Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall recently made her third attempt at convincing the B.C. government to introduce a poverty reduction and economic inclusion act, but she’s not hopeful the government will be receptive to the idea.
“B.C. has had the highest overall child poverty rates for the least 13 years, and has had the highest poverty rate for a decade. It’s hard to understand how this has happened,” said Mungall. Her act is a piece of enabling legislation that would give the government direction in tackling the complex issue.
An anti-poverty plan has been proposed to the government every year for the past four years, with Mungall behind the latest three attempts.
“This is something that perplexes me. In every other jurisdiction they have a plan, it works, and it’s also non-partisan. All major parties in Canada have instituted plans, and the only ones digging in their heels are the B.C. Liberals.”
Mungall said the Liberals don’t believe in the efficacy of poverty reduction plans, but haven’t even bothered to debate it.
“They honestly think these plans don’t work, and there’s no evidence to support that. You look at Newfoundland, you look at Manitoba, you look at Quebec—they’ve enacted plans, then they’ve met their goals or come close to meeting their goals. For some reason Liberals think the plans aren’t working.”
Mungall believes a proper poverty reduction plan would incorporate feedback from people in poverty, an advisory council and multiple sectors of society including non-profits, business and adademia.
“We need to get people with demonstrated expertise, then really invest in a plan.”
Mungall said because the government is under-funding education, students in poverty don’t have the opportunities they should.
“One hundred years ago when public education was first being invested in in a meaningful way, that was why—it was well known throughout the world as a ticket out of poverty. It’s a core value that’s important for our society, and a great equalizer.”
Mungall said she’s frustrated with the lack of debate in the legislature.
“I think the history shows that with the Liberals they’ve only pulled forward one private member’s bill for debate in the entire time I’ve been there and that was to create Terry Fox day.”
She said even if they go forward with the plan, she won’t get credit.
“They often take our ideas and put them forward and adopt their own version. I would really like to debate the bill I put forward, because it’s a good bill. Will they do that? I don’t have the answer. But based on the Liberals’ track record of creating revenue streams out of people living in poverty, I’m not too hopeful. Certainly they could redeem themselves, but I don’t think they will.”