Poverty was again a focal point for local New Democrats, honing in on the B.C. Liberal government’s track record in the run-up to next spring’s provincial election.
Barb Nederpel, who was declared the NDP nominee in Kamloops-North Thompson on the weekend, suggested Premier Christy Clark should take advantage of Hunger Awareness Week (Sept. 19-23) to educate herself.
Hunger in B.C. is a solvable problem, Nederpel said.
"Food Banks B.C. reports that more than 100,000 people are fed each month through the 98 food banks provincewide,” said Nederpel. "A Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) study revealed that almost half a million British Columbians experience food insecurity."
While lauding the efforts of the Kamloops Food Bank, which have been nationally recognized, Nederpel said food banks were never intended to become permanent fixtures.
The CIHR study found more than one in 10 B.C. households struggling to put food on the table in 2011-12. Families with children under the age of 18 were at an even greater risk of food insecurity, with one in six B.C. children living in a food insecure household, she noted.
"In Kamloops the food bank has almost 7,000 clients with one in three being children" said Nederpel. "It is disappointing to see so little action from the premier when it is so broadly understood that poor nutrition leads to poorer physical health, and increased depression and anxiety disorders."
What would an NDP government do to address chronic poverty?
"New Democrats have made four attempts now to introduce a poverty reduction plan in the B.C. legislature and four times the Liberals have rejected the idea" said Nederpel. "With 20 percent of B.C. children living in poverty, Christy Clark needs to act immediately to help them and their families."
Earlier in the week, Nancy Bepple, who intends to run against Transportation Minister Todd Stone in Kamloops-South, took aim at Clark’s announcement of new funding for affordable housing.
Clark said Monday her government is committing $500 million to improve access to affordable family.
A total of 2,900 rental units will be created, in partnership with non-profit societies, local governments, government agencies, community organizations and the private sector. That will add to 2,000 new units of rental housing announced in February.
It’s too little, too late, Bepple said.
Aside from seniors’ housing, there has been no new-build affordable housing in Kamloops since 2009, when Georgian Court was built, a four-storey wood-frame building that offers 48 self-contained one-bedroom apartments on Tranquille Road for about $375/month.
Individual bedrooms are being advertised for $600 to $800 per month, making even an individual room unattainable for someone on social assistance or disability assistance. Families are equally strapped to find housing.
“It’s also concerning that the announcement implies that the province may purchase, rather than build new units. This approach does not expand the amount of housing available in the city.” Bepple said.
The most vulnerable — the hard-to-house, people with mental illness and addictions, as well as those with disabilities — were overlooked, she added.
In 2012, the Homelessness Action Plan identified the need for about 2,222 more affordable units in Kamloops for individuals and families.