Income assistance changes a shaky first pillar for ‘Families First’ plan
VICTORIA– Bringing back earnings exemptions for people on income assistance that the Liberals removed a decade ago is a welcome step but a shaky first pillar for a ‘Families First’ plan, says New Democrat social development critic Carole James.
“It’s been more than a year since Premier Clark first started talking about putting families first, so it’s disappointing that the so-called first pillar of the plan is nothing more than bringing back earning exemptions that the Liberals removed a decade ago,” said James. “Given that we were one of only two provinces in the country without an earnings exemption, the premier is doing little more than playing catch-up.
"I have to wonder what the other two pillars the premier plans to announce will include if all she's offering with this announcement is putting back exemptions she stripped away."
James also raised concerns about the two week increase in the amount of time people must wait after applying for income assistance.
“Most people apply for income assistance as a last resort; making families wait five weeks instead of three when they are already in dire straits is cruel and will put increased pressure on food banks, shelters and other community organizations that are already stretched to the limit.”
James challenged the Liberals to adopt a province-wide poverty reduction strategy, noting New Democrats have repeatedly pushed for a comprehensive strategy that examines systemic issues such as housing, education, and childcare that lead to and contribute to poverty.
“If Premier Clark had looked at some of the other provinces that are working on improving the lives of families, she would have seen that they have two things in common: an anti-poverty strategy, and lower poverty rates than we have here in British Columbia,” said James.
“It doesn’t matter whether these provinces are led by Conservatives, Liberals, or New Democrats, they agree with B.C.’s New Democrats that the first step to addressing poverty is to examine the underlying factors and develop a comprehensive plan with timelines and targets, rather than pasting band-aids on the problem.”
Adrian Dix and B.C.'s New Democrats are committed to tackling inequality through concrete measures like a province-wide poverty reduction plan and a commitment to make post-secondary education more affordable through re-instating needs-based non-repayable student grants.