Reducing poverty will be at the forefront of a community meeting in Williams Lake coming up in February.
Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson says the province is in the process of developing a poverty reduction strategy that is urgently needed.
“BC is the only province that doesn’t have a strategy. We have about 678,000 people living in poverty in BC-that’s over 15% of the population. One in five kids lives in poverty, that means poor families and interestingly over 40% of the people on that list have a pay cheque coming in. They’re the working poor but they can’t make ends meet.”
The community meeting that will help form the province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy takes place in Williams Lake on February 2 at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex from 2:30 pm until 5 pm.
A meeting is scheduled for the following day in Quesnel.
Simpson says they have had 8 community meetings across the province to date and that they will have 28 in total by the time they’re done.
“It’s very important that this not be kind of Vancouver centric which sometimes happen. So we’re making a concerted effort to get out in the communities and make sure we talk to people everywhere in British Columbia.”
Simpson himself has attended 6 of the meetings.
“There certainly were a variety of concerns, but I think the number one issue in every community was affordable housing,” he says.
“We also heard a fair amount about mental health and addiction issues and the need to have services that support people so they can through those challenges and turn their lives around.”
As for what will be next when the community meetings are completed by the end of March, Simpson says that will be followed by a what they’ve heard report.
“And then this year, later with year, we will be introducing legislation for a poverty reduction strategy with targets and timelines and we’ll release a detailed plan as to how we move forward and what our expectations are to what we can to do to reduce poverty,” he says.
“But as we do that we’ve taken some initial steps. In the February provincial budget you’ll see more information about affordable childcare and about housing-both very important issues in a poverty reduction strategy.”