Historic legislation sets targets, timelines to reduce poverty

VICTORIA – British Columbia’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, guided by legislation introduced today, will lift thousands of people out of poverty, create more opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and make it easier for people to participate in their community.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act will define the scope of the strategy, which will be released in early 2019, and sets poverty reduction targets and timelines that government must meet.

“A strong province is built on a foundation of equity, inclusion and opportunity for everyone,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We know that poverty is a serious issue in our province. That was driven home throughout the consultation as thousands of people told us about the impossible challenges they face each day. Social issues have been ignored for too long and that is why we are committing this government, and future governments, to break the cycle of poverty and improve people’s lives.”

The legislation is shaped by the experiences, voices and hopes of more than 8,500 people who took part in a broad public engagement on poverty from November 2017 to March 2018. If passed, the legislation will:

  • Commit government to reduce B.C.’s overall poverty rate by 25% and child poverty rate by 50% in the next five years.
  • Establish an independent advisory committee that will represent the breadth and depth of personal and professional experiences of poverty in B.C. and advise the minister on matters relating to poverty reduction and prevention.
  • Require government to report annually on its progress to reduce poverty.
  • Require government to release its first poverty reduction strategy by March 31, 2019. The strategy must focus on the key issues faced by people living in poverty including housing, education, employment, income supports and social inclusion.

The commitment to a poverty reduction strategy, in addition to addressing liveable wages under B.C.’s new Fair Wages Commission and exploring basic income, is a component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Green Party caucus. The work of the Fair Wages Commission and the basic income expert panel will inform future updates to the poverty reduction strategy.

“It is our shared responsibility to make sure that everyone has the tools, resources and social supports they need to improve their lives,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction. “Hundreds of thousands of people in our province experience poverty, and this kind of long-term government commitment is what is required to lift people up and achieve real progress.”