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Oct. 5, 2023
VICTORIA – Amidst high inflation and cost-of-living challenges in 2022, British Columbia took substantive action on reconciliation, housing and child care, affordability, and community supports for those with complex needs.
This was highlighted in the 2022 annual report on TogetherBC: B.C.’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the fourth such report since government introduced legislation in 2018 to reduce poverty with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act.
TogetherBC is the Province’s first poverty-reduction strategy and, by law, government is required to produce an annual progress report.
“We all want people in B.C. to live full and dignified lives,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We’ve been building a path out of poverty for thousands of people, but there is more work to do, and our government is taking action by renewing our Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2024.”
Tabled in the legislature on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, the 2022 annual report details government actions in priority areas, such as housing, education, child care and employment supports. Although B.C. continued to out pace its legislated poverty targets, 2021 saw an increase in poverty levels compared to 2020, likely owing to the end of temporary COVID-19 income benefits. The report recognizes that more work is needed to sustain B.C.’s progress in the context of global inflation.
Key actions to help reduce poverty in 2022 included:
“The housing crisis is hurting people, holding back our economy and posing a challenge in our efforts to eliminate poverty,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “As the report points out, we’re introducing historic legislation and making record investments in housing, so that people of all incomes have access to the safe and secure homes they need to live affordably and stably in the province they call home.”
The report notes that in 2021, B.C.’s total poverty rate was 45% lower than 2016 levels, and the rate of child poverty (under 18 years) fell 54.6%. This means there were 313,000 fewer people living in poverty, including 77,000 fewer children.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act requires the strategy to be renewed every five years. In 2022, the ministry began asking British Columbians for their views on a refreshed strategy, and more than 10,000 people contributed with more than 70% reporting lived experience of poverty. The new strategy, with an additional emphasis on reducing poverty among Indigenous communities, is expected to be released in spring 2024.
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“We are committed to delivering results that everyone in B.C. can see and feel. The Declaration Act Action Plan will help get us there. The plan, which contains 89 actions, commits the Province to listen, learn and incorporate Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives into all services and supports that are meant to lift people up and out of poverty.”
Zahra Esmail, chair, Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee, CEO, Vantage Point –
“It is clear that strides have been made to tackle some key challenges contributing to poverty in B.C., including housing supply, child care costs, and employment and income supports. B.C. is coming to the end of the first Poverty Reduction Strategy and has undertaken a wide period of engagement to inform the next strategy. I anticipate that key learnings from the past three years will contribute to a stronger, bolder, and even more impactful next Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2024.”
Krishna Pendakur, professor of economics, Simon Fraser University; member, Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee –
“The report highlights the many important steps taken by the government to reduce poverty, and the suffering caused by income poverty, over the past five years. These steps included: an increase in social assistance benefit rates; the creation of a supplemental child benefit for lower-income families; the provision of temporary modular housing units; and the creation of child care spaces. These steps were instrumental in B.C. realizing its legislated poverty-reduction goals and holding onto those gains.”
Caitlin Wright, legal advocate, Together Against Poverty Society –
“It has been encouraging to see the Province take important steps in several areas essential to reducing poverty, including specific supports for some of those most impacted, like youth aging out of care and those on benefits. However, much more hard work lays before us if we truly want to address the rising depth of poverty, the unaffordability of basic housing and food, and the toxic drug supply that has silenced thousands of lives. Now, more than ever, bold actions to increase social assistance rates and minimum wage but especially to address rampant housing insecurity for tenants is critical.”
For information about the TogetherBC report, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy
For a backgrounder about B.C. making progress on poverty, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BG_TogetherBCAnnualReport.pdf
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction