Opinion

COLUMN: Poverty reduction plan needed

Coun. Robin Cherbo. - File Photo
Coun. Robin Cherbo.
— image credit: File Photo

Poverty reduction plans have been developed across Canada; unfortunately British Columbia is one of the last provinces to create a poverty reduction plan.

As a city council liaison to SPAN (Social Planning Action Network) members received a grant to development a poverty reduction plan for Nelson.

There are many reasons for poverty in Canada and BC, including the fact that governments, federally and provincially, are continuously promoting tax cuts as the panacea to create more jobs along with prosperity across the land.

I attended the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments in April, in Creston where Stockwell Day was a guest speaker and was also was selling the idea of tax cuts and two-tier medicine in Canada as “the best thing since sliced bread.” On the other hand there was a forum in Nelson presented by the local Council of Canadians who selected Seth Klein from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as the tax forum presenter.

Quote from the Center for Policy Alternatives website on the BC tax forum in Nelson:  “According to statistics, taxes in British Columbia are the lowest in Canada. Low taxes are meant to boost the economy. But this has not happened. In 2010, BC was fifth out of 10 provinces in economic performance, fourth in personal income, seventh in jobs and ninth in social conditions. BC’s tax system has changed significantly in the last 15 years. Our tax revenue has fallen relative to the size of the provincial economy — from 11.6 per cent of GDP in 2000-01 to 10 per cent in 2011-12. This difference amounts to $3.5 billion a year.”

The BC government promotes a balanced budget and because they have a shortfall in available funding, this results in reduced funding to hospitals, school boards and social programs.

They do not mention that federal and provincial corporate taxes have been continuously cut since 2001 while inflation has increased. The federal government has just announced that they are not renewing the health accord with provinces where the outcome will be transferring less funding for health care over the next few years.

All this ends up in downloading costs to municipalities who have to deal with the lack of funding for social issues.

One example is in dealing with people with mental illness and addictions.

The Nelson Police Department, the Nelson Fire and Rescue Services and local health authority are dealing with complex repeat patients over and over again, costing more money to all the local providers of social assistance.

Seth Klein quote: “British Columbians are open to tax increases, and that the province would be well advised to increase revenues so that we can invest in services that improve our quality of life (such as affordable child care, seniors care and better public transit). It also needs to ensure everyone — especially those at the top and corporations — pays a fair share.”

If the trend continues from rightist federal and provincial governments to cut taxes it will have a detrimental effect to cost effective social services including health care.

Welfare rates have not increased in over seven years; along with tax cuts, it has increased the number of people facing poverty, including the working poor.

The majority of Canadians are willing to pay more taxes for social programs as long as big business and corporations pay their fair share.

A poverty reduction plan could be developed for BC by the provincial government.

Reducing poverty could be addressed by changing welfare to a guaranteed annual income system and increasing the minimum wage just to name a couple of possible solutions.

In Nelson, as a local center for social service providers, it is difficult to deal with complex social problems with continuous funding cuts and/or funding freezes.

This includes BC Housing along with many social programs which make dealing with poverty related issues very costly and burdensome to the municipality and citizens.

— Robin Cherbo is a councillor for the City of Nelson. He shares this space with his fellow members of council.

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