NDP critic rebuts minister’s letter

Re: “Minister responds to poverty issue” (Letters to the Editor Nov. 29, 2011)

Re: “Minister responds to poverty issue” (Letters to the Editor Nov. 29, 2011)

Children and Families Minister Mary McNeil’s defense of British Columbia’s appalling record of having the worst child poverty rate in the county for eight years in a row is truly disappointing. It ignores the fact that, starting with the B.C. Liberals in 2002, child poverty spiked way above the national average in B.C., and has stayed there. Ms. McNeil also ignores the point columnist Paul Willcocks was making about the need for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.

Her insistence that “no one wants to see a child living in poverty” is not matched by actions to back it up. Instead, the Liberals’ latest plan appears to be to download more responsibility onto communities through what she calls “regional poverty reduction strategies.” Ms. McNeil regularly justifies this inadequate solution by saying that the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, supports the move, but ignores the fact the Representative has also repeatedly called for a comprehensive plan.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond has welcomed any action on poverty reduction, but she is clear in the recently-released service plan for her office, which states “B.C.’s child poverty rate underscores the critical need for all parties to come together to develop an integrated, coordinated and focused child poverty plan…”

At best, the minister’s push for regional strategies is a start, and could form an important element of an actual plan. At worst, it amounts to a continuation of existing practice, which is to ignore the problem and pretend that Premier Clark’s so-called jobs plan is anything like a solution.

The B.C. New Democrats once again introduced legislation this month that opens the door to a real and comprehensive poverty reduction plan that includes targets and timelines, and we welcome the Liberals to work with us to adopt the legislation.

Claire Trevena

Opposition Critic for Children and Families

MLA, North Island