Close to 80 people gathered to talk poverty at the recent community engagement meeting held by the provincial government in Terrace.
Terrace was the third of 22 stops for poverty discussions to be held across the province, and drew a mixture of social service workers, local government and school board trustees, concerned citizens and people in poverty.
Minister of social development and poverty reduction Shane Simpson, opened the meeting at Elks Hall after a short lunch Jan. 12, which centred mostly around small table discussions of roughly eight people.
Some of the key ideas that surfaced included a northwest detox centre, a livable minimum wage, improved access to childcare, more affordable housing, coverage for medications, inter-agency collaboration and social service help in person rather than via automated phone lines or websites.
The community meetings have been set up by the ministry and the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC) to hear directly from affected people for a poverty reduction strategy.
“B.C. is the only province in Canada that doesn’t have a [poverty reduction] strategy, and we’re changing that,” Shane Simpson said.
“In British Columbia, we have about 678,000 people living in poverty. That’s 15 per cent of the population of the province,” Simpson said. “One in five kids are poor. If you’re disabled or Indigenous, you’re twice as likely to be poor than anybody else. The challenge is over 40 per cent of the people who are living poor in this province have a full-time pay cheque coming into the house. They are the working poor.”
He said that developing B.C.’s strategy will take time as the ministry determines which issues take priority and go through all the feedback they receive.
“This is complex, it requires a number of different objectives… and the reality is that we are going to end up doing this in an incremental way,” he said. “And we’re going to have a plan that recognizes that the solution is not a cookie cutter— it isn’t what works in Vancouver works everywhere.”
Simpson said meetings continue into the spring, and they hope to have a report out by March.
The ministry is also engaged in ongoing discussions with a poverty reduction committee of 27 members in B.C., including Stacey Tyres in Terrace, and a number of others including some low income people, to help advise them as they move forward.