Child poverty rate in East Kootenay lowest in B.C.

But at 20.4 per cent (just over one in five children), the child poverty rate in B.C. is higher than the Canadian average of 19 per cent.

The results of the 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card suggests that the East Kootenay Regional District has one of the lowest child poverty rates in the province, according to First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.

But at 20.4 per cent (just over one in five children), the child poverty rate in B.C. is higher than the Canadian average of 19 per cent.

“On one hand, (the East Kootenay region) has some of the lowest poverty rates that we have data for,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call provincial co-ordinator. “Cranbrook is the only municipal area that we have separate data for out there, but for the East Kootenay region, we have data that shows a 15.5 per cent poverty rate, which is up two tenths of a per cent from 15.3 in last year’s report card.”

There are some other numbers for the region that also stand out in the study, Ms. Montani added.

“Cranbrook’s (child poverty rate) is higher than the regional district overall at 15.5 per cent,” she said.

In 1989, the House of Commons passed a resolution to eliminate child poverty in Canada. Since that time, B.C.’s child poverty rate has risen from 15.5 to 20.4 per cent.

The regional districts with the highest child poverty rates were the Central Coast Regional District (50.6 per cent); Mount Waddington Regional District (35.1 per cent); and Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District (33.0 per cent).

The ones with the lowest child poverty rates were the East Kootenay Regional District (15.5 per cent); Peace River Regional District (15.8 per cent); and Northern Rockies (15.9 per cent).

“(The East Kootenay is) below the provincial average, about five percentage points roughly overall in that region, as is most of the eastern part of the province,” said Ms. Montani. “Most of (B.C.) from Fort St. John down that eastern side is a lower rate, (but) not dramatically in some places.”

The East Kootenay region’s child poverty rate does not compare families and single parents, and Ms. Montani believes a provincial trend of single parents suffering from poverty would be significant if counted.

“Children in single parents, overall in the province, have a poverty rate of 50 per cent,” she added. “It’s very high… there are probably more children in that 15.5 per cent who have single parents because 1) there is one earner and if their wage is low, they’ll still be in the poverty and 2) obviously, if you’re going to go to work, you need child care and if you don’t have family support, or somebody else to help, then the lack of child care is an issue that often keeps people from working — even in couple families as well as in single parent families.”

She added that low wages for the “working poor” has become a trend spanning B.C. However, Ms. Montani is working towards reducing poverty with the First Call team by making recommendations to the federal, provincial and local governments on a wide variety of areas that require government action.

The recommendations include ideas such as encouraging the provincial government to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 to ensure the lowest paid workers earn more than a poverty wage if they work full-time throughout the year; urging the federal government to enhance maternity and parental leave to enrich the lives of family by extending the duration to 18 months while reserving additional months for fathers; and, lastly, calling on all three levels of government to pay a living wage that allows people to meet their basic needs, support their children and avoid chronic stress whether they are working regular or contract hours.

“We have made 21 recommendations in the back of the 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card and most of those are focused on the provincial government, while some of them are federal policies that would also help,” said Ms. Montani. “We have focused our attention on both levels of government.”