PRESS RELEASE: JUNE 17, 2011

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B.C. still worst in country on child poverty: advocate

By Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun June 16, 2011

British Columbia has registered the highest rate of child poverty in the country for the eighth year in a row, child and youth advocacy coalition First Call said Wednesday.
"We're still the worst of all the provinces," First Call provincial coordinator Adrienne Montani said in an interview.
"What this means is that kids aren't doing well. Too many kids aren't getting what they need," she added.
"We are a rich province so this is really shameful."
Pointing to data collected by Statistics Canada, First Call said B.C.'s child poverty rate rose to 12 per cent in 2009, up from 10.4 per cent in 2008.
The number of poor children in the province rose during that time to 100,000 in 2009 from 87,000 in 2008.
Montani said the increase was expected given the recent recession, but added the numbers also show the province needs to do more.
Minister of Children and Family Development Mary McNeil agreed Wednesday that poverty reduction should be a key focus, and said her government is taking action on many fronts.
"I don't think anyone living in poverty is acceptable. I think that's where we have to keep working together on making sure the right actions are in place," she said.
McNeil said B.C.'s child poverty rate has been reduced by almost 38 per cent since 2003, and said the most recent numbers are only current to 2009, so they don't take into account recent actions such as the government's move to increase the minimum wage.
Nevertheless, she agreed more could be done to ensure greater gains.
"We have made progress, but we're not there yet and I think we're going to continue to put in these actions and see what we can do to keep taking the 38 per cent decrease even further," she said.
Montani responded, saying there needs to be a concrete plan in place to ensure true progress is made.
"We really do want a plan, because that's what brings the accountability and gets away from what just sounds like spin," she said.
"We're really looking for something a bit more concrete and accountable that says, 'This is what we have in mind, this is the plan we will hold ourselves to, this is the target we're trying to reach and this is how we're going to reach it,'" Montani added.
New Democratic Party critic Shane Simpson agreed, saying the government needs to come forward with a concrete and meaningful plan to address the issue. "The government, for all of its claims, clearly does not have a strategy or an approach that's substantive to deal with the issue of poverty."
"We want the government to move forward with a plan that will begin to address this issue."

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