Kwan tells Liberals to “step up to the plate” for B.C.’s poor children

Natalie Kaur Johal, Metro


  • Single parents are eligible to receive $946 in social assistance per month, said Kwan.
  • Since one can expect to pay at least $600-700 in monthly rent, parents are left with only as much as $250 with which to provide food, clothing, daycare, electricity each month.
  • B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate in the country over the past 7 years.
  • In November, the number of poor children in B.C. numbered 120,000 (B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition).
  • B.C. is the only province where child poverty rates were higher in 2006 than in 1997 (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).
  • On average, lone-parent mothers had annual incomes that were $12, 600 below the poverty line in 2007 (First Call 2010 Poverty Report Card).

B.C.’s poor children were effectively made poorer in 2002, when B.C. Liberals “clawed back” income support for single parents, said Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan Monday.

In the first two years following the changes, more than 6,000 single parent families faced an income loss of $300 per month, totalling $14.6 million across the province.

In a press conference at her East Vancouver office, Kwan called for the Liberal government to reinstate child maintenance and income exemptions for individuals who depend upon social assistance.

Single mother Lenlen Castro, who left a relationship in 2009 shortly after giving birth, has been trying to get maintenance for her child ever since, said Kwan.

“I’ve discovered that even if I were to get the child support, the ministry would ‘claw’ it back. It was heartbreaking to hear that,” said Castro.

Castro has spoken to other mothers in similar situations and found that they, like her, are struggling and “don’t have the freedom to hope for a future” for themselves and their children.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the “elimination of earnings exemptions in 2002 ended a vital income top-up. The simple fact is, it is virtually impossible to make ends meet on welfare income alone.”

They also found that B.C.’s welfare rules discourage work re-entry, as earnings exemptions often help people get back into the labour market.

Child support and income exemptions do not provide single parents with “extra” money, said Castro, but would allow for better nutritional options, safer housing, and occasional childcare for her daughter.

“I just want a safe and healthy environment for my daughter,” said Castro….

Since women tend to make up the bulk of the single-parent population, UBC law professor Margot Young believes the Liberal cuts amount to discrimination against women, and are a “significant blot on our province’s human rights record.”

Kwan called upon Liberals leadership hopefuls to “do the right thing,” and mentioned Christy Clark specifically.

Christy Clark was deputy premier in 2002, when the exemptions were revoked. Clark, said Kwan, “touts [a] family-valued platform as she’s going for the leadership bid at the moment … Where was she in 2002?  Why didn’t she speak up for families then?”