Great news - British Columbia is no longer the Canadian leader in child poverty!
That dubious honour now belongs to Manitoba and B.C. is only second worst.
But hold on, B.C. still leads the country in having the worst poverty rate of any
province for children living in two-parent families. This is according to First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition that released their 2012 Child Poverty Report Card last week.
Using Statistics Canada 2010 data, First Call also stated that B.C. is still the leader in overall poverty at a rate of 15.5 per cent of the province's population.
This points to the rising problem of the "working poor" caused by B.C.'s unequal distribution of income among rich and poor families with children.
The ratio of the average incomes of the richest 10 per cent compared to the poorest 10 per cent was the worst of any province at 13.8 to one.
So the richest 10 per cent are bringing home almost 14 times what the poorest 10 per cent are.
We all know wages in B.C. have been stagnant for years. An increase in the minimum wage has helped a bit, but try raising a family on $10 an hour.
The slight decrease in income tax has benefited high wage earners more than low wage earners. Add to this, the big-ticket items of childcare and rent that have increased disproportionately over the years and continue to be out of step with family income.
And if that was not enough, families are also hit with flat taxes such as MSP premiums that have increased by 18 per cent in the last three years.
The B.C. government now receives more revenue from MSP payments than from income tax! And did you know that B.C. is the only province in Canada that demands payment of medical premiums?
All along we've been feeling sorry for the "have-not" provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island in assuming they have more poverty related problems than us.
The thing is, these provinces have a legislated poverty reduction plan in place. And if we can use Stats Canada as a true measure, the various programs these provinces have instituted are achieving successful results.
The foregoing serves as an introduction to a free event that will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the Ralph Fisher Auditorium at Richmond Hospital from 7 to 9 p.m.
A film screening of the Canadian documentary Poor No More and a panel discussion afterwards will be co-hosted by four organizations: the Richmond Poverty Response Committee, Vancouver Coastal Health-Richmond Health Services, UNITE-Here Local 40 and the Canadian Federation of University Women-Richmond Chapter.
Special guest panelists are our own Ted Bruce (executive director of VCH Population Health and chair of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition), Lesley Richardson (CFUW Richmond member and long time child care advocate), Michelle Travis (UNITE-Here Local 40 Researcher) and Michael McCarthy-Flynn (Director of the BC Living Wage for Families Campaign).
Narrated by Mary Walsh from This Hour has 22 Minutes, the film looks at Canadians stuck in low paying jobs with no security and no future. Walsh then takes us on a journey to Ireland and Sweden so we can see how these countries have tackled poverty while strengthening their economies.
The film offers hope to those who have to work two jobs a day and to those who cannot even find work. After the film, pan-elists will comment on what the film means to them and the work they do. Then questions from the audience will surely spark a lively discussion.
For more information on the film, check out the website http: //www.poornomore. ca/. For details on the event, you can leave a message at 604-205-4700 and someone will get back to you.
De Whalen is a longtime poverty and affordable housing activist in Richmond.
© Copyright 2013