BC drops in child poverty, up in overall poverty


British Columbia’s children were a little less likely to be living in poverty in 2010 than they were in 2009. According to a study released today by Statistics Canada, B.C.’s child poverty rate was second to Manitoba’s, effectively ending the province’s eight-year streak as the province with the highest child poverty.

B.C.’s child poverty rate dropped 1.5 per cent from 11.8 per cent in 2009 to 10.5 per cent in 2010. In a press release issued by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, the Coalition indicated the largest drop came from families with two parents, which saw poverty rates fall a whole three per cent to 7.7 per cent in 2010.

Single mothers, however, saw their poverty rates increase to 16.4 per cent from 15.9 per cent the year before.

Poverty rates for all age groups were higher, too. B.C.’s rate was 11.5 per cent, cementing its position as the province with the highest overall poverty rate for the 12th year in a row.

“The latest statistics show — once again — the need for a comprehensive anti-poverty program in British Columbia, supported by every political party,” read a statement from Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator for First Call, in the release.

“Poverty is costing children their health and limiting their ability to reach their full potential.”

First Call’s release noted the provincial New Democratic Party’s bill sitting before the provincial legislature right now that requires the province to adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy with clear goals and timelines. But even if the NDP were to form government after next spring’s election, First Call says there’s no predicting how long it could take for those plans to be put into action. B.C. is one of only two provinces not working towards or operating under a provincial anti-poverty strategy.

The Liberal government’s response to the call for a provincial poverty reduction strategy has been to implement community-based poverty reduction plans, with the first seven set for completion by May 2013. They’re also depending on the BC Jobs Plan to lift families out of poverty through employment.

“No government wants to see any child or family living in poverty. That’s why government is focussed on a job creation plan that will strengthen the economy, create and protect jobs for families in every region of B.C., and make sure B.C. residents are able to get the skills training and education needed to fill job openings,” said Mary McNeil, minister of child and family development, in an email to The Tyee.

“Putting a label on this is not what will bring about real change. Helping families through crises while, at the same time, creating opportunities for jobs and developing strategies together to give families the keys to capability at the community level is what will give families the springboards they need.”

McNeil also noted child poverty rates have dropped 45 per cent since 2003, from 19.2 per cent in 2002 to 10.5 per cent, a much larger drop in child poverty than any other province. However that doesn’t include a spike in the child poverty rate in 2004 when it was 23.5 per cent, and it only fell back down below 19.2 per cent again in 2007.

This article was produced by Tyee Solutions Society (TSS) in collaboration with Tides Canada Initiatives. Tides Canada Initiatives neither influences nor endorses the particular content of TSS reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other TSS-produced articles, please contact Chris Wood.