The provincial government has announced a policy to cut child poverty in half in B.C. by 2024, and overall poverty by a quarter. What does this policy consist of? A piece of legislation that says the government has to do it.
It’s called the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, and it commits the government to creating a strategy and sets targets for poverty reduction. How is this to be done? No word on that.
While we’re at it, why not a bill to reduce ICBC rates by 50 per cent or a bill to double ferry sailings? Any of these are as likely to transpire.
If anyone could do such a thing, it would have been done years ago. We haven’t, because the main determinants of child poverty are far beyond the reach of government. They include the high cost of housing, the growing number of single-parent families, drug abuse and addiction, the hollowing out of the working class and the huge problems facing Indigenous families.
Setting goals into law would certainly focus the government’s attention and give everyone a public measure of its progress. But picking an impressive target and reaching it are two very different things.
Certainly more should be done to reduce poverty than previously, and a written strategy could guide those policy decisions. Although that doesn’t require a law that can be repealed, amended or ignored.
Conveniently, the bill includes no penalties, so the only punishment the government would face for missing the targets is a public-relations black eye.