Monday, March 14, 2011


Child poverty in West Vancouver? In that affluent municipality? Well, yes and no, according to Tom Fletcher’s article entitled Time to Enrich Poverty Debate in BC (March 9, Comox Valley Record). Mr. Fletcher bases his concept of child poverty in BC on the ideas of Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan of West Vancouver. In a paper called Child Poverty in West Vancouver, Ralph Sultan takes issue with the Statistics Canada report on child poverty that gave BC such a shiner.

Where did Mr. Sultan go for his research? Well, West Vancouver. The same West Vancouver I became acquainted with in 2006 in a blockade at Eagleridge Bluffs. The Bluffs were destroyed by Kevin Falcon, then Liberal Transportation Minister, in order to save about six minutes getting to the Olympics in Whistler. Still, this is an odd place to go to research a paper on child poverty. West Vancouver is the wealthiest municipality in BC and one of the top contenders for that title in all of Canada. Over seventy per cent of the homes in West Vancouver are worth well over a million dollars. Nevertheless, this is where Mr. Fletcher studies child poverty in BC to prove there isn’t any. Or when there is that it is primarily single women with children, some immigrants, and First Nations people on reserves who are responsible for clogging up the child poverty statistics that make BC look bad.

Especially single women with children. It’s their fault, Mr. Sultan seems to imply, that they and their children are poor. Never mind that outside the ethnic communities marriages now break down nearly half of the time and many will leave women with a child or two to support. And while Mr. Sultan claims that “his personal cause at the moment” is to get single mothers back into the work force he sneers at Quebec’s provincially subsidized day care. The cost to parents for day care in Quebec is seven dollars a day, or one hundred and forty dollars a month, which is the lowest in Canada. In BC the average cost for day care is six hundred to seven hundred dollars a month which is the highest in the nation. So we have both the highest child poverty rates in Canada and also the highest cost for day care in Canada.

No wonder the population in BC is shrinking. If it weren’t for immigration we would be in serious trouble. When women are expected to be both producers (get and keep outside jobs) and reproducers (make the babies, feed and water them to adulthood and be ready with abject Mea Culpas if things go off the rails in the process) without adequate affordable social services, then many women decide to pass on reproducing altogether.

Quebec is smarter. That province has leaders intelligent enough to recognize that population declines when governments refuse to provide adequate help with the costs of rearing children. And they don’t want to rely on immigration for population numbers as BC has done for years now. Instead of relying indefinitely on immigration for a viable provincial population, Quebec leaders are concentrating on growing their own. And to do this, the Quebec government knows it has to provide better services for Quebec women in order for them to feel comfortable about being able to provide for their children after they have them. And not just help when a child is starving or dying (in BC one child in three in the care of the province goes to bed hungry at night). In BC we also need programs that lends support where needed in all of the steps of child rearing, for all children of BC, not just the most desperately poor.

This province needs leaders who recognize that children must be a priority. What we don’t need are more pompous, sanctimonious pronouncements by BC Liberal Party politicians and correspondents, who, in my opinion, can’t write, can’t reason, and understand nothing about the lives of women and children outside their own class which includes most of the women and children in BC. And then to add insult to injury, these same BC Liberals love to quote Bible verses, especially the one where Jesus said: “Lo, the poor will be with you always”. This it to reassure the affluent people of West Vancouver where Mr. Ralph Sultan reigns as Liberal MLA that they do not have to fret about child poverty in the rest of BC. Get it? Because child poverty is sanctified by Jesus Christ. The Bible says so!

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