Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall has introduced a bill designed to tackle poverty in B.C., the only province that has no such legislation.
Mungall and B.C.’s New Democrats are nothing if not persistent. This is the fifth time since 2011 that they have brought forward similar legislation.
“Record high food bank usage, many seniors unable to afford shelter and stubbornly high child poverty rates show that our economy is not benefiting many B.C. families,” said Mungall, the Opposition critic for social development. “We clearly need legislation that will result in government action and accountability.”
“I’m not giving up,” she said in an interview with the Advance on Monday. “We know that poverty reduction plans work. They are the only thing that holds governments accountable.”
Describing the bill as “enabling legislation”, she said anti-poverty bills start the process to create laws designed to reduce poverty.
“Anti-poverty legislation holds a government’s feet to the fire,” she said. “The intent is to have a wide scope that runs across several ministries.”
Mungall said that many government policies that help keep people in poverty are not embedded in law.
When disabled people, for instance, don’t have the same rights that other citizens do, the result is increased poverty.
“All provinces have their challenges, such as Alberta’s drop in oil and gas revenues, but having a plan enables them to respond to those challenges,” she said. “B.C. does not even have a plan. We have heard over and over again from the government that ‘We have a jobs plan’ and so on, but it doesn’t address key problems.
“Many people aren’t able to work without some sort of assistance, and they aren’t getting the services they need and deserve.”
If passed, the poverty reduction and economic inclusion act would mandate government to develop a poverty reduction strategy within one year, and legislate specific targets and timelines to reduce poverty and the impact it has on families.
Mungall noted that if the B.C. Liberals had passed the act earlier, policies such as the clawback of bus passes from people with disabilities would never have gone forward.
“This bill has always been available for this government to debate and pass, but they just don’t do it,” she said. “My constituents deserve better. The people of B.C. deserve better.”