A frank discussion on poverty with Mable Elmore

IMG_8327In addition to the Poverty Reduction Consultations, the Kamloops and District Labour Council invited Mable Elmore to engage with Labour and concerned citizens about the development of a BC poverty reduction strategy.

Before fielding numerous questions from participants, Elmore (MLA for Vancouver Kensington and Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction) stated that the two highest, most oppressive costs for BC families are housing and child care – and that equal access to both must be considered a matter of basic human rights and social justice. She then explained that a poverty reduction plan is complex and multi-factorial, and that several preliminary steps have already been taken or are in progress. For example:

  • Income Assistance and Disabilities payments have been increased by $100 per month, and earnings exemptions have been increased by $200 per month;
  • Tuition fees have been eliminated for Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, and post-secondary education for youth “aging out” of the foster care system;
  • While a universal child care plan is still in the works, 3800 new child care spots have been created in 52 communities from Vancouver to Prince George;
  • Housing issues are being addressed through both legislated protections for renters and the creation of 100,000 more housing units for people living in poverty or facing homelessness. Although BC has 50,000 units of social housing, the government is committed to expansion, and has acknowledged the lack of affordable student housing. Kamloops will soon receive 104 modular housing units.
  • Affordable housing units will be complemented by a support network (including partnerships with Interior Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association) to help marginalized and vulnerable people better navigate the system and access services. A portion of housing and supports will be specifically earmarked for people diagnosed with certain medical conditions;
  • Shelter spaces will be increased and open after April 1st;
  • There will be a greater investment in public education, and the NDP has already funded over 2000 new trades training spots at post-secondary institutions across BC.

Elmore listened to our many concerns and responded thoroughly to a wide range of questions. Among the most critical was the question of jobs – increases to the minimum wage, the creation of sustainable living-wage jobs, and issues surrounding privatization, contracting out and P3s. Apparently, we can look forward to Community Benefits Agreements, which will ensure that provincial infrastructure projects will hire locally and use local procurement, support local innovation, and provide apprenticeships and training to local workers (particularly from marginalized groups). BC will also undertake a pilot project to test out a Guaranteed Basic Annual Wage.

In closing, it was the group’s consensus that in order for a poverty reduction plan to succeed it is vital to raise public awareness about poverty and homelessness and work to eliminate stigma and push-back from communities. Elmore’s assistant and note-taker compiled our questions, concerns, and ideas for the purpose of submitting an official report. All in all, the meeting was informative, respectful, and encouraging.


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