A tale of poverty in two provinces

The blog for the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has an interesting article comparing the poverty reduction strategies for Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. Twelve years ago, the two provinces shared the distinction of having some of the highest poverty rates in the country: BC’s was the highest at 15.1 per cent while Newfoundland and Labrador was a not too distant fourth place at 13.2 per cent.

Newfoundland now has one of the lowest poverty rates amongst the provinces, with 6.5 per cent of the population living in poverty. BC, on the other hand, still has the distinction of having, by far, the highest poverty rate amongst the provinces at 11.5 per cent.

The blog article attributes Newfoundland and Labrador's significant reduction in poverty to the existence of a provincial poverty strategy that includes:

  • the expansion of a prescription drug program for low-income residents, reduction in income tax rates for low-income earners;
  • a program to assist people transitioning from social assistance to paid employment;
  • the development of education and training programs for people with disabilities;
  • and partnerships with community-based organizations.

On the other hand, the BC's government approach to poverty reduction has been piecemeal. Recently BC launched a community-based poverty reduction strategy pilot project and although CPJ says this is a step in the right direction, the strategy is missing some key components, including affordable housing, accessible childcare, increased minimum wage and improved social assistance.