The giving season is upon us and luckily we know who to give to. Since two reports on child poverty - Richmond Children First's "It's Not Fair" and First Call's report card-were released recently, we know we should be supporting Richmond's poorest families.
They both state Richmond is at the top of the list, having the highest percentage of poor children in Metro Vancouver, about one in four.
Go to any one of the weekly community meals and count the children. Look at your child's classroom, or visit the local playground and think about it.
We've all read the stats. Some people still don't believe them and want to argue the numbers, or argue whether people are in "absolute poverty" or just "below the poverty line."
The Vancouver Foundation says in B.C., only three per cent of the population is on welfare, but more than 10 per cent lives under the poverty line, and that poor children live in families where at least one parent works full-time.
But putting all this aside for now, and thinking about the one-in-four "made-in-Richmond" equation, Richmond has always been noted for its generous nature.
There are many ways to give. You can donate to the Richmond Food Bank. They receive more than 1,500 people a week (almost half of them children) and can always use the help. There are numerous distribution days per week, with one in the evening to accommodate the working poor, parents who work low wage jobs during the day. Use is up more than 20 per cent since 2008.
You can also donate money, toys or time to Volunteer Richmond Information Services. They collect and distribute items to help families make their Christmas brighter. As well, there are coat drives, food drives and fundraising efforts taking place all over Richmond. But what's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's just me, but it appears we are running faster and faster and not gaining any ground. Families are falling through the everwidening holes in our social safety net. Yes, there are a few government subsidies for low income earners, but most can't access them because the income cut-offs are too low.
So here's an idea: another way to give is through taxes. Of course this requires the government to get involved. I know nobody wants higher taxes, but really, the big winners in low-tax B.C. so far have been corporations and the very wealthy.
Lower taxes were supposed to create jobs, remember? Real jobs, not minimum wage jobs where parents need two of them each to survive.
The Ministry of Finance notes corporate tax rates have been reduced from 16.5 per cent to 11 per cent since 2001. The bulk of income tax revenue is collected from middle income earners, and there are fewer of them as wages stagnate and prices rise.
If business needs people with spending power, then people need jobs that obviate the need to visit the food bank and leave them with money left over after rent.
The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition says we all pay for poverty and it costs more to Band-Aid it than to fix it. They have a longterm strategy that is a real solution. B.C. and Saskatchewan are the only two provinces in Canada without a plan. The strategy can be viewed at http://bcpovertyreduction.ca/It isn't enough any more for the government to parrot "jobs, jobs, jobs" and "Families First." They need to walk the walk.
De Whalen is the chair of the Richmond