British Columbia

B.C. child poverty rate falling, according to StatsCan data

A new Statistics Canada report shows B.C's child poverty rate declined to 6.9 per cent in 2018 from 12 per cent in 2016. But a child poverty advocate says the data is "a bit skewed."

New report shows rate in B.C. declined to 6.9% in 2018 from 12% in 2016

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, (centre) is seen in the file photo. Simpson says new StatsCan numbers showing a sharp decline in child poverty since 2016 demonstrate efforts by government are working. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

B.C's child poverty rate appears to be significantly declining, according to a new Statistics Canada report titled "the 2018 Canadian Income Survey," which shows the rate decreasing to 6.9 per cent in 2018 from 12 per cent in 2016.

For the B.C. government, the sharp decline is evidence its policies are working, but according to a child poverty advocate, the statistics aren't using up-to-date numbers for things like housing costs — which have increased considerably.

Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, said minimum wage increases, child care and housing policies, including rent supplements, along with a strong economy have all contributed to the decrease in child poverty reflected in the StatsCan data. 

Simpson also acknowledged that the federal Canada Child Benefit, which was launched as part of the 2016 budget, has helped.

"There's no doubt it's truly a combination of federal and provincial initiatives that are making a difference," he said.

Simpson said the success of the federal scheme demonstrates that a similar provincial plan — which will reach 290,000 families — will also help kids get out of poverty.

"The Child Opportunity Benefit, a very significant piece of our child poverty strategy will kick in in October, and that will put significant money into families across the province," he said.

'This data is a bit skewed'

According to Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator for First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, the numbers come with a caution that StatsCan is using outdated metrics from 2008.

The 2018 Canadian Income Survey uses what's called a Market Basket Measure (MBM), which uses a variety of goods and services to determine the cost of living.

Montani points out the new StatsCan report is using the 2008 MBM, and across the province, housing costs, in particular, have increased dramatically.

"This data is a bit skewed," she said, adding that the numbers come from a voluntary survey. 

However, Montani said the poverty rate does appear to be decreasing.

"Has there been a material improvement in poverty rates, or the number of children in poverty, or the depth of their poverty? I would say yes," she said, crediting the Canada Child Benefit for the change.

"I think it's overstated," said Montani, saying the MBM drops the poverty line too low.

She's looking forward to an update to the MBM that's expected in June, to get numbers she feels will more accurately reveal the condition of children living in poverty in B.C. 

Both Simpson and Montani agree that more work needs to be done to get more children out of poverty.

For Simpson, the tough challenges lie in getting people out of a street-entrenched cycle of homelessness, along with housing affordability in general. 

For Montani, policy changes around child care will bring a major impact, especially for single-parent families.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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