The Windermere Teachers’ Association has brought an important cause to the public’s attention. Child poverty, however, is something of a misnomer. It’s not the children who are poor; it’s the parents. For the most part, children don’t get to choose what kind of environment they’re raised in. Undoubtedly if they could, a family plagued by under-employment or lack thereof, financial stress as a result, and any related addictions would likely be the first option crossed off the list. The reality is that many children, even in our own community, are the victims of exactly these types of circumstances, and B.C.’s provincial government has fallen behind the rest of the country in offering them a way out.
Who better to challenge the government in this regard than the British Columbia Teachers’ Association (BCTF). Now that the union has secured contracts for its teachers, it’s addressing an issue that’s been slowly improving over the years, but a tangible solution has yet to be identified and the end goal of eradicating this problem is still a long way off.
According to the First Call BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition’s 2012 Child Poverty Report Card, the child poverty rate in B.C. dropped from 16.3 percent in 2009 to 14.3 percent in 2010, using Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs) before tax as a measure of poverty, which measures income thresholds. However, the B.C. rate was still the second worst of any province, behind the rate of 17.6 percent in Manitoba.
Time will tell if the jump in B.C.’s minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10.25 last May after a decade-long freeze will make an even greater difference. Instead of having the lowest minimum wage in the country, British Columbians at the bottom of the pay scale can now anticipate an additional $4,000 annually, with an hourly wage rate on par with or even higher than most other Canadian provinces.
A provincial strategy aimed at reducing child poverty would have to include an educational component, such as teaching sound fiscal management in the school system from the beginning, rooting mathematics in practical applications and requiring high school students to graduate with a thorough understanding of taxes, credit, savings and loans, as well as mental health issues.
The BCTF is wasting time requesting a vague commmunity-based provincial strategy; the solution lies within the school system itself — in a revamped curriculum that directly addresses all socio-economic problems head on.