Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 16, 2018

BILL 39 — Poverty Reduction Strategy Act

Hon. S. Simpson: Thank you, Hon. Speaker. I want to start by thanking members on all sides of the House for their comments in relation to this piece of legislation that I've introduced. Thank you for the comments. Thank you for the input. It's important. I do believe that reducing poverty and closing the inequality gap in this province is something that all members, regardless of the side of the House they're on, should be embracing and should be looking to pursue.

I know we've had this debate over this question of poverty reduction legislation, and the need for a plan has gone on for many, many years in this House. And I know that the members on the other side have always made the case about jobs being the cornerstone of poverty reduction, and I appreciate that comment. But the reality is that we have the lowest unemployment rates in the country now. We've had low unemployment rates for many years, and it hasn't affected the poverty rates in ways that would be meaningful.

The only significant reduction in poverty that we've seen over the last number of years happened from 2015 to 2016. That was almost exclusively the actions of the federal government around the Canada child tax benefit and an increase in the guaranteed income supplement, and that did bring poverty in British Columbia down from about 14.8 percent to 12 percent across the board. But those were two very significant federal initiatives that were put in place in 2015. Other than that, we haven't seen poverty move.

So it's my sense…. I think the debate has to be around how you get at the cycle of poverty and how you break the cycle of poverty, and we know there is no silver bullet for this. Whether it's rate increases or it's jobs or it's any single thing, I just simply don't believe there is one answer that does this easily. Poverty reduction is a bit of a challenge, as with many social policy issues. There are the policy questions, which are broad policy issues, and then there's having a plan that's nimble enough to look at the circumstances of individuals that are unique, always, in their own way. That's particularly true for persons with disabilities, but it's really true across the spectrum of people who are struggling with poverty.

It is our intention that the plan that will come out, attached and linked to the budget in the spring, will look to be nimble enough to address those issues. It will look at the questions of affordability and how we close the affordability gap. It will look very much at opportunity and how we create opportunity for people to find the lives they want, whether it's getting training, whether it's finding employment, how they break that cycle of poverty. It will look at social inclusion. It will look at how we end the alienation that seems to be such an inherent part of poverty and that people struggle with. And we will look at how we blend it and merge it into the question of reconciliation, since we see such an inordinate number of Indigenous and First Nations people in this province struggling with questions of poverty.

I believe that every one of us has a challenge here to step up and to move this work forward in a positive way. As my colleague said, we have 557,000 of our British Columbia citizens who are struggling, and that number is probably low. A hundred thousand of those are kids, and I don't believe there's anybody in this House that wants to see 100,000 children in British Columbia living in poverty.

That is the challenge in front of us. That's the work that we need to do moving forward. And it won't be successful just coming out of this ministry or out of a couple of ministries. It has to be a government-wide initiative. It has to be a broader societal initiative. That really is the question and the challenge of bringing all those pieces together to make that successful. And if we do this together, I believe that we can make the success, we can have the success, that we're all looking to have as we move forward.

With that, I move second reading of Bill 39. 

Motion approved.

Hon. S. Simpson: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today. 

Bill 39, Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.

https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/41st-parliament/3rd-session/20181015pm-House-Blues

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