COLUMN: More help needed for Surrey’s ‘working poor’

Surrey's call for a poverty-reduction plan needs to be heeded by the province.

The City of Surrey’s call for a provincial poverty-reduction plan needs to be heeded by the provincial government.

Surrey put forward a motion for such a plan at last month’s convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. It was the second straight year the motion went forward, and it was passed by a majority of delegates.

While some might argue that dealing with such a broad issue is beyond the scope of municipalities, real life says otherwise. There is no shortage of issues that the city deals with that are directly related to poverty.

Perhaps the most obvious ones are homelessness and the lack of housing for people on low incomes. Surrey’s homeless people have few options, and the city spends an inordinate amount of time and resources on this issue. Some activists say Surrey’s policy of moving homeless people along, particularly from areas in Whalley, is discriminatory.

The provincial government has put some funding towards dealing with the homeless issue, but much more is needed in Surrey. The province has concentrated much of its spending in downtown Vancouver, while other areas in Metro Vancouver have received far less attention.

There are good people and organizations helping homeless people in Surrey, but they often have limited resources and receive minimal support from all levels of government.

On the affordable-housing front, provincial inaction has been even more pronounced. The province did nothing to intervene in the soaring real estate market until suddenly imposing a 15 per cent property-purchase tax on foreign buyers in August. The effect of the lengthy period of inaction has been a boost in the cost of housing.

In addition, the province has contributed little to affordable-housing projects, although it says it plans to change. The net effect is that the cost of rent (or mortgage payments) has gone up for almost everyone. This hits people with low incomes the hardest, and in some cases, it turns them into homeless people.

Surrey has long been one of the major areas in the Lower Mainland where there is a good stock of low-rental housing, particularly in the north. Recently, residents of a low-rent apartment building in Whalley were told to leave because of the condition of the building. Where did they all go?

It is crucial that there be more low-rent homes available. A rising real-estate market should not restrict it.

B.C. has a large proportion of people whose incomes are below the poverty line. The provincial government is a factor in some of the costs that hit poorer people the hardest – such as Medical Services Plan premiums, ICBC car-insurance rates, BC Hydro bills, bridge tolls and the carbon tax. While there are some rebates available for the lowest income classes, these charges extract a disproportionate amount of income from “the working poor.”

According to the Surrey UBCM resolution, B.C. is the only province without a poverty-reduction strategy. While Premier Christy Clark correctly states that having a job is one way to reduce poverty, and the province has done a pretty good job on the job-creation front, many jobs aren’t enough to lift people out of poverty. Entry-level jobs in the service industry will not give people enough money to pay their bills.

It is no accident that the services of the Surrey Food Bank are in demand – it is one of the most important backup agencies for people who simply don’t have enough money coming in.

Coun. Bruce Hayne said the lack of a strategy on dealing with poverty “affects the entire community.” He’s correct. That’s why, as a provincial election approaches, this needs to be much higher on the provincial government’s agenda.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News. frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

Just Posted

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

Delta police arrest four in focus on property crime hot spots

The DPD is using the arrests to highlight the work of its patrol support team

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Multiple people injured after deck collapses during celebration

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Most Read

l -->