Investing in families to eliminate child poverty makes sense

Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan
The Cowichan Valley Citizen

Child poverty is a tenacious problem in British Columbia. It is a drain on our economy, and on our future.

The 2013 BC Child Poverty Report Card from First Call: the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition found that the poverty rate of children in British Columbia was a staggering 18.6 per cent.

More and more research is showing that child poverty has effects that stay with someone for their lifetime – regardless of whether or not they move out of poverty later in life.

Children living in poverty have poorer health outcomes and are at a greater risk of chronic diseases like diabetes.

They are more likely to be taken into foster care.

Youth living in poverty have a harder time completing high school and may not choose to do any post-secondary education as it is too expensive, even with student loans.

The recommendations featured in the report focus on reducing poverty.

The main federal transfer to help young families is the Canada Child Tax Benefit at $1,367 annually. The report recommends the benefit be raised to $5,500 and be universal, so all families with children receive it regardless of whether their income is from earnings or government transfers.

Like the baby bonus of previous decades, this would help young families with expenses. And with universality, it costs less to administer the program. One issue I have championed as an MP is the need for increased funding for First Nations child welfare services. Too many children are apprehended and put into care because their parents live in poverty.

Advocates are arguing at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that funding for child welfare services has not kept up with inflation or population increases or with changes in how the services are provided to prevent children from being apprehended in the first place.

So I welcome the recommendation in this report that says funding for First Nations child welfare services should be increased, along with funding for on-reserve schools and community health services.

Keeping families together and providing a healthy, enriching school environment helps diminish the effects of poverty. That’s why these investments make sense. The largest proposed new investment would create a $10 a day child care plan for B.C. In Quebec, the province that started the push for low-cost child care, their plan ended up paying for itself with an increase in GDP from the number of parents, mostly women, who were able to rejoin the workforce.

A place in a licenced day care facility may cost up to $20,000 a year, beyond the reach of many low-income families. And while there are child care subsidies available already, they are limited and depend on available spaces. This idea already has local backing since the City of Duncan voted to support a Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning in August 2012….

Read online