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Posts Tagged "BCs"

9Jul

Taxi borders won’t change under B.C.’s new ride-hailing regulations

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Taxi cabs will keep their municipal boundaries even when ride-hailing is introduced in B.C. later this year.


Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

VICTORIA — Existing boundaries for taxis in most of B.C. won’t change with the introduction of ride-hailing later this year, according to the independent tribunal charged with making the decision.

The Passenger Transportation Board, which will set boundaries and fares for ride-hailing and taxis by next month, is not considering any large-scale changes to current taxi areas that are often based on regional or municipal borders.

“As an administrative tribunal we’d have to discuss changes of boundaries and that would be very contentious and time-consuming and yet another delay in implementing ride-hailing,” board chair Catharine Reid said Tuesday. “And we don’t want a delay in implementing ride-hailing.

“The second reason is we don’t have good origin destination information. So if we try to change taxi boundaries, we don’t know if we’ll make things better or worse.”

Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft can begin applying for licences in B.C. on Sept. 3, after the B.C. government announced Monday it has set the licensing and insurance regulations. Premier John Horgan has said ride-hailing could be in operation by the end of the year.

Drivers must have a class four commercial licence, and companies will be required to pay a $5,000 fee as well as a 30-cent-per-trip levy to improve accessibility services, under the government rules.

But the exact details on fares and boundaries are to be set by the Passenger Transportation Board, which is an independent tribunal.


The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Reid and the board began public discussions on those issues with taxi companies in Prince Rupert on Tuesday. She said the rest of the taxi sector, as well as ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be consulted by the end of next week.

“The policy will be up sometime in August that will provide policy on boundaries, fleet size and rates,” she said.

Uber and Lyft have said they want to operate free of borders, to give their drivers flexibility on responding to demand for a ride anywhere.

The taxi sector is divided on the issue. Eliminating borders could solve problems like “deadheading” — where taxis from Vancouver, for example, take a passenger to Surrey but can’t pick up anyone on the return trip due to licensing restrictions. But removing borders could also devalue taxi licenses that hold value based on their scarcity in a certain area, causing significant financial losses for companies, drivers and those who’ve borrowed money to purchase or lease part shares in vehicle licenses.

The board has released two public discussion papers that lay out its options.

For the rest of the province outside of Metro Vancouver, it offers no options to change taxi boundaries. The report says ride-hailing companies could either follow the same borders, or be given larger regional or provincial areas in which to operate, depending on industry feedback.

In Metro Vancouver, three of the four options proposed would keep the existing municipal taxi boundaries for Vancouver, Surrey and elsewhere.

However, one option does propose opening up the Metro Vancouver region as a single area in which both ride-hailing vehicles and the traditional taxi sector could operate equally.

“It is not clear that taxis would want this approach as they are free to launch their own (ride-hailing) service and could also maintain the advantages of taxis that each has within their current operating area,” read the board report.

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An open metro region would give the public “faster and more reliable service, including at peak times,” reduce the numbers of trips refused and tackle the problem of deadheading, according to the report.

However, it would also result in “taxi service likely reduced for suburban areas,” wrote the board.

Taxi licenses would see a “large reduction” in value if ride-hailing was region-wide or provincewide, especially in the City of Vancouver, according to the report.

The B.C. Taxi Association, which attended consultations in Prince Rupert on Tuesday, said all boundaries should be removed for everyone.

“There’s no need for boundaries,” said president Mohan Kang. “If they have the ability to move around Metro Vancouver, so should we.”

The Vancouver Taxi Association, where taxi licenses hold the most value and its operators face the largest risk, could not be reached for comment.

The Passenger Transportation Board is also considering whether to limit the size of ride-hailing fleets, but its discussion papers note that no other governments do so and it would be impossible to set a defensible limit.

Fares are also up for consideration. The board notes no other governments impose maximum price limits on ride-hailing, despite concerns about surge pricing during peak demand. One option up for consideration is setting the minimum fare for an Uber or Lyft ride at the same rate as a taxi, or setting no minimum rate at all.

Uber and Lyft declined to comment. Both oppose B.C.’s class four commercial licence requirement and neither company so far has committed to opening in the province later this year.

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21Jun

‘White, male, settler, history’: B.C.’s museum considers how to display past as it looks to future | CBC News

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Sometimes, even an institution devoted to the past needs to look to the future. 

“I think museums have a chance to be incredibly modern,” said Lisa Beare, B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Beare’s ministry is overseeing a modernization of the Royal BC Museum, long one of the province’s biggest tourist attractions and cultural centres. The museum is a Crown corporation, and receives $11.9 million annually from the government, about half its revenue. 

A month of community meetings across the province concluded on Thursday, and the province will be making its recommendations in the fall. 

Part of the discussion is around simple structural issues — the museum’s building is 50 years old, seismically unsound, filled with asbestos and lacking the ability to safely preserve most of its collections with current best practices.

But there’s also another discussion happening, as evidenced by an online question asking how the museum “could most effectively tell stories of B.C.’s communities.”

It’s a discussion both culturally important and potentially fraught: what does a modernized telling of B.C.’s history mean? 

“When the government decides to invest in the heritage of a cultural and economic asset, they definitely do have some sort of a shaping influence,” said Ben Bradley, a historian who wrote British Columbia by the Road, a 2017 book that examined how 20th century B.C. governments shaped the connection between new highways and heritage opportunities. 

“Museums are dynamic and they’re slower to change maybe than academic histories … but they may be also faster to change than society’s general perceptions of the past.”

The Royal BC Museum is a Crown corporation, and receives $11.9 million annually from the government, about half its revenue.  (Royal BC Museum)

How history is presented

Roughly speaking, the main part of the museum is divided into four main galleries:

  • A touring exhibit about something elsewhere in the world (think: Mayans or ancient Egypt). 
  • B.C.’s natural history (think: the wooly mammoth and ocean station) 
  • B.C.’s Indigenous people (think: totems, artwork and an interactive languages area)
  • “Becoming BC,” a section on the colonization and modern history of the province (think: Old Town, old wooden ships, and the gold rush). 

 It’s been a sturdy format for decades, as the museum’s enduring popularity will attest. But with most of the permanent displays created decades ago, there’s a particular framework in how B.C.’s history is presented.

 

“[There are] galleries that primarily are white, male settler history. And that’s how it’s constructed, and we want to see that change,” said Joanne Orr, the museum’s deputy CEO and vice president of collections. 

Bradley says that’s fairly common for how North American history was portrayed when the museum moved into its current building in 1968.

“There [started to be] a bit more of a social history approach, but it’s still to some of the classic themes of discovery, adventure, frontiers and pioneering,” he said. 

“When you walk into some museums, often there’s separate divisions within the curatorial sections of the museums, that [white] history is almost one unit while [Indigenous] anthropology is another.” 

B.C.’s museum has made changes this century, with several small displays that are more interactive. The Indigenous languages exhibit is generally well-regarded, as is the repatriation program.

But it’s still, by and large, the same museum you remember as a kid — and Orr admits changing anything about a beloved institution is tricky. 

“People are very nostalgic and have very strong feelings about the museum. They’re very attached to what’s here. So with any moving forward we have to respect that.”

The museum says its mammoth is the most popular attraction among its permanent exhibits. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Different priorities

What could tangible changes look like?

On the province’s public feedback page, there are plenty of comments about having more interactive exhibits, greater accessibility, more history from the perspective of non-European communities. 

At the same time, there are people who want the museum to do more touring across the province, people who want it to be free of charge, and people who want it to fundamentally stay the same. 

“People really like the mammoth and they really like Old Town [which depicts a turn-of-the century B.C. town], but also I think the museum means different things to people around the province,” said Orr.

It’s always hard for people to agree upon what happened in the past. It’s harder still to get people to agree what should happen in the future. 

But the museum is ready to take on the potential of a straightforward renovation — and an existential debate over values. 

“Understanding where you are now, who you are, your identity, helps you to think about the future. It’s a platform for moving forward into the future,” said Orr.

“And you can only understand your identity way are by understanding and coming to terms with your past.”

B.C.’s “Modern History Gallery,” which includes several well-known exhibits, including Old Town, opened in 1972. (Royal BC Museum)




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5Jun

Rapid response to B.C.’s overdose crisis saved thousands of lives: report

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Firefighters and BC Ambulance paramedics in Vancouver take a woman who suffered an fentanyl and heroin overdose to the hospital, in January, 2018.


Jason Payne / PNG

A study by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control says the rapid harm-reduction response to the province’s overdose crisis saved more than 3,000 lives during the peak of the emergency.

Researchers looked at a 20-month period from April 2016 to December 2017 when 2,177 people died of an overdose, concluding that the number of deaths in B.C. would have been two and a half times higher.

The study gives three programs the credit: take-home naloxone which saved almost 1,600 lives, the expansion of overdose prevention services, stopping 230 deaths, and increased access to treatment that saved 590 lives.

The centre’s Dr. Mike Irvine led the research and says despite the highly toxic street drug supply, the average probability of death from accidental overdose decreased because of the services provided to keep people alive.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the study speaks to the importance of harm reduction and the services are essential to turning the tide in the overdose crisis.

The province declared a health emergency over the crisis in April 2016 and the centre says in a news release that overdose remains the leading cause of preventable death in the province.


A Vancouver Fire Department Medical Unit responds to an unresponsive man after the male injected a drug, in the Downtown Eastside at Vancouver in December 2016.

RICHARD LAM /

PNG

Irvine says their study is the among the first evidence that shows a combination of harm reduction and treatment interventions can save lives.

“It is useful information for jurisdictions considering how to respond to the overdose crisis.”

Overdose deaths increased rapidly in 2016, coinciding with the introduction of the powerful opioid fentanyl into the illicit drug supply.

Fentanyl or its analogues were detected in 87 per cent of all illicit overdose deaths last year.

Jane Buxton, the harm reduction lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says the take-home naloxone program was already in place when the crisis emerged, allowing them to quickly expand the program to help save lives.

“Since the program ramped up in mid-2016 in response to the ongoing crisis, we’ve distributed between 4,000 and 5,000 kits every month.”

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24Apr

Daphne Bramham: Decriminalization alone won’t end B.C.’s overdose crisis

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A man injects drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Despite significant efforts to combat overdose deaths in British Columbia, the provincial coroner says illicit drug overdose deaths increased to 1,489, just over the 2017 death total.


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The problem with the provincial health officer’s special report recommending decriminalization of all illicit drug users  is that Dr. Bonnie Henry chose to make that her only recommendation.

Three years after a public health emergency was declared because of an epidemic of deaths from illicit opioids, B.C. still has no comprehensive addictions strategy.

It has a stunning lack of treatment services, no universal access to services, no simple pathway to what few services there are, no provincial standards or regulation of privately operated treatment and recovery homes services.

Government ministries such as health, mental health and addictions services, social development and housing remain siloed and the root causes of addiction remain largely unaddressed.

While there has been substantial investment in harm-reduction measures including overdose prevention sites, free naloxone kits (to reverse an opioid overdose), low-barrier shelters and poverty reduction, the needs are greater.

Overdose deaths have only hit a plateau – not dropped. Every day, four people British Columbians die.

Yet, Henry is adamant that decriminalization is the most important next step.

“It’s about a focus and an intent,” she said. “Instead of police focusing on requirement of the Criminal Code, it builds off-ramps to connect with services. And, that in itself, ensures those systems are built.”

The majority of those who have died of overdoses were young men using alone at home. Without fear of being arrested and with the stigma of addiction being reduced, the expectation is that addicts or recreational users would be more likely to go to a supervised injection site, use with a friend (with a naloxone kit at the ready) or call for help if they overdose.

Henry calls decriminalization “a necessary next step to stop the death toll from rising and to make harm-reduction services more readily available.”

But it’s a question whether those recreational users would do that, because many addicts say that they use alone for a variety of reasons — not least of which is that they don’t want to share their drugs or they don’t want anyone to know what they do when they’re high.

The report recommended two options for British Columbia to work around the Criminal Code provisions.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth firmly and quickly said no to both. But he noted there are pilot projects in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Vernon where rather than charging for possession, police are linking users with services. An evaluation of those will be completed in the fall and, depending on the results, they may be expended to other communities.

Henry makes no secret of the fact that her ultimate goals for Canada are full legalization and regulation of all drugs to ensure that there is a safe supply. If that were to happen, Canada would be the first in the world to do that.

Portugal is mentioned frequently in the report and by Henry. Possession for personal use was decriminalized more than 20 years ago. But it was done only as part of a comprehensive, drug strategy.

Police still arrest anyone found with illicit drugs. They are taken to a police station where the drugs are weighed. If the amount is above the maximum limit set for personal use, they are charged and go through the criminal justice system.

If the amount is below the limit, tickets are issued and users told to appear at the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use within 24 hours. There, they meet with a social worker or counsellor before going before a three-person tribunal, which recommends a plan for treatment.

People don’t have to comply. But if they are arrested again, the commission can impose community service, require that they seek treatment, impose fines and even confiscate people’s property to pay those fines.

That’s not the kind of decriminalization Henry is recommending. Instead, the onus here would be on police officers – not trained addictions specialists, psychologists or social workers — to connect users with services.

Part of the reason for the difference is that Portugal’s goal wasn’t legalization or keeping addicts alive until they chose to go treatment. Its focus was and is on getting addicts into treatment and recovery so they could resume their place in society.

Harm reduction is only a small part of the Portuguese plan. Its first supervised injection site has only recently opened. But there is free and easy access to methadone (which dampens heroin addicts’ craving for the drug) and free needles to stop the spread of infection.

These harm reduction measures are deemed to temporary bridges to abstinence for all but older, hardcore, long-term heroin users rather than long-term solutions. Of course, fentanyl and carfentanil have yet to be found in its illicit drug supply.

Its treatment services as extensive and include everything from outpatient treatment to three years’ residency in a therapeutic community during which time the users’ families are provided with income supplements.

Nothing in this decriminalization report moves British Columbia anywhere close to that kind of comprehensive system. And until we get there, it’s hard to imagine that this overdose crisis ending anytime soon.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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24Apr

Overdose crisis: BC’s top doctor wants drug possession decriminalized

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B.C.’s top doctor has unveiled a bold proposal to slow the rate of overdose deaths — by decriminalizing possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s report, released Wednesday, says it is known around the world that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, and says the criminalization of non-violent people for possessing a substance for personal use does considerable harm to the person and society.

Specifically, Henry says criminalization increases communicable disease transmission, stigma and drug-related mortality. Incarceration and criminal records exacerbate drug harms by preventing future employment and travel, she adds.

“As the Provincial Health Officer of B.C., I recommend that the Province of B.C. urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use,” Henry says.

“This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in B.C.”

Henry’s report, called “Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in B.C.,” says that despite expanded harm-reduction activities and interventions in the province, and increased access to evidence-based treatment, an average of four people continue to die in B.C. each day due to the toxic illegal drug supply.

“Decriminalization of people who use controlled drugs is an effective public health approach to drug policy in other jurisdictions and is the most appropriate option for B.C. at this time,” Henry says.

“While law enforcement in B.C. exercise their discretion when considering possession charges, such as the presence of harmful behaviour or identified need for treatment services, the application of the law is inconsistent across communities. As such, there is a need for a provincial-level commitment to support an official policy to decriminalize people who use drugs.”

Henry says decriminalization would allow law enforcement to work with health and social systems to help connect people with treatment and other social services.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs for personal use in response to a surge in heroin use.

Henry said there are two means by which to decriminalize in B.C. One would use provincial legislation to allow the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor to set provincial priorities, such as declaring a public health and harm reduction approach as a priority for police to apply when toward simple possession. The other would develop a new regulation under the Police Act that would add a provision preventing police from expending resources on simple possession offences under Section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference about the release of the latest provincial statistics by the BC Coroners Service at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 7, 2019.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The report explains decriminalization as follows: “Decriminalization involves removing an action or behaviour from the scope of the criminal justice system. In the context of controlled substances, it is typically focused on possession and consumption of drugs for personal use and does not set out a system or structure for production, distribution, or sale of controlled substances.

“Decriminalization does not exclude the application of fines or administrative penalties. For example, if possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized (as is the case in Portugal), the drug itself is still illegal, but possessing it does not lead to criminal sanctions (unless the possession is at a trafficking level).”

More to come.

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27Mar

Is 12 too young to work? Youth advocates slam B.C.’s lax child-labour laws

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A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America — and the government is now putting the question to the public. 

Currently, the minimum age of formal employment in B.C. is 12.  There are no age-specific restrictions on the time of day a child can work outside of school hours, the tasks they can do, or the industry in which they work.

“We’re seeing kids working in construction, they’re working in manufacturing and they’re working in the trades,” said Helesia Luke, communications and development coordinator of First Call B.C.

“We know this because we know that they’re getting hurt there.”

The group sent an open letter to B.C.’s Ministry of Labour, calling for a number of changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act like raising the minimum age of formal employment to 16.

They also want to ban children under 18 from doing hazardous jobs — like working with heavy equipment or on construction sites. Other “light work” would have some exemptions to the restrictions.  

It’s been an ongoing battle since the province’s labour laws were changed in 2004 but Luke said she’s optimistic this time around.

“There isn’t a single minister of labour that we have not met with to discuss this,” she told CBC’s The Early Edition.

“With this new government, we have had some signals from the minister that he is willing to look at better standards.”

The Ministry of Labour has turned to the public for input on how to modernize the Employment Standards Act. Consultations run until March 31.

Exemptions can be made for some kinds of underage ‘light work,’ Helesia Luke of First Call B.C. says. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Workplace accidents for teens

There is a “data gap” in exactly how many underage workers there are in B.C., Luke said, because Statistics Canada doesn’t track the participation of under-15s in the workforce.

The best indication First Call B.C. has at the moment is through accident claim data.

“We were shocked it was even worse than what we thought it would be,” she said.

In the last decade, WorkSafeBC has paid out more than $5 million in disability claims to 12- to 14-year-olds.

During that time, an additional 2,000 children under 14 were approved for health-care claims related to being injured in the workplace.

“We’ve heard from a young man who, when he was 12, was stripping autos in a scrap yard and spilled battery acid all over himself,” Luke said.

“He has a lifelong scar from that experience. That’s too high a price to pay when you’re 12.”

A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America. 7:47

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19Mar

Creating opportunity in Prince George with B.C.’s new poverty reduction strategy

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An innovative Prince George program will provide training and create work opportunities, which are central to TogetherBC, the Province’s new poverty reduction strategy.

“Willing and capable people who want to work find the confidence and the opportunity they need to reach their goals through programs, such as The First Peoples Hospitality Program,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This is the kind of project that is at the heart of TogetherBC. It builds skills and supports people in their communities.”

The First Peoples Hospitality Program, run by LaKeCoRe Management & Training through WorkBC, is a 26-week program that provides students with 18 weeks of essential employability and occupational skills training, such as strategies for success, computer skills and hospitality operations training, as well as six weeks of on-the-job work experience with local industry partners. The students then have two weeks of followup and job-search support to prepare participants for employment in the hotel and hospitality sector in the Prince George region.

Up to 20 local young adults will receive a high standard of training in an industry that is part of the fabric of Prince George’s economy. The program has partnered with local hotels and inns to help ensure participants will receive satisfying job opportunities upon completing this intensive training program.

“The First Peoples Hospitality Program is focused on creating training opportunities for local Indigenous people who are not just looking for a job, but a career path that is fulfilling,” said Lawney Chabot, president, LaKeCoRe Management & Training. “Through this program, we are able to individualize training for each participant to make sure they are reaching their potential and on their way to sustainable local employment.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has committed approximately $196,000 in funding for this project through the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP funds projects that increase employability levels and share labour market information.

Darven Michell, a participant in The First Peoples Hospitality Program, said, “This program is giving me the confidence to get out there and find a stable and secure job, knowing that I have the skills I need to get a job that I am actually excited about.”

The project was announced during a followup announcement in Prince George about the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC. British Columbia has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, yet the province still has a high rate of poverty, reflecting a deficit in regional economic development and unfair wages, in addition to a backlog of need for access to basic education and training skills.

“Community plays a major role in reducing poverty,” said Barbara Ward-Burkitt, executive director, Prince George Native Friendship Centre. “We need to make sure people have the supports and services they need here at home and ensure that they feel included and valued by their communities.”

Two guiding principles of TogetherBC are reconciliation and creating opportunity for people, especially those experiencing physical, social, financial and structural barriers. Government will continue to support projects that reflect these principles in Prince George and throughout the province.  

Quick Facts:

  • TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy is a roadmap to reduce overall poverty by 25% and cut child poverty in half over five years, using a 2016 baseline.
  • The strategy’s key priorities include the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit, increases to the minimum wage, ChildCareBC making child care more available and affordable, income assistance and disability assistance rate increases, and leveraging federal initiatives and supports.
  • TogetherBC is built on four guiding principles:
    • Affordability
    • Opportunity
    • Reconciliation
    • Social inclusion
  • Since 2012, the Community and Employer Partnerships program, through WorkBC, has helped over 1,675 job seekers benefit from work experience and has funded more than 300 projects throughout the province.
  • Two groups of eight to 10 participants will be accepted into the program.
    • The first group started training Nov. 26, 2018, and is scheduled to complete the program on April 5, 2019.
    • The second group will begin training April 15, 2019, and complete the program by Oct. 11, 2019.
  • The program must meet an 80% completion rate, as well as an 80% satisfaction rate with the project.

Learn More:

WorkBC’s Community and Employers Partnership program:
https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

To read TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plans-strategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

For details on B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy


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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government: minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government, says minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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28Feb

Caregivers for B.C.’s most vulnerable get first pay increase in a decade

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Foster parents, adoptive caregivers, extended family members caring for children and Community Living BC (CLBC) home-share providers will each receive a boost in support payments – the first increase in 10 years – to make life more affordable and provide more support to some of B.C.’s most-vulnerable children and adults.

“Caregivers open their homes and hearts to children and adults who need their support,” said Premier John Horgan. “For 10 years, the cost of living has steadily increased while caregiver rates have stagnated. Our government is making different choices by increasing support rates for caregivers, to make life more affordable and build stronger, more inclusive communities.”

Budget 2019 provides approximately $64 million over three years to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and $45 million over three years to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction to boost monthly caregiver rates.

“I have met with so many foster parents and family caregivers, especially grandmothers, who have been struggling to provide for the children in their care. Their stories resonated with me and I knew this was the right thing to do,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “The most important thing is that children are raised in a safe, loving home, and I am proud to be part of a government that is addressing a long-standing inequity for extended families, especially Indigenous families, and investing in the well-being of all children when they need it most.”

For family members caring for children through the Extended Family Program, support will nearly double and will be paid at the same rate as foster caregivers. This increase is part of government’s commitment to meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and addresses recommendations by Grand Chief Ed John.

“I am pleased the B.C. government is taking steps to address this key recommendation of my report, which identified the disparity between the caregiver rates and extended family rates as being a clear barrier to permanency for many children in care,” said Grand Chief Ed John. “Bringing these rates in line will undoubtedly lead to both an increase of permanent placements as well as an increased quality of care for children placed with extended family members. This is especially important for Indigenous children in care as it will result in greater opportunities for placements with extended family within their communities, thereby maintaining access to their culture and language.”

Budget 2019 will provide foster parents with an additional $179 each month to help cover basic necessities for children in their care, including food, shelter and clothing.

Eligible adoptive parents, many of them adding children with special needs and/or sibling groups to their families, will receive an additional $105 to $120 per month for post-adoption assistance to help meet increases in the costs of living.

“This announcement is a wonderful acknowledgement of the work that foster parents and other caregivers do to emotionally and financially support children and youth in B.C.,” said Russell Pohl, a long-time foster and adoptive parent. “It’s good to know that this government is looking out for us and valuing our contribution.”

Community Living BC home-share provider rates are based on the individual needs of the person in care. The $45 million in funding over three years is a 15% increase for the program. After 10 years without an increase in home-share provider funding, CLBC is updating the program rate structure to better align with the disability-related needs of each individual.

“Home-share promotes social inclusion and helps keep people with developmental disabilities connected to their communities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Over the last year, we have engaged with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to look closely at CLBC supports and plot a new vision for the next 10 years. This increase recognizes the important work of home-share providers. It is long overdue, well deserved and one more step in the work we are doing with the community to create a truly accessible and inclusive province.” 

CLBC will be working with home-share providers over the next few weeks to work through the details. The rate increases will vary under the new rate structure, but all home share providers will receive an increase over the next two years.

In 2018, CLBC engaged with home-share providers to find out how government can better support them in their vital work. The primary concern reported was low rates, which had not kept up with rising household costs and growing demand for the program.

Rate increases for Ministry of Children and Family Development caregivers will come into effect April 1, 2019.

For a breakdown of caregiver rate increases by caregiver type, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/maintenance_rate_increases_by_care_category.pdf

A backgrounder follows.


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