EDITORIAL: A poverty plan

You wouldn’t know it by driving down any of the major thoroughfares in the Tri-Cities, but there are pockets of poverty that would surprise.

While gleaming townhouses and grand single-family homes creep up the mountain and new towers gleam in city centres, there are other homes where meals are sometimes put together from food bank basics and living conditions are spartan at best.

In many of these poorer homes, children struggle, as do their parents.

But the social safety net isn’t always as strong as it could be, according to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. She’s the province’s independent children’s representative, who blamed child poverty in part for the deaths of 21 babies.

None of the infants died in the Tri-City area where poverty rates are generally lower than in rural B.C. However, Turpel-Lafond’s call for a provincial strategy on child poverty would benefit families here, too.

We already know from information gathered on kindergarten students in School District 43 that while almost all children start school with vulnerabilities in learning or social development, kids from poorer homes face even more.

Tackling poverty is an obvious way to improve life chances for these kids .

How much poverty is there in the Tri-Cities? It’s hard to tell because people don’t flaunt it. Sometimes economic hardship is hidden even in affluent homes. While welfare-dependent children under 19 is 2.7% in B.C., in Coquitlam it’s 1.7%, in Port Coquitlam it’s 1.8%, and in Port Moody, where there are fewer families on income assistance, it’s 0.7%. Being on income assistance doesn’t mean children go without, but likely their parents are having a tough time meeting all their financial obligations. Single parents who can’t work because of disability or other barriers have to live on $1,400 to $1,700 a month with all the credits and government programs available to them. That’s not a princely sum by any means when rent takes up 30% or more.

You can argue that people make their own choices. But when it comes to children, tackling poverty would be a good investment in the future.

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