years as had the distinction of having the highest child-poverty rate as well. The average poor person in B.C. has an income that is $7,700 below the poverty line. Says Cohen, “A surprising proportion of the poor are in families with someone working full-time. This is all unacceptable in a wealthy province with more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in Canada.”

The report calls on the government to introduce a plan to reduce poverty by one-third within four years, particularly among groups that are most at-risk, such as First Nations people, recent immigrants, children, women and the disabled. It also advocates eliminating deep poverty within two years and eliminating street homelessness within five years.

The report’s action plan for achieving these goals includes targets such as:
  • Raising the minimum wage, strengthening employment standards and enforcing workplace protection to improve low-wage workers’ working conditions
  • Increasing welfare rates by 50 per cent and removing arbitrary barriers preventing people in dire need from accessing welfare
  • An immediate start on building 2,000 units per year of new social housing
  • Implementing a universal, public early-learning and childcare program.
  • Increasing post-secondary grants for low-income students

The 65-page report is a product of the five-year Economic Security Project, an SFU/CCPA alliance that is investigating how to improve the economic well-being of B.C.’s poor and homeless.


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Jasenka Petkovic

Hi Marjorie,

This is all fine as a temporary patch, but it is far from addressing the real issues that underlie this system. These are: the existence of monetary system (see documentary "Small change" - an excellent eye-opener about capitalism), raising prices constantly and making it impossible for working families to cope with inflation (too many people owe money to the banks and have loans they cannot pay back and pay huge amounts of interest). Why don't you scratch bellow the surface and instead of working with what you have, create a new idea that challenges capitalism and its inherent uneven distribution of wealth? Why don't you look into the banking system and find out why and how banks were created? Etc, etc...


Jasenka Petkovic

Addiction Recovery Caseworker at CCL

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