COLUMN: Too many B.C. kids are going hungry

One in five, or 167,810 children, live in poverty in this province.

In our province, families are struggling to make ends meet, despite working hard to provide for their children and loved ones.

Children are going to school on a hungry stomach. According to First Call’s 2015 B.C. Child Poverty Report Card, one in five, or 167,810 children live in poverty in B.C., based on the latest 2013 Statistics Canada data. The report also notes the high rate of child poverty in areas of Surrey.

Despite repeated calls for a poverty reduction strategy, the provincial government has not adequately addressed the needs of British Columbians. The government’s every moment of inaction negatively affects the lives of children who are struggling to learn because they did not have breakfast or the single mother who has to decide between putting food on the table and enrolling her child in an extracurricular activity.

In the past, the government has enthusiastically announced its budget while ignoring the glaring deficiencies in its budgetary decisions.

Children and families cannot endure the hardships of poverty any longer. According to the report card, kids like talented nine-year-old Mason Alford would like to learn music, go on class trips and get involved in school dances

During the 2013 election year, the government spent $11 million on an awards show which has not yielded any of the results the government had touted. Our young artists and athletes need support for programs and extracurricular activities. Our families need support so they do not have to endure the adversity of being in a cycle of poverty.

While the total number of children living in poverty in B.C. has decreased since 2000, the percentage change has not been significant. Many families and children have been left behind. Quebec introduced a poverty reduction strategy which drastically reduced the poverty rate. Affordable child care and practical policies are responsible for this success.

Funding for child care, education and affordable housing, and cooperation with other levels of government, will help ensure success here, the report card notes. On the other hand, one-off policies can only result in limited results.

B.C.’s overall child poverty rate is 20.4 per cent and it has only decreased a minuscule 0.2 per cent from 2012 to 2013. Certain positive initiatives have been introduced by the government, but compared to other jurisdictions, B.C.’s response has been weak.

I urge the provincial government to announce a poverty reduction strategy in the upcoming budget and the federal government to begin introducing policies to end poverty. Unlike some political leaders who irresponsibly spend thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money on expensive hotels and restaurants, a hard-working individual like Amanda only has $250 at the end of the month after paying rent  and the grocery bill for herself and her child (report card example).

Government budgets are meant for the welfare of the people and to address the most pressing needs of our society. A top priority should be to end poverty so that no child has to go to school hungry.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursing a law degree. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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