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Coalition asks province for anti-poverty cabinet minister

VANCOUVER - The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is calling on Premier Gordon Campbell to introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction plan and to name a lead minister for poverty reduction with the announcement of his new cabinet Wednesday.

In an open letter to all political parties ahead of the provincial election, the coalition detailed targets and timelines for the next government. The letter was signed by more than 200 organizations from around the province.

The targets include reducing B.C.’s poverty rate by 1/3 within this government's mandate and a 75-per-cent reduction over the next decade, with an emphasis on helping the most marginalized. According to the coalition, 13 per cent of British Columbians live in poverty.

The coalition is also demanding the government ensure within two years that every British Columbian has an income that reaches at least 75 per cent of the poverty line, and a place to sleep indoors.

To meet these goals, the coalition encourages the government to commit to policy measures and concrete action to:

Provide adequate and accessible income support for the non-employed.

Improve the earnings and working conditions of those in the low-wage workforce.

Improve food security for low-income individuals and families.

Address homelessness and adopt a comprehensive affordable housing and supportive housing plan.

Provide universal publicly-funded child care.

Enhanced support for training and education for low-income people.

Enhance community mental health and home support services, and expand integrated approaches to prevention and health promotion services.

Prior to the election, the premier wrote to the coalition and acknowledged their concerns, said Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.

“He said he was unable to meet at that point, but that he was looking at further action on this file.”

When the new cabinet is announced, the coalition hopes to see someone introduced in the government with poverty reduction as part of their responsibilities.

The ideal poverty reduction plan would mirror the plans of other provinces such as Ontario and Manitoba, said Montanti, with “top level leadership, a cross government mandate, regular reporting times on timelines and targets, and a list of actions they intend to take in conjunction with community consultation.”

Last month, a Mustel Group poll revealed that 46 per cent of British Columbians surveyed thought a provincial poverty reduction plan should be a high priority for the government, while 33 per cent said it should be a medium priority. The poll was commissioned by the Poverty Reduction Coalition and surveyed 500 British Columbians.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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