Prosperous B.C. has grim child-poverty record: group

British Columbia has shown a higher rate of child poverty than any other Canadian province for two straight years, a Vancouver group says.

British Columbia, usually seen as a land of prosperity, has had a higher rate of child poverty than any other Canadian province for two straight years, a Vancouver group says.

Citing data from Statistics Canada, the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition says 23.9 per cent of B.C. children were in households living below the federal agency's low-income cutoffs for 2003, the latest year for which figures are available.

That compares with a national average of 17.6 per cent, the group said on Thursday in a series of child-poverty fact sheets.

The group, also known as First Call, is a member of Campaign 2000, a coalition of anti-poverty groups that issued a separate report on Thursday on child poverty across Canada.

The B.C. rate in 2002 was 24.2 per cent – the province's worst showing since Statistics Canada began collecting the figures in 1980 – while the national rate was 18 per cent, the Vancouver group said.

Anti-poverty activists have linked B.C. poverty rates to the policies of Premier Gordon Campbell, who has led the country's most conservative Liberal government since 2001.

Michael Goldberg, research director of the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia, said people at the bottom of the income scale have tended to be stuck with part-time and intermittent work and have missed out on in the province's boom.

B.C. welfare rates for one-parent families have been cut by the government and shrunk further by inflation, he told CBC Online. "Single parents are really, really struggling."

The federal low-income cutoffs are intended to gauge how many people are spending disproportionate amounts of their income on food, clothing and shelter. The cutoffs are higher in big cities than in towns and rural areas where living costs tend to be lower.

The Vancouver group stressed that B.C. had Canada's lowest child poverty rate in 1980 – 10.7 per cent – but exceeded the national average from 1999 through 2003, the five most recent years for which figures are available. The New Democrats ruled the province from 1991 to 2001.