Where are our families in ‘families first’?: New premier’s promises sound more like a business plan than a social one

Elietha Bocskei, Kimberly Sharpe, Lauren Casey and Sally Hodgson, graduate students in the Social Dimensions of Health program at the University of Victoria; Times Colonist

“Change begins tonight” was Christy ‘Change’ Clark’s message in her recent victory speech. British Columbia’s new premier came into power billing herself as an outsider, riding on her “Families First” campaign which promises to improve the lives of B.C. families.

But it’s our belief that Clark’s proposed strategies just aren’t enough to truly put B.C. families first.

In fact, our experience as health researchers, activists and professionals leads us to conclude that her plan to control spending could potentially leave families worse off than before.

Clark stresses that strategies in her Families First agenda are meant to strengthen B.C. families and are based on feedback from British Columbians around the province….

Childcare is the second highest expense for B.C. families with young children, after housing. The province provides some child-care subsidies, but many parents are not eligible as they earn above the income cutoff level.

Licensed sites in B.C. account for only 15 per cent of paid child-care arrangements in the province, and the wait list for licensed child care continues to grow.

Furthermore, services for families in conflict or children with disabilities – counselling, respite, mediation – are limited. These services are critical in keeping families together.

The Families First campaign strives to empower people through an economic stimulus plan but without addressing the reality facing many families. Clark’s promises sound all too much like the same agenda we came to expect under Campbell and the Liberals these past 10 years.

We all pay for poverty, whether through higher health-care costs or social impact, increased crime, diminished future prosperity of our children or lower economic productivity. We suspect that true consultation with British Columbians would have found that the public is willing to invest tax dollars to address these issues. Poll after poll has proven that.

Our government must take action to strengthen B.C. families through meaningful and realistic goals, timelines and leadership, not economic plans dressed up as family policy.