Shane Simpson, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty reduction, recently sang his government’s praises at a Surrey Board of Trade luncheon in Whalley.
He noted B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, at 4.7 per cent while wage growth has accelerated by 4.1 per cent, “the highest in over a decade, and we’re expected to lead Canada’s economic growth this year and next.”
But Simpson also laid out some challenges.
“People in Surrey and in other communities who are vulnerable, who are struggling, have been challenged in very real ways over the past number of years. We need to do better.”
We’ll say. Surrey Memorial Hospital recently discharged two patients and sent them by taxi to a homeless shelter in Chilliwack, prompting a sharp response by that city’s mayor, Ken Popove: “Discharging patients into homeless shelters when they still require some level of care is not an acceptable practice.”
Bill 39 – B.C.’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Act – was passed in the fall, with legislated targets and timelines committing the government to reduce overall poverty by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent over the next five years.
The government is expected to soon reveal the details of the strategy based on affordability, opportunity, social inclusion and reconciliation.
Simpson described the strategy as a “road map” to lift people up out of poverty. B.C., he noted, is the only province that didn’t have a long-term strategy for poverty reduction.
So much is riding on this poverty reduction strategy.
Statistics Canada figures for 2016 indicated roughly 557,000 people are living in poverty in B.C. and that figure is no doubt higher today.
Jonquil Hallgate is co-chair of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Task Force. She says she hopes the strategy will present a “seamless plan” to prevent more people from joining the ranks of the homeless.
Let’s hope that happens.