SURREY — Shane Simpson, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty, was in Surrey on Thursday to hear residents’ ideas on how to reduce poverty.
The poverty rate in Surrey and B.C., is among the worst in Canada and the government is trying to implement new changes to reduce poverty. According to Simpson, there are 678,000 British Columbians living in poverty – and 75,000 of them live in Surrey.
“We have a community here who are poor and who are struggling to make their ends meet,” Simpson said. “Either, they could be on income assistance or disability benefits or they could have a job but the job doesn’t pay them enough to meet their ends.”
Thursday’s community meeting at Princess Margaret Secondary school in Surrey was part of a province-wide strategy to gather input on solutions.
“We are here as a part of the process. We are working to develop poverty reduction strategy for British Columbia,” Simpson said. “We are in Surrey to talk to the people of Surrey about issues related to poverty in this community and their ideas for solutions.”
Surrey’ Tabitha Naismith is part of the poverty reduction advisory committee and was at the meeting to hear about the issues in her community.
Naismith said that the top issue in Surrey is a lack of affordable housing.
“We have lots of homeless (people) in Surrey and Whalley and in Newton particular,” Naismith said. “It was great when NDP announced the 160 modular homes in Surrey which is a great start but more work needs to be done around housing.”
The province estimates that one in five of those living in poverty are children.
There are 28 meetings scheduled across the province. They started in Victoria on Nov. 27 and end in Chilliwack on March 29.
“We will be producing a report on what we heard and will be following that with the legislation in the fall,” Simpson said. “There will be a detailed plan that will layout how we believe we can reduce the poverty in X number of years and bring it down by a significant amount.”
Despite its challenges with poverty in some areas, Simpson believes that British Columbia is a wealthy province with great opportunities for many people.
“It’s important that we lift everybody up and that everyone has an opportunity.”