Single-parent clawbacks condemned

NDP plan: use budget surplus, planning to ease poverty

A recent report by First Call B.C. revealing half of the children with single parents in British Columbia live in poverty has the NDP criticizing B.C. Liberal government clawbacks.

NDP social development spokesperson Michelle Mungall said the government’s policy to claw back child support payments to welfare and disability recipients elevates poverty.

“This report proves that children are living in poverty because the B.C. Liberal government is clawing back child support from single-parent families living on income assistance and disability.

“It’s time for the B.C. Liberals to end the clawback and give kids their money back.”

The NDP is pointing to the $444-million budget surplus expected by spring – twice what was predicted last February – used for poverty reduction funding.

The estimated cost of ending the clawback is $17 million, which Premier Christy Clark told media the province “can’t afford” right now.

She said her government is sticking to its highest priority of further paying down the about $5 billion in provincial debt.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said nobody likes to see people live in poverty, but there is “no more in the pot” of government money.

“We’d like to see people get more, but we have to live within the means of the taxpayer.

“The best way to reduce poverty [is] education and creating jobs. Employment stops poverty.”

The surplus is still a projection at this point that may disappear under the impacts of the world economy, she noted.

Barnett added the B.C. economy is fuelled by resource industries, and funding social programs at a level beyond those revenues hits the taxpayer.

“[Low-income residents] don’t pay health care, they get free subsidies for this and that; there are so many things out there. I think government is doing everything we can possibly do.

“We now have help at schools with food for children at breakfast; there are lunch programs; there are all kinds of programs … for people in need.”

However, Mungall said B.C. needs a legislated poverty-reduction plan, noting it is now the only province without one.

“One in five B.C. children is living in poverty. That’s disgraceful in a province with so much wealth.”

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition agrees a poverty-reduction plan is needed in the province, and presented thousands of letters in support of this to the premier on Nov. 25.

In a release, it stated B.C. has the highest poverty rate in the country (according to the most current Statistics Canada numbers from 2007 to 2011) with 10.7 per cent of B.C. residents listed as low-income.

However, Barnett said statistics on all people on the low-income scale will include many who have health-care costs covered, and seniors in subsidized housing or long-term care residences.

“Those are things you have got to take into consideration when you [look at] poverty.”

 

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