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'Partial' poverty reduction plan best among Liberal candidates

George Abbott's "partial plan" to reduce poverty in British Columbia distinguishes him from the other candidates to lead the BC Liberal Party.

That's the conclusion of a report on a candidate survey conducted by the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, a group with more than two dozen members.

Abbott is the only candidate in the race who has clearly supported legislated targets and timelines for poverty reduction, said Seth Klein, a co-chair of the coalition and the B.C. director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Abbott also acknowledges that many people who are poor are working, said Klein.

"I think that's significant," he said.

Abbott said in late January that he would engage the public in a discussion around tackling child poverty.

"He's only talking about child poverty, and not overall poverty," said Klein. And while a public discussion would be positive, he added, "My fear is it would serve as an excuse to not do anything for another 18 months."

There are some things that could be done immediately, he said, including increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, increasing the welfare rates and indexing them, and creating more social housing.

However, Abbott has more of a plan than his competitors Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon or Mike de Jong for reducing poverty, said Klein.

Clark responded to the coalition's questions, but there was no commitment to a poverty reduction plan. She supported eliminating the $6 an hour training wage and raising the minimum wage.

Neither Falcon nor de Jong responded to the survey, though each has mentioned during the campaign that they support raising the minimum wage.

Klein said he was surprised more of the Liberal candidates haven't addressed poverty during the campaign or by responding to the coalition's survey. "B.C.'s record on poverty is a major Achilles heel for this government," he said.

Liberal members pick a leader to replace Premier Gordon Campbell on Feb. 26.

The coalition will release responses from NDP candidates closer to when they choose a new leader on April 17, Klein said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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