For a so-called progressive government to allow the provincial income and disability rates to languish $10,000 below the poverty line is totally unacceptable.
The BC NDP government likes to tell a story about this themselves and the fact that they have allowed disabled people to continue to live in poverty is heartbreaking and goes against everything the BC NDP claim to be.
So, with a new Premier, I want to know if this will change.
INCOME AND DISABILITY
My question is to the Premier. Will he raise the provincial rates for income and disability assistance to above the poverty line?
Hon. N. Simons:
I thank the member for the question, very much.
Obviously, the issue of inflation and poverty are important to us as a government. You’ve seen the action that we’ve taken over the last couple of years. We had the largest single increase in income and disability assistance rates in the history of the province. We’ve taken a number of other affordability measures to reduce the impact of inflation and rising cost of living, which have been well received by people in the sector. We’re always looking at ways of reducing the impact of higher prices on people and always looking for ways of reducing poverty in this province.
I would point out, as well, that between 2016 and 2020, we raised over 104,000 children out of poverty during that period of time, and we’re going to continue to work on that.
House Leader, Third Party, supplemental.
I understand what the previous government’s approach to poverty reduction had been. I’m trying to get an understanding of what our new Premier’s approach to poverty is going to be.
The housing measures announced yesterday by the Premier don’t actually guarantee any affordability at all. The annual income for disabled people in British Columbia, even after what the minister just noted, is a dismal $16,000. That’s currently $10,000 below the poverty line.
Even under this so-called progressive government that we have here, the rates continue to languish. In the increase last year that the minister just mentioned, the increases have almost been entirely erased by inflation.
It’s heartbreaking, really. We have condemned those with disabilities to live in poverty in this province. We can’t fix housing without an intersectional lens. The executive director of B.C.’s. Homelessness Services Association said these rates “fall short of what’s needed for people to find housing.”
The Premier must start by recognizing that raising our assistance rates is a necessary part of our housing strategy. Will the Premier raise the income and disability rates to be above the poverty line?
Hon. N. Simons:
I do, actually, appreciate getting questions on this issue because it’s important that we keep these issues in front of the public of B.C.
We know that the previous government is uninterested in this. As a matter of fact, the demonstrated actions of our government have indicated quite clearly that our interest is in reducing poverty in this province. We have a poverty reduction strategy. We have measured our successes. Our successes are considerable, but there is always more work to do.
Absolutely, the issues that the member raises are of concern to us, all of us as members of the government caucus. We’re proud to continue to work on finding ways to reduce poverty. That may include rates. It may include other benefits, tax benefits that have been rolled out over the last number of months.
The work continues. The work is an essential core of our government’s philosophy and our interest in reducing poverty in this province.