This is the fourth installment in the Townsman’s weekly series from the two declared Kootenay East candidates for the upcoming provincial election — Bill Bennett of the B.C. Liberals and Norma Blissett of the B.C. NDP. The question of the week is: What is your party’s commitment to poverty reduction? What initiatives does your party have planned to address the number of children living in poverty?
B.C.’s New Democrats are committed to implementing a province–wide poverty reduction strategy. The Liberals have left our province with the highest level of income inequality and the second worst record on child poverty in Canada.
An NDP government will make a $210 million annual investment in a B.C. Family Bonus Program, to reduce poverty and make life better for low and moderate-income families. This will provide up to $829 for each child under the age of 18.
The NDP under Adrian Dix will also:
• Increase income assistance rates by $20 per month indexed to inflation;
• Double the income–assistance earnings exemption to $400 per month;
• Strengthen Community Living B.C. and;
• Add new front line staff to the Ministry of Children and Families.
In addition, access to education and skills training is key to reducing inequality and growing a sustainable economy. An NDP government will invest $40 million in skills training and $100 million in a needs-based, student grant program.
Funding has also been announced to increase spaces and lower the cost of childcare. Families with children in licensed care will save an average of $2,000 annually. This measure will ease the cost burden for parents, particularly those struggling to return to the workforce.
Increasing rates of poverty and inequality are unacceptable. The B.C. NDP will follow through on our commitment to make change for the better – to increase equality and give all British Columbians an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. The programs we have announced address inequality and are meaningful steps to halt the unacceptable spread of poverty in this province.
All of these measures have been fully costed and accounted for in the B.C. NDP’s fiscal plan. Change for the better – one practical step at a time.