Feedback from a workshop held Friday in Nelson will contribute to a provincial poverty reduction strategy set to be written and legislated later this year.
Approximately 30 people, including municipal politicians, service providers and those with lived experience, registered to take part in the event at the Central School gymnasium that was organized and run by provincial facilitators.
Mable Elmore, the parliamentary secretary for poverty reduction and the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, travelled to Nelson for the event. She said it was important to get local perspectives from throughout B.C.
“It’s not like the plan’s going to be developed in Vancouver and implemented here. There’s regional differences,” she said.
B.C. is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan, although Elmore said one is expected to be written and legislated by the end of the year.
Friday’s workshop split up participants into groups and focused discussion on two questions: what are the issues facing you and people in poverty right now, and what would address these issues and help you and people get out of poverty?
Common themes included affordable housing and child care, improved food security and access to transportation, health providers and addiction services. Elmore said an affordable housing strategy and child-care committments will be included in the next provincial budget.
She added the NDP government isn’t waiting for the plan to be legislated to work on poverty reduction, citing the recent minimum wage increase and the elimination of PharmaCare deductibles to low-income families.
“There’s all these different areas that need action,” she said. “It’s not everything that needs to be done, but we wanted to let people know we understand it’s difficult, there’s challenges, we’re committed, we’re taking steps and we want to do more.”
It was one of 17 meetings that have already occurred throughout B.C., with 11 more to be held. Elmore said Shane Simpson, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and herself are also travelling to communities that aren’t holding meetings to talk to city councils, chambers of commerce, First Nations and service providers to get feedback.
“We’re covering a lot of ground,” she said.