Premier needs a co-ordinated plan

Diane Brennan, The Daily News (Nanaimo)

Christy Clark needs a poverty reduction plan. Nanaimo’s unemployment rate, at 16% is double the provincial rate. It is up from 9.1% in May 2010 and B.C.’s child poverty rate is still the worst in Canada; and Canada’s is near the bottom of the western industrialized countries.

The question of how to measure poverty has long been debated in this province. But no matter how you measure it, too many people in B.C. lose the struggle to both pay the rent and put food on the table. Too many children lack basic nutrition and far too many spend their entire lives living in poverty.

Clark needs a plan because without a longterm co-ordinated approach with concrete measurable benchmarks, poverty will stubbornly persist and we will all be the worse for it. A poverty reduction plan needs to be a comprehensive one, addressing income, housing, education and training, child care, justice and health.

Clark did increase the minimum wage but it was a standalone measure, it wasn’t part of any overall plan. Ad hoc measures won’t work. She needs to develop a plan that addresses all the issues that leave people mired in poverty for a lifetime. Without one, she can’t hope to effect any real change.

Six other provinces in Canada already know this. Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have all adopted plans to reduce poverty. According to the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, most of those provinces’ plans “have been initiated and adopted with all-party support.” The coalition says that almost all utilize a “cross-government approach, with a lead cabinet minister co-ordinating an inter-ministerial secretariat.”

A poverty reduction plan requires a very strategic and focused change agenda that is initiated and supported by government leaders.

To be successful, the plan has to commit specific policies and actions and include targets and timelines with an annual report card on progress….

Clark says she represents change and she wants to put families first; which begs the question: What change? Which families?