City's NDP MLA talks about child poverty

Local NDP politician says recent child poverty stats arise from a variety of issues

British Columbia's high number of children living in poverty is caused by a combination of cuts to social services and an increasing gap between the rich and poor, says local MLA Dawn Black.

Recent statistics from First Call, a child and youth advocacy coalition, found that B.C. has the second highest child poverty rate in the country.

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Black said there are a handful of circumstances that have added to the province's dismal standing.

"There's been a phenomena happening across Canada with an increase in the income spread." Black said. "The top 20 per cent are earning more, and the rest of society's income has not kept pace with the inflation."

Although this year's standing could be considered an improvement, as B.C. had ranked worst in Canada for the last eight years. This year, B.C. tied with Quebec at 14.3 per cent, just under Manitoba, which was the worst province at 17.6 per cent, according to the report.

Asked what her party would do to pull the province up, Black said the NDP is committed to starting a poverty reduction strategy. Currently, B.C. and Saskatchewan are the only two provinces without official child poverty reduction strategies, the First Call report stated.

Another solution is increasing the number of apprenticeships and skills training positions available to the public, Black said, adding there should be more training not just for people coming out of high school, but people wanting retraining.

"Therefore, we're not importing people into B.C. to fill the jobs, but hopefully having trained people here that are able to take on the jobs of the future," she said.

People in the community also need to open their eyes, Black said.

"We need to become aware of some of the problems that our neighbours' face. We're all so busy in our own lives that we don't see the circumstances of the people that are struggling around us," she said.

With the holiday season approaching, Black urges everyone to become involved in local organizations.

"We're lucky in New West; we've got a large number of community organizations that do work to facilitate integration and foster a healthy community," she said

Although growing poverty is a huge concern, Black believes we also need to think about the inequality in our society.

"A society where you're more equal rather then less equal is not just beneficial for those at the bottom end of the economic scale, but better for society as a whole, even the high income earners," she said.

editorial@royalcityrecord.com

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