P.G. may join call for provincial poverty plan

Prince George may join other communities calling on the province to create a poverty reduction plan.

The recommendation before council asks it to consider a Union of British Columbia Municipalities resolution that notes B.C. continues to have some of the highest poverty rates in the country but it "is the last province in Canada to have a commitment to a poverty reduction plan."

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The impacts of poverty are experienced locally through health care costs, crime rates, lower school success and reduced productivity, said the report prepared for city council's Monday meeting.

"Prince George agencies are working hard to mitigate the effects of poverty. But, in the absence of a comprehensive provincial strategy with cross-ministry action, targets, and timelines their efforts have not provided a sustainable path out of poverty for their clients," the report said.

School District 57 made the same request in November after a B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition report showed 18 per cent of Prince George youth under 17 live in poverty.

For children under five the portion in poverty rises to 21 per cent.

"Those with the lowest levels of income experience the poorest health and with each step up in income, health improves. This means all segments of the population experience the effect of income on health, not just those living in poverty," said a 2014 Northern Health, community profile.

That same profile, using 2010 numbers, said Prince George's average family income after tax was $75,547 compared to $78,580 for the rest of the province. Sixteen per cent of the city's population was considered low-income.

The province announced Wednesday it would increase the hourly minimum wage to $10.85 in September, and to $11.25 in 2017 from the current $10.45.

In 2012, Prince George was named one of seven communities to create a specific poverty-reduction strategy, but the city ultimately backed out.

"Participants also struggled with the broader vision of the initiative and what it was trying to accomplish," said an October UBCM report. The strategy should be "comprehensive and accountable," the UBCM's latest resolution said, and should set "concrete targets and timelines to reduce poverty."

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