Some Canadians are much healthier than others. Poor health outcomes are more likely among: children and families living in poverty; the working poor; the unemployed/underemployed; those with limited education and/or low literacy; Aboriginal and remote populations; newcomers; persons suffering from social exclusion; the homeless; and those who have difficulty securing affordable housing. — Final Report of the Senate Subcommittee on Population Health, 2009
In late 2014, the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition issued a Child Poverty Report Card organized into 10 fact sheets, including a fact sheet on Metro Vancouver.
For this website, the takeaway is that poverty thrives in all parts of Metro Vancouver, though it may not show up at street level. Besides the often-documented Downtown Eastside, there are zones where poverty is common in Richmond, Burnaby (including Edmonds, discussed in our February 2 post), Surrey, Langley — and in fact, in almost any urban centre.
Drilling down to neighbourhood level census tracts, the frequency of child poverty is highest in the Downtown Eastside and nearby areas (an estimated 50 to 65 per cent of all children), but is also estimated at over 45 per cent in Squamish First Nation territory on the North Shore and in the burgeoning tower complexes of Coquitlam Central.
The Report Card equates poverty to Statistics Canada’s “Low Income” category, which takes in households with less than 50 per cent of median adjusted income. “‘Adjusted’ means that household needs are taken into account.” Those who dismiss poverty as an issue have argued that poor people are simply bad at managing their money. The evidence suggests, au contraire, that poor people actually don’t have much money. In 2012, an average low-income single parent with one child living in B.C. collected on the order of $13,950, peanuts in a high-cost metropolitan area like Vancouver.
The economic costs of ignoring widespread poverty — putting aside the human costs — have got to be huge. Children are too hungry and insecure to learn, and we lose much of their potential to become productive citizens; parents are too insecure to look after their kids, or to grow as productive citizens. Going out on a limb, I will suggest this is a counter-productive way to run a railroad.
The Report Card points out that government action helped to reduce the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors by about two thirds between 1989 and 2012. The incidence of child poverty increased during that time. The Coalition offers numerous recommendations for tackling the issue, for example:
- Address the demand for affordable housing and eliminate homelessness.
- Increase the combined Canada Child Tax Benefit/National Child Benefit to $5,600 per child.
- Raise the provincial minimum wage and index it annually.
- Intensify federal and provincial government efforts to help immigrants and refugees adjust to life in Canada
- Improve employment standards
- Make the tax system fairer and reduce income inequality.
The document notes that recent federal tax perks that are branded as family friendly — already a Conservative party talking point as we approach an anticipated 2015 federal election — will not benefit low-income families.