Low-income families in British Columbia: the time is now for a new strategy

Presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, Legislative Assembly, Province of British Columbia
Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
May 21, 2010

Slide 1

Three Questions

  • What are the systemic causes of persistent low-incomes, and how do they affect families in British Columbia from one generation to the next – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal?
  • Are existing methods of measurement accurate, suitable and relevant to BC?
  • Which reduction strategies appear to be successful (or unsuccessful) in other jurisdictions and how can we best measure that success?

Slide 2

Contexts of low-income

  • Housing and homelessness
  • Education and literacy
  • The economy and labour force
  • Public policies and services
  • Federalism
  • Societal values, beliefs and attitudes
  • Legacies of colonialism

Slide 3

National measures of low-income in Canada

  • Low Income Cut-offs (LICO)
  • Low Income Measure (LIM)
  • Market Basket Measure (MBM)
  • Core Housing Need
  • Core Need Income Thresholds (CNIT)
  • Federal program indicators: Canada Child Tax Benefit & EI Family Supplement

Slide 4 

Trends in poverty and inclusion measures across provinces

  • Using a collection of several indicators
  • Adapting LICO and MBM to provincial realities
  • Updating and cross-linking administrative data sets on income tax, benefits, and service caseloads
  • Developing new measures:
  • Ontario Deprivation Index & Newfoundland & Labrador MBM of Housing Affordability

Slide 5

  • Classic poverty relief policy
  • Narrow focus on “the poor”
  • Means-tested social assistance
  • Reliance on charitable and non-profit provisions
  • ‘Raise the rates’ as the main issue
  • Piecemeal reforms and ad hoc responses
  • Separate programs, complex rules
  • Little social solidarity with wider population
  • Politically unattractive

Slide 6

Provinces adopting poverty reduction strategies

  • Québec 2002-2004
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 2006
  • Ontario 2008-09
  • Nova Scotia 2009
  • Manitoba 2009
  • New Brunswick 2009-10
  • Whose next?

Slide 7

Poverty reduction policies

  • Community engagement: built upon widespread public consultations
  • Political commitment: legislation and/or cabinet leadership
  • Strategic: vision, action plan, short-, medium- and long- term goals
  • Comprehensive: encompass several policy and program areas
  • Varied approaches to Aboriginal peoples: recognition and partnership or conventional delegation
  • Accountable and transparent: measurable targets, timelines, indicators, reporting obligations to legislature and the public

Slide 8

Conclusions: next steps for BC

  • All parties endorsing value of a coherent approach to poverty prevention, reduction and alleviation for all families in British Columbia and in Canada
  • Engaging with community groups, business, labour, municipalities, First Nations, poverty groups
  • Preparing a draft action plan
  • Improving adult income from employment
  • Assisting low-income families with children
  • Consulting on idea of new legislation
  • Developing new measures and indicators by BC Stats and other agencies

Thank you for this opportunity

Michael J. Prince
Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy
Faculty of Human and Social Development
University of Victoria