Reality Check – B.C.’s child poverty rate

CBC News

Both the B.C. Liberals and New Democrats are making strong claims about the province’s record when it comes to child poverty. CBC’s Reality Check team set out to cut through the spin.

“In only one year since the late 1980s have we had a child poverty rate that was lower than it is today,” Liberal Leader Christy Clark has said. “It’s gone down by 45 per cent since 2003.”

But NDP Leader Adrian Dix has a very different view on how B.C. is doing in the fight against child poverty.

“It is known, of course, and understood, that British Columbians — despite of the richness of our resources — has had the highest or second highest child poverty rate for the past eight years.”

So which claim is true? When it comes to the numbers, neither party is lying.

‘Very little progress’

“They are both right, but the real truth is that we’ve made very little progress,” says Adrienne Montani, the provincial coordinator at First Call — an organization that tracks child poverty rates through the years.

While Canada doesn’t have an official poverty measurement, First Call uses the low-income cut-off produced by Statistics Canada, which varies based on the size of the family and the size of the community.

In 2010, the last year in which statistics are available, the child poverty rate was 14.3 per cent — down 10 percentage points from B.C.’s all-time high but second highest in the country after Manitoba.

Montani says B.C.’s child poverty rate was also high under the NDP in the 1990s.

“I don’t question motivations. Everybody says they care about child poverty. But nobody has made substantial progress,” Montani said.

“The policy changes, the income support, the supports for working families, like childcare — the things that would make a difference, and lift people out of poverty, have not been implemented.”

Both claims true

But what about Christy Clark’s claim of substantial progress?

B.C.’s child poverty rate has gone down by 45 per cent since 2003 — but only after rates shot up about 35 per cent in the first two years the Liberals were in power, at a time when the national average was going down.

Looking just at B.C.’s track record, the province is doing well and boasts the second lowest child poverty rate in 20 years. But when you compare B.C. to the rest of the country, the province has the second highest rate of child poverty.

When it comes to the numbers, CBC’s Reality Check team finds both the Liberal and NDP claims on child poverty are true. But more importantly — the team finds neither political party has much to be proud of on the issue.

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