UNBC prof. to lead B.C. poverty ad­vi­sory group

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Dirk MEISSNER

VIC­TO­RIA — B.C. is plan­ning to in­tro­duce a pi­lot pro­gram that would give some res­i­dents a ba­sic in­come in what will be part of a series of leg­isla­tive strate­gies to fight poverty, the min­is­ter in charge said Mon­day.

Poverty Re­duc­tion Min­is­ter Shane Simp­son said his gov­ern­ment wants to test the ef­fec­tive­ness of pro­vid­ing peo­ple with a ba­sic in­come to re­duce poverty, im­prove health, em­ploy­ment and hous­ing prospects. The NDP gov­ern­ment is con­sult­ing with other ju­ris­dic­tions that have sim­i­lar pro­grams.

“We’ve been talk­ing with the prov­ince of On­tario about their work,” he said at a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the B.C. strat­egy. “We’re also talk­ing to peo­ple in di­verse places such as Glas­gow, Scot­land and Oak­land, Calif., where they are do­ing this work, too. I ex­pect to have more to say about how we pro­ceed with that in the new year.”

B.C. cur­rently has the high­est poverty rate in Canada based on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Mar­ket Bas­ket Mea­sure in­di­ca­tor which in­cludes the costs of food, cloth­ing, footwear, trans­porta­tion, hous­ing and other ex­penses for a fam­ily with two chil­dren.

Simp­son said it’s es­ti­mated 678,000 peo­ple live in poverty in B.C., in­clud­ing 118,000 chil­dren.

The NDP made poverty re­duc­tion one of its key elec­tion prom­ises last spring af­ter years of la­belling the for­mer Lib­eral gov­ern­ment as cold-hearted for re­ject­ing plans to re­duce one of the high­est child­poverty rates in Canada.

Simp­son ap­pointed 27 peo­ple, in­clud­ing poverty ad­vo­cates, aca­demics and First Na­tions mem­bers, to an ad­vi­sory group that will pro­vide in­sights and guid­ance as the gov­ern­ment pre­pares to in­tro­duce its re­duc­tion strat­egy and leg­is­la­tion next spring.

He said the dates and lo­ca­tions for a series of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions will be an­nounced shortly.

“The end re­sult of this, we hope, will be a com­plete poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy next year,” Simp­son said. “I look for­ward to hear­ing from Bri­tish Columbians who be­lieve this is an is­sue that we need to chal­lenge and who be­lieve we need to re­duce in­equal­ity, and re­duc­ing poverty is a fun­da­men­tal step in that.”

He said the poverty is­sue cuts across all com­mu­ni­ties and statis­tics in­di­cate that 40 per cent of those in poverty have low-pay­ing jobs.

Dawn Hem­ing­way, chair­woman of the School of So­cial Work at the Univer­sity of North­ern B.C., said she ex­pects the gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy will make a real dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.

“I want to un­der­line that as a hu­man be­ing and as a so­cial worker, I firmly be­lieve that it is a ba­sic hu­man right for ev­ery­one to have a good qual­ity of life,” she said.

Hem­ing­way was ap­pointed as one of the lead­ers for the ad­vi­sory group.

Simp­son said the gov­ern­ment has yet to de­cide how many peo­ple would be in­volved in the ba­sic in­come project or the amount of money that would be pro­vided to those par­tic­i­pants, but it has al­ready un­der­taken con­sul­ta­tions with aca­demics and other ex­perts.

He said a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial ini­tia­tive in the 1970s con­ducted a ba­sic in­come ex­per­i­ment in the com­mu­nity of Dauphin, Man. Re­searchers look­ing at the pro­gram, called Min­come, said it was stopped af­ter four years when Canada fell into an eco­nomic re­ces­sion.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment’s project is mea­sur­ing how a ba­sic wage helps peo­ple liv­ing on low in­comes meet their needs for food, shel­ter, health and em­ploy­ment train­ing.

CP PHOTO

UNBC pro­fes­sor Dawn Hem­ing­way looks on as me­dia ask ques­tions about de­tails of an ad­vi­sory fo­rum on poverty re­duc­tion dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Vic­to­ria on Mon­day.

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