University women’s group pushing child poverty onto election agenda

Canadian Federation of University Women Victoria is hosting a talk on child poverty in Saanich next Wednesday

Child poverty remains a serious and lingering issue in B.C., and Canadian Federation of University Women is working to make that issue a priority with voters leading up to the May provincial election.

The CFUW is organizing talks on child poverty across the province this month, and the Victoria chapter is hosting a forum next Wednesday at the Salvation Army Citadel in Saanich.

“A lot of families are hurting due to the recession, minimum wage isn’t keeping up with inflation and the poorest are suffering,” said Jill Leslie, vice-president Canadian Federation of University Women Victoria. “And in many cases those poor are children.”

Leslie points to the 2012 Child Poverty Report Card by First Call – B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. That report assessed that B.C. is “at the bottom of the heap” in terms of most poverty measurements: a child poverty rate at 14. 3 per cent, the worst in Canada except for Manitoba; and the worst poverty rate for kids living with two parents.

“We think if child poverty moves up the public agenda, then it will move up the political agenda as well,” Leslie said.

Poverty researcher David Hay, one of the keynote speakers, said when it comes to child poverty, there are no single policies or quick solutions to make a significant dent in the statistics.

Until recently, B.C. has lagged in terms of its minimum wage and major cities such as Vancouver and Victoria are expensive to live, but Hay said social assistance spending in B.C. isn’t vastly different than other provinces.

“It’s hard to pinpoint why (child poverty) is different in B.C. than other provinces,” Hay said. “B.C. has gone backward over the last decade from one of the best to one of the worst.”

The overall economy, job creation and wages can play a key role in reducing poverty, but so can funding for support programs for families with young children – everything from federal tax credits, prenatal programs, early childhood programs and affordable, accessible childcare.

Reducing poverty takes generations, rather than years, Hay said, and needs to be backed by consistent supports for families with young children.

“The economy and jobs are always important and social assistance is always important,” Hay said. “But the main thing is to support families with kids to make sure they have adequate clothing and shelter so (parents) can get those kids to school.

“If you can take care of that, you’ll slowly and generationally reduce poverty.”

The free talk will also feature child poverty advocates from the Stan Hagen Centre for the Family and Together Against Poverty Society. Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong (Liberal), and Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James (NDP) are also slated to speak.

“Raising Children Out of Poverty–How?” is April 10, 7 to 9 p.m., Salvation Army Citadel, 4030 Douglas St. See cfuwvictoria.org or call 250-391-3908.

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