Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall tabled a poverty reduction and economic inclusion bill to the legislature last Thursday, hoping to encourage BC to catch up with the rest of Canada in introducing anti-poverty legislation.
“It’s not the first time we’ve introduced this bill,” said Mungall, noting it was put forward in 2011 and in the spring of 2014, but was ignored and never came up for debate.
There was also a letter and postcard-writing campaign urging the government to act, to no response. But the issue has become of heightened importance since Saskatchewan introduced a poverty reduction plan on Oct. 22.
That leaves BC “dead last” in the fight against poverty, said Mungall.
“And we’re not only dead last in that we don’t have a plan, we’re also dead last in overall poverty rates. For 13 years in a row we’ve been the worst. We’ve had the worst child poverty for a decade. It’s interesting that Saskatchewan, which has the second lowest rates, has even seen the need to lead.”
Mungall said she has a feeling her urgings may be ignored, but she’s doing everything she can to bring it to debate. She said the decision will ultimately end up on the desk of Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
“If they don’t want to debate my bill specifically, I’m calling on the minister of social development, Don McRae, and the minister of children and family development, Stephanie Cadieux, to put something forward,” she said.
Mungall quoted the late Nelson Mandela, and asserted that poverty is a man-made structure that can be “undone by people”.
“But it takes effort. Happenstance, ad hoc or random policies are not getting us to the place we need to be on this. We need to prove we’re a province committed to reducing poverty. Our current government policies contribute to poverty rather than reduce it.”
Mungall said this is a bipartisan issue.
“When you see how this impacts families, you’ll see that government action is needed immediately. We have children who are going to school hungry. They can’t sit still, they can’t learn because they’re hungry. We’ve got teachers who shell out of their own pockets to feed the kids in their own classrooms,” she said.
She noted that the first province to introduce anti-poverty legislation was Quebec, followed by Newfoundland, which are governed by different parties.
“Addressing poverty is a non-partisan issue. The government needs to start putting a plan together.”
Mungall urged her constituents to write emails and letters, expressing their support of a poverty and economic inclusion plan.
“It was never acceptable to be the worst in Canada. Send that email off and if enough people do maybe we’ll see some action.”