B.C. government unveils 27-member panel to help draft poverty reduction strategy

The province has unveiled a new 27-member panel to help it develop a formal poverty reduction strategy.
The province has unveiled a new 27-member panel to help it develop a formal poverty reduction strategy. Simon Little/CKNW

The provincial government has taken its first step towards creating a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy.

On Monday, Social Development Minister Shane Simpson unveiled a new 27-member forum which will advise the government as it develops the plan.

B.C. is the only province in Canada without a formal poverty reduction plan, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

READ MORE: B.C. NDP government says it will take several months to develop a poverty reduction plan

The panel includes members of the province’s disability community, business and labour, First Nations, anti-poverty groups, academics and people who have lived in poverty.

“This group of advisors will support me as we work together to bring effective and permanent solutions that will lift people out of poverty and help them to build a better life,” said Simpson in a statement.

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The province is also launching a public engagement process which includes a website for public feedback and in-person sessions in 20 B.C. communities.

The cost of the consultation process is budgeted at $1.2 million.

Legislated targets and timelines associated with the strategy are due next spring.

READ MORE: John Horgan announces $100 increase to income and disability assistance

The BC NDP pledged to develop a poverty reduction plan during the 2017 provincial election. The party has unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a similar plan five times while in opposition.

Earlier this year, the NDP raised welfare and disability rates by $100 per month, and restored subsidized bus passes for persons with disabilities.

The province says B.C. has Canada’s highest poverty rate, with more than 675,000 British Columbians living below the poverty line.

About 40 per cent of those living in poverty are the so-called “working poor,” while nearly 120,000 are children and nearly 65,000 are seniors according to provincial figures.