Poverty of politics continues

Tom Fletcher's column addresses anti-poverty claims from politicians.

VICTORIA – B.C.’s ritual day of shame over child poverty has come and gone once again, with politicians trading blame and time-worn talking points.

The occasion was an annual gathering staged at the B.C. Teachers’ Federation office in downtown Vancouver. It is organized by First Call, an umbrella group sponsored by the BCTF, the B.C. Government Employees’ Union and a collection of like-minded “anti-poverty activists,” as they describe themselves in their latest report.

The familiar script unfolded. The report misinterprets federal income statistics from two years ago and calls for a long list of uncosted, but hugely expensive measures that they assert will make B.C. the first jurisdiction in human history to eradicate poverty.

A sampling: provide raises for employees and contractors at all levels of government until they are making an unspecified “living wage,” because we all know how public sector workers uniquely suffer from pay and pension inequality.

Raise the minimum wage again and index it to inflation. Establish universal public dental care, prescription drug and eye care programs, and daycare. (Dismiss targeted programs that already provide this.)

Raise welfare rates and expand eligibility for employment insurance. Cut tuition and provide more student grants. Eliminate homelessness.

And so it continues toward a socialist Utopia and certain bankruptcy for provincial and federal governments already deeply in the red.

I wrote about these numbers when Statistics Canada released them back in June. They showed a modest improvement nationally and provincially in what they measure, which is not poverty, but the relative relationship between income groups. First Call dismisses that improvement as “a dismal record.”

My point is not to deny that there are many poor people in B.C. and Canada. There are. But at this point we don’t even have a reliable way of measuring the problem, let alone effective solutions.

The report states: “Statistics Canada said the child poverty rate in Greater Vancouver was 18.4 per cent in 2010 …” No, Statistics Canada didn’t say that. They said what they always say, that “Low-Income Cut-Off,” or LICO figures, are not an accurate measure of poverty.

The political response was equally predictable. Veteran NDP MP Libby Davies led the charge in Ottawa. The government must establish a national anti-poverty strategy with firm annual goals, she said, reciting the identical script of the B.C. NDP.

Davies didn’t mention that Manitoba is among the provinces with such a plan. It’s the only province that finished below B.C. in the percentage of children living in low-income homes. These plans are mainly gesture politics, providing the appearance of action.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux spoke on behalf of the B.C. Liberal government, and she, too, stuck to a familiar script. The best path out of poverty is a job, she said. This is true, but also obvious.

Then Cadieux went on about the “B.C. Jobs Plan,” which has its own sorry record of misrepresented federal statistics.

Here’s one of the report’s more blindingly obvious section headings: “Child poverty concentrated in big cities.” No kidding. The whole population is concentrated in big cities.

Herein lies a clue that is missed by “activists” for ever-larger government. Poor people are increasingly crowded into the most expensive places.

If I’m on welfare or working in a low-wage job and receiving a provincial rent subsidy (one of those things LICO doesn’t measure), should I live in downtown Victoria or Vancouver? Shouldn’t I relocate to a smaller community where housing is cheaper?

There are lots of complications to this, but some kind of incentive to relocate could help big and small communities.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy RCMP looking for volunteers who are interested in public safety

“The volunteer program will include community and crime prevention programs”

Suspicious fire in Alert Bay burns two homes, spreads to nearby bush

Police say underage suspects have been identified

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles tie Dawson Creek Canucks in front of massive hometown crowd in Port Hardy

The Tier 3 Bantam Championships continued in style last night at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.

Tri-Port Midget Wild finish season with gold medal performance

The other teams were no match for the Tri-Port girls.

Chief Administrative Officer officially appointed in Port McNeill

“Pete brings with him 17 years of municipal experience.”

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

Most Read