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February 5 2009 Media Release

BC Poverty Reduction Committee Announced

“The time is now for a legislated poverty reduction plan”: 200 organizations and community leaders to BC political parties.

Thursday, February 5, 2009 (Vancouver) - Two hundred organizations from across the province joined together today in a call for all-party support for a legislated BC poverty reduction plan.

The 200 groups are signatories to an open letter released today calling on all political parties to commit that, if elected in May, they will implement a comprehensive poverty reduction plan that includes:

  • Legislated targets and timelines to reduce BC’s poverty rate by one third within four
    years, and end street homelessness within two years; and,
  • Policy actions in seven key areas that would end deep poverty, improve conditions for
    the working poor, and focus on groups that are most vulnerable to poverty.

"BC's high poverty rate is unfair and avoidable," says Ted Bruce, President of the Public Health Association of BC. "Over half a million British Columbians live in poverty making it the highest poverty rate in Canada. People work hard to overcome poverty – but society must ensure policies are in place to help them achieve an adequate standard of living. Unfortunately, our policies are failing."

"Too many people in our community are vulnerable," says Michael McKnight, President & CEO of the United Way of the Lower Mainland. "We know that poverty hits children and seniors especially hard. Resilient families living in healthy, caring and inclusive communities provide the social infrastructure we need for all of us to be successful."

"People living with low income and poverty have fewer opportunities to adopt healthy behaviours such as participating in regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and refraining from smoking, which can lead to an increase in the number of cancer cases," says Kathryn Seely, Public Issues Manager for the Canadian Cancer Society’s BC & Yukon Division. "According to Statistics Canada, Canadian men and women from the lowest income groups are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than men and women in the highest income households."

"BC has been a new home for thousands of newcomers each year from all over the world who are capable of making tremendous contribution to our economy," says Sherman Chan, Director of Settlement Services at MOSAIC. "But poverty is still a fundamental challenge for many of them."

"A rock solid poverty reduction plan is needed, not another program or charity," says Ernie Crey, Senior Policy Advisor to the Sto:lo Tribal Council.

"All faith traditions call us to help the poor," says David Dranchuk, Coordinator for Societal Ministry, Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church. "Christians too often have responded to this call with soup kitchens and food banks. This is charity and charity is good. But charity alone isn’t enough. We are also called to do justice. And that means challenging the institutions that create and perpetuate poverty."

"Poverty is not a problem for individuals, it is a community problem that we all have a role in resolving," says Patrice Pratt, Chair of Vancity Credit Union. "We need to make the community investment now and have our political parties commit to legislated targets and timelines to reduce poverty and homelessness in BC."

"More and more we see people who go to work every day, but still struggle in poverty," says Judy Darcy, Secretary-Business Manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union. "Some of them belong to unions and many don’t. There are policies that would make a dramatic difference. They are known and they are possible. BC needs a comprehensive approach to boost the incomes of those living in poverty, but we also need to build the social infrastructure, public services and assets that are vital to providing a path out of poverty."

"British Columbians are hungry for leadership on poverty reduction," says Seth Klein, BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). He points to the results of a recent Environics poll, in which 74% of British Columbians said they would be more likely to support a provincial political party that pledged to make poverty reduction a high priority.

The group is also urging concerned British Columbians to join the call for a legislated poverty reduction plan by signing their names to the open letter at

To read the open letter or for more information, visit

For media interviews:

  • Ted Bruce, President, Public Health Association of BC: 604-875-4378
  • Sherman Chan, Director of Settlement Services, MOSAIC: 604-254-9626 ext. 230
  • Ernie Crey, Senior Policy Advisor, Sto:lo Tribal Council: 1-604-798-4435
  • Judy Darcy, Secretary-Business Manager, Hospital Employees’ Union: call Olive Dempsey, 604-816-3917
  • David Dranchuk, Coordinator for Societal Ministry, Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church: 604-684-6306 x221
  • Seth Klein, BC Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: 604-801-5121 x227 or call Sarah Leavitt, 604-801-5121 x233.
  • Michael McKnight, President & CEO United Way of the Lower Mainland: call Michael Becker, 778-833-2734
  • Patrice Pratt, Chair, Vancity Credit Union: call Jane MacCarthy, 604 877 4539
  • Kathryn Seely, Public Issues Manager, Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon Division: 604-675-7108 Spokespersons are also available around the province. Please contact Sarah Leavitt at 604-801-5121 x233 for details.