British Columbia has earned a D+ on the Food Bank of Canada’s first Poverty Report Card, assessing each province’s poverty reduction efforts, compared with one another.
Factors considered include various measurements and experiences of poverty, standard of living, and government progress on passing anti-poverty legislation.
Quebec fared the best with a B-, followed by Prince Edward Island and Manitoba, which each earned a C-. Alberta and Saskatchewan earned a D grade, Ontario got a D- and Nova Scotia flunked with an F.
“An overall lack of action on affordable housing, and improving social assistance lies at the heart of Canada’s growing struggle with poverty and food insecurity,” said Food Banks Canada chief network and government relations officer Phil Ozga in a Tuesday news release.
“All governments must find a new sense of urgency and act together to combat this issue.”
According to Food Banks Canada, ‘D’ was selected as the baseline average grade for provincial datasets, in recognition that no government is doing enough to reduce poverty. The non-profit then took the difference between the highest and lowest scores in provincial data, and developed an evenly distributed range from A to F.
Food Banks Canada surveyed 4,292 adult Canadians as part of its study, including 370 British Columbians, between March and April of this year.
Of the B.C. residents, 39.1 per cent said they spent more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, 27. 6 per cent had an inadequate standard of living, meaning they could not afford two or more items from a list that included seasonal clothing, food, bills, electrical goods, home heating or cooling options, replacements for broken items, and more.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents reported feeling worse-off financially this year than last year, and of those who receive B.C. government support, 57.3 per cent said the rates did not keep up with the cost of living.
Dan Huang-Taylor, Food Banks BC director, said he wasn’t surprised by the findings, which paint a “bleak picture.”
“We know how unaffordable it is for many in the province and this is based on what we’re seeing and hearing at the food banks in B.C.,” he told Global News. “The housing that is available is clearly out of reach to so many in the province.
“It’s just a very challenging time for people, when we think about inflation … and how close people are already living to the poverty line.”
The report made seven recommendations for B.C., including that it provide a progress update on the 65 recommendations tabled in 2020 by the expert panel on basic income, enhance the renter’s tax credit, and aim to bring poverty below the national rate in every category by 2026. It also recommended continued investment in affordable rental housing, a permanent BC Rental Protection Fund, the creation of a provincial earnings supplement, and more.
In an interview, B.C. Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Sheila Malcolmson acknowledged there was work to do.
“We’ve been talking to people across the province, we have had more than 10,000 inputs into a new poverty reduction strategy that I’ll be bringing into the legislature this spring,” she said.
“We’re determined to lift more people out of poverty.”
— with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey
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