Editorial: Poverty of politics continues

Columnist Tom Fletcher comments on child poverty in British Columbia

B.C.’s ritual day of shame over child poverty has come and gone once again, with politicians trading blame and time-worn talking points.

The occasion was an annual gathering staged at the B.C. Teachers’ Federation office in downtown Vancouver. It is organized by First Call, an umbrella group sponsored by the BCTF, the B.C. Government Employees’ Union and a collection of like-minded “anti-poverty activists,” as they describe themselves in their latest report.

The familiar script unfolded. The report misinterprets federal income statistics from two years ago and calls for a long list of uncosted, but hugely expensive measures that they assert will make B.C. the first jurisdiction in human history to eradicate poverty.

A sampling: provide raises for employees and contractors at all levels of government until they are making an unspecified “living wage,” because we all know how public sector workers uniquely suffer from pay and pension inequality.

Raise the minimum wage again and index it to inflation. Establish universal public dental care, prescription drug and eye care programs, and daycare. (Dismiss targeted programs that already provide this.)

Raise welfare rates and expand eligibility for employment insurance. Cut tuition and provide more student grants. Eliminate homelessness.

And so it continues toward a socialist Utopia and certain bankruptcy for provincial and federal governments already deeply in the red.

I wrote about these numbers when Statistics Canada released them back in June. They showed a modest improvement nationally and provincially in what they measure, which is not poverty, but the relative relationship between income groups. First Call dismisses that improvement as “a dismal record.”

My point is not to deny that there are many poor people in B.C. and Canada. There are. But at this point we don’t even have a reliable way of measuring the problem, let alone effective solutions.

The report states: “Statistics Canada said the child poverty rate in Greater Vancouver was 18.4 per cent in 2010 …” No, Statistics Canada didn’t say that. They said what they always say, that “Low-Income Cut-Off,” or LICO figures, are not an accurate measure of poverty.

The political response was equally predictable. Veteran NDP MP Libby Davies led the charge in Ottawa. The government must establish a national anti-poverty strategy with firm annual goals, she said, reciting the identical script of the B.C. NDP.

Davies didn’t mention that Manitoba is among the provinces with such a plan. It’s the only province that finished below B.C. in the percentage of children living in low-income homes. These plans are mainly gesture politics, providing the appearance of action.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux spoke on behalf of the B.C. Liberal government, and she, too, stuck to a familiar script. The best path out of poverty is a job, she said. This is true, but also obvious.

Then Cadieux went on about the “B.C. Jobs Plan,” which has its own sorry record of misrepresented federal statistics.

Here’s one of the report’s more blindingly obvious section headings: “Child poverty concentrated in big cities.” No kidding. The whole population is concentrated in big cities.

Herein lies a clue that is missed by “activists” for ever-larger government. Poor people are increasingly crowded into the most expensive places.

If I’m on welfare or working in a low-wage job and receiving a provincial rent subsidy (one of those things LICO doesn’t measure), should I live in downtown Victoria or Vancouver? Shouldn’t I relocate to a smaller community where housing is cheaper?

There are lots of complications to this, but some kind of incentive to relocate could help big and small communities.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Gun, drugs and cash seized in arrest of alleged Victoria fentanyl dealer

Brent Connors is facing nine charges in relation to the investigation

Sooke Road bus pullouts now operational, says province

Pullouts are located at the West Shore Parkway, Laidlaw Road and Harbourview Road

SOOKE HISTORY: T’Sou-ke and Pacheedaht paddlers

Elida Peers | Contributed This 1993 photo taken by Angela Bailey when… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Oak Bay police officers rescue baby seal found on rocky shoreline

Marina Mammal Rescue Centre recommends residents observe from a distance

B.C. man (pick up truck, Lucky Beer poster, and all) revels in return to Esquimalt

Rear-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie assumed command of the Maritime Forces Pacific

Victoria Ska and Reggae Fest fills harbour with music

Music festival wraps with free party Sunday at Ship Point

WEB POLL: Should illegal immigrants be separated from their children?

Should illegal immigrants be separated from their children?… Continue reading

5 fun things to do this weekend in Greater Victoria

Victoria Ska and Reggae Fest, Ride Don’t Hide, Cordova Bay Day and more

Vancouver Canucks tab Quinn Hughes with No. 7 overall pick in NHL draft

University of Michigan standout was second defenceman picked in first round

Jogger spent two weeks in U.S. detention centre after accidentally crossing B.C. border

Cedella Roman, 19, crossed the border while out for a run

B.C. woman with severely disabled son keeps getting parking tickets

‘There has to be something they could do’

Man brandishes axe during robbery

Mounties were able to locate the suspect within two hours of the incident

‘Creep off’ reporting system aims to track street harassment in Metro Vancouver

Text-based hotline launches to collect public reports on where and when harassment occurs

Happy ending for orphaned bear cubs

Two orphaned bear cubs were captured in Castlegar and sent for rehabilitation.

Most Read