Last Updated Thursday, October 17, 2019 6:38AM PDT
Several election campaign signs appeared to be damaged in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding early Thursday morning.
Signs that were knocked over belonged to NDP incumbent candidate Don Davies. Not all signs were damaged along the street, however, as it appeared Liberal candidate Tamara Taggart’s were intact.
One of the NDP signs was seen on Grandview Highway between Nootka and Lillooet streets. Some drivers were unable to avoid the sign and wooden debris, ultimately striking the objects.
This comes after Liberal and Conservatives signs were allegedly stolen last week.
In Vancouver South, Conservative candidate Wai Young’s campaign claims more than 30 per cent of their lawn signs have been stolen in the riding. In an emailed news release, Young called the alleged thefts “hurtful and dangerous.”
At the time, Liberal candidate for the same riding, Harjit Sajjan, said some of his election signs had been stolen as well.
Both campaigns proved CTV News Vancouver with security camera footage showing people taking signs.
A federal election 2019 platform primer: Brief summaries of where the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens stand on 12 major issues, and highlights of what they are promising Canadians.
Climate change/carbon tax/fossil fuels
The Liberals commit to planting two billion trees in a $3 billion plan to conserve forests, agricultural lands, wetlands and coastal areas. They promise carbon neutrality — balancing emissions against carbon offsets — by 2050 and to halve taxes for companies that develop or manufacture products with zero emissions. They propose interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to make homes more energy efficient and a grant for people who buy carbon neutral homes. They plan to send disadvantaged kids to camp so they’ll learn to love the outdoors.
The Conservatives promise to meet Canada’s Paris commitment to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but provide few specifics. They would scrap the carbon tax. They believe Canada would make little impact on climate change by reducing emissions at home, so would make Canadian oil and gas cleaner to replace dirtier products from other countries. The parliamentary budget office says the party’s green homes tax credit for energy-saving renovations would cost $1.8 billion over three years.
The NDP promises to help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. It would continue carbon pricing and will clamp down on big polluters. It would move government vehicles to electric by 2025. It would retrofit all housing stock in Canada by 2050, giving low-interest loans to homeowners. It says all new buildings would have net-zero emissions by 2030. It would power Canada with net carbon-free electricity by 2030. To pay for these steps, it would redirect the billions spent on oil and gas subsidies.
The Greens pledge $3.2 billion over five years to help keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. They would go beyond the Paris targets, promising a 60 per cent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, and to set emission limits and penalties for industries. By 2030, all of Canada’s electricity would come from renewable sources. The party would fund building retrofits and ensure new construction meets carbon neutral standards by 2030. It would reduce nitrogen fertilizers and support farmers to shift to regenerative farming.
Trans Mountain pipeline
Leader Justin Trudeau made a bargain on the environment and the economy: Cancel the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, approve the Trans Mountain expansion, create a national carbon tax and get concessions from Alberta, including phasing out coal energy and capping oilsands emissions. In 2018, Trudeau bought Trans Mountain for $4.5 billion. A second approval for pipeline expansion was given in June. Said Trudeau: “We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future.”
Leader Andrew Scheer supports the Trans Mountain expansion. But more is needed to encourage oil and gas projects, say Conservatives. That includes repealing the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which overhauled federal environmental assessments of major construction projects, and ending the ban on shipping oil on the B.C. north coast. Scheer would use federal powers to declare a major project in the national interest. Criticizing the Liberal approach, Scheer said: “Not a single inch of new pipeline has been laid.”
Leader Jagmeet Singh wants the Trans Mountain expansion abandoned, saying it will undermine efforts to fight climate change. The NDP also worry about ocean spill risks. Approval of the project ignores violations of Indigenous rights, says the party. In criticizing Liberal approval of the project, Singh said: “While they’re great with symbolic gestures like voting for a climate change emergency, they do the opposite of helping the environment the very next day with the approval of this pipeline expansion.”
Green leader Elizabeth May was arrested in Burnaby in 2018 for protesting the Trans Mountain expansion. “The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018, when we are in climate crisis, is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it,” said May. The Greens would cancel the project. The party would cut subsidies to fossil fuel industries of several billion dollars a year and would redirect the money toward a transition to renewable energy.
The Liberals promise to help people with annual incomes below $120,000 (and up to $150,000 in high-cost areas such as Vancouver) by taking up to 10 per cent off the price of a home with the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, budgeted at $1.25 billion over three years. This applies to homes up to $789,000 in expensive regions such as Vancouver. The party promises a national anti-speculation tax of one per cent on non-resident, foreign owners; it’s estimated to create revenue of $940 million over four years.
The party promises to change the Liberals’ mortgage stress test to ensure first-time homebuyers aren’t unnecessarily prevented from getting mortgages, and to work toward removing the stress test from mortgage renewals. It would increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers to lower monthly payments, make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing, and hold a $20-million inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector.
The NDP promises to create 500,000 units of affordable rental housing in the next 10 years, financed by $5 billion in the first 18 months of government, and also to create “fast-start funds” to help communities build co-ops, social, and non-profit housing. It would waive the federal GST on construction of new rentals; reintroduce 30-year terms to CMHC-insured mortgages on entry-level homes; double the homebuyer’s tax credit to $1,500; put a foreign buyer’s tax on sales to non-Canadians.
The Greens would make housing a fundamental human right, and work with provinces to build 25,000 new rental homes and 15,000 rehabilitated units annually for the next 10 years.They promise to: boost funding for new builds by $750 million and for rent assistance by $750 million to help 125,000 rental households; better support provincial and municipal housing projects; provide financing to non-profits to expand housing for seniors, people with special needs and low-income families; restore tax incentives for building rental housing.
Liberals promise to improve the accessibility to and affordability of before- and after-school care for kids in elementary school. The party says it has created thousands of new preschool child care spaces and would create up to 250,000 more for kids ages five to 10. It would improve child care hours for people who work overtime or late shifts. It promises to reduce fees 10 per cent, which could save a family of four around $800 annually. The party has promised new funding of $535 million a year.
The party has not made any campaign announcements about child care. It has promised to make maternity benefits tax-free, which could save an average Canadian $4,000 a year. It would reintroduce a children’s fitness tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $1,000 a child annually for sports, and a children’s arts and learning tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $500. The budget office says this would cost $616 million in its first year, increasing annually.
The NDP would enshrine in law a commitment to high-quality public child care. The party notes provinces such as Quebec, B.C. and Alberta have made investments in child care and it promises to “build on that work” by investing $1 billion in 2020 and growing that investment annually, in conjunction with provinces and territories. It gave no specifics for the number of spaces planned, but said affordable child care helps the economy by allowing parents to work.
The Greens say universal child care is crucial for women’s equality and promise to increase funding to at least one per cent of GDP annually, adding an additional $1 billion each year until this level is reached. The party did not say the number of new spaces it would create. It would eliminate GST on construction of new child care spaces. The party plans to boost early educator jobs, locate new facilities along transit routes and strengthen parental leave benefits.
In this year’s budget, the Liberals promised $70 million over five years to create a money-laundering task force and support financial intelligence gathering. Another $68.9 million over the next five years was earmarked to strengthen policing. The Liberals also amended the Criminal Code this year to make it easier to prove money laundering. “This is a real problem we are taking seriously,” Trudeau said following a B.C. report that estimated laundering at $46.7 billion in Canada.
Scheer announced that his party would launch a national money-laundering inquiry to “root out” corrupt practices that inflate housing prices. About $20 million would be budgeted for the two-year inquiry, meant to produce recommendations for regulatory and legislative changes and extra enforcement. The inquiry would be able to compel testimony and order disclosure. “We believe this will get to the bottom of the shadowy practices that are going on,” said Scheer.
The NDP announced it would launch a national inquiry to determine why there hasn’t been sufficient investigation into a criminal activity that is “so widespread.” The NDP would create an RCMP anti-money-laundering unit supported with $20 million a year, with $10 million of that earmarked for B.C. The NDP would work with provinces to create a registry to increase transparency about who owns properties. “This is a direct issue the federal government can play a massive role in flagging, identifying and in ending,” said Singh.
The Greens are calling for a public inquiry into what the RCMP and other agencies knew about money laundering in B.C. casinos and why they did not expose the corruption. In the House of Commons this year, May said: “What did the RCMP know, why did they turn a blind eye and are we looking into it?” The party says a crackdown is needed on financial crime, suggesting a special RCMP unit and more resources for investigations and prosecutions.
The Liberals recently named Dominic Barton, a businessman with extensive experience in Asia, as Canada’s ambassador to China. They hope he will reset a relationship that collapsed following Canada’s detaining last December of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S., the arrest of two Canadian citizens in China a few days later and China’s blocking of important Canadian exports. Organizers of an election debate on foreign policy in September cancelled the event after Trudeau dropped out.
In response to China blocking Canadian exports, the Conservatives pledge to pull $250 million in funding from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is headquartered in Beijing. Scheer said he is against using Canadian tax dollars to build infrastructure in countries that China influences. He said the focus of the relationship between Canada and China should be on the two Canadians detained there, and that a reset in that relationship begins with a prime minister who stands up to China.
Jagmeet Singh is calling for the focus of the Canada-China relationship to be on the Canadians detained in China. He said trade with China has focused on free trade that doesn’t benefit workers. He described the Chinese ban on canola, pork and beef exports as being “unfairly targeted by China despite a lack of scientific evidence” and said China is punishing Canadian producers over a diplomatic disagreement. He has called for the Liberals to protect Canadian workers.
May has been critical of the Canada-China Investment Treaty brought in by the Conservatives in 2014. She has said it allows discriminatory practices towards Canadian enterprises and allows for “secret” government-to-government wrangling “in which China’s larger economic weight is likely to lead to all manner of concessions by our government.” The relationship “is imperilled by some rather large forces that are outside of our control. Donald Trump is poking China with a stick and creating a trade war. We’re caught in the middle.”
The Liberals promise to spend $6 billion over four years to ensure every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team. They would also set national standards for access to mental health services, expand access to home care and “take the critical next steps” toward universal pharmacare to include prescription drug coverage. They would increase funding for pediatric cancer research by $30 million in 2020 and create a national Institute for women’s health research to tackle gaps in care.
The Conservatives would continue the health care transfer to provinces and maintain the funding increase of at least three per cent a year. The party would spend $1.5 billion on MRI and CT machines. It would reduce the number of hours required per week on therapy to qualify for the disability tax credit to 10 from 14. The Conservatives have not pledged to introduce universal pharmacare and Scheer has said he doesn’t trust the Liberals to implement it.
The NDP would create a universal pharmacare program starting in late 2020 at a cost of $10 billion. The party would expand public dental care coverage to households making under $70,000, starting in 2020, and copayments for households earning $70,000-$90,000, at a cost of $560 million in the first year, $1.9 billion in the second year and up to $850 million after that. The NDP would fight efforts to privatize health care.
The Greens would change the federal-provincial Health Accord to base health transfer payments on demographics and needs in each province, rather than on GDP growth. The party would Introduce universal pharmacare and free dental care for low-income Canadians and would reduce drug patent protection periods. It would expand mental health and rehabilitation services and access to safe abortion services. It would improve health care for Indigenous Peoples by implementing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Liberal’s platform on job creation focuses on supports to workers and supports for business. The promises to workers include guaranteed training for apprentices and $100 million in funding for skills upgrading, specifically for work in conducting energy audits, building retrofits and carbon-neutral home construction. To business, the party promises to cut in half corporate taxes for businesses in zero-emission industries, including renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles. It also plans to cut the cost of incorporating a small business.
The Conservatives’ platform includes creating a national energy corridor to carry oil, natural gas and electricity as a means to “create wealth, prosperity and opportunity” for Canadians. The party’s platform also plans support for small business by exempting spouses from new taxes on dividend payments from small businesses, reducing “red tape” in federal regulations by 25 per cent, and enforcing a rule to cut two old regulations for every new regulation introduced on business.
The NDP ties its goal to reduce carbon emissions to its promise to create jobs, estimating that clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and energy-efficient buildings will create 300,000 new jobs. Forestry is singled out, both for the role of forests in climate health and the source of jobs that support rural communities. The party promises to support innovation in value-added manufacturing of forest products and reforestation. It would allow workers to qualify for employment insurance after quitting work to return to school.
Acknowledging job losses in oil and gas production while phasing out fossil fuels, the Greens vow a “just transition” for workers from those sectors into renewable energy and in construction for energy-efficiency retrofits of buildings. The plan includes a fund to support training and a community benefit strategy to maximize local hiring and purchasing. May has also proposed a “robot tax” that employers would pay when they replace workers with artificial intelligence, with the revenue used to retrain workers.
Drug policy/opioid overdose epidemic
The Liberals pledge $700 million in additional funding between 2020 and 2014 to expand access to drug treatment and to combat opioid and meth addictions. The party will help provinces expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehab beds, and “scale up the most effective programs” — such as extending hours for Vancouver’s Insite and other safe consumption sites. It will also make drug treatment court the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession, to help drug users get quick access to treatment.
A spokeswoman said the party has not yet released its policy, but will “in the coming weeks.” On the campaign trail, leader Andrew Scheer has criticized the Liberals for expanding supervised-injection sites without properly consulting communities. He has told reporters that a Conservative drug policy would focus on getting people off drugs, not “maintaining” a life of addiction. The former Conservative government tried unsuccessfully to have Vancouver’s Insite shut down.
The NDP promises to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency and to work with governments and experts to end “the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction” so people can get help without fear of arrest. The party supports overdose-prevention sites. It would expand access to treatment on demand, launch an investigation into the role of drug companies in opioid overdoses and seek financial compensation for the public costs of the crisis, and “get tough” on traffickers. The platform provides no cost estimates.
The Greens promise $100 million annually to respond to the opioid crisis, plus $1 billion annually for treatment that includes mental health and addictions. The party’s platform promises to declare a national health emergency, plus “Recognize that fentanyl contamination is why deaths are more accurately described as poisonings than overdoses. Drug possession should be decriminalized, ensuring people have access to a screened supply and the medical support they need. … Increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits widely available.”
The Liberals say they will create a national infrastructure fund to support yet-to-be-determined “major nation-building projects.” They would make permanent the federal commitment to fund public transit, and put in an additional $3 billion a year in stable funding on top of gas tax transfers, and require that new federal investments in public transit are used to support zero-emission buses and rail starting in 2023. They would also support the transition to zero-emission fleets for school and transit buses, and encourage businesses to convert their fleets.
The Conservatives have committed to ensuring promised infrastructure projects will proceed, with top priority to infrastructure projects that shorten commute times, like the George Massey Tunnel replacement. They would scrap the $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would reintroduce a transit tax credit similar to the one ended in 2017, which will apply to monthly and weekly passes, and some electronic fare cards. It’s estimated that over 10 years, the tax credit will cost the government $2.2 billion.
The NDP would introduce a permanent funding mechanism for public transit. It wants to electrify transit and municipal vehicles by 2030, expand rail service, work with provinces and municipalities toward “fare-free transit” and re-establish rural bus routes formerly covered by Greyhound and expand bus service in rural regions. It would use community benefit agreements for infrastructure projects. To encourage zero-emission vehicle adoption, it would extend federal incentives for vehicles and chargers, waive federal taxes on purchases and expand charging networks.
The Greens would develop a national transportation strategy with the goal of reaching zero-carbon public transportation — rail, light rail and electric buses — across Canada by 2040, and revamp the Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030, require all passenger ferries to convert to electric or hybrid by 2030, exempt new and used zero-emission vehicles from federal sales tax, expand charging stations, implement a passenger rail transportation policy, create a cycling and walking infrastructure fund, and develop “green freight transport program.”
Cost of living
The Liberal plan is to reduce personal income taxes by raising the personal exemption to $15,000 from $12,069, saving the average Canadian $292 and the average middle-class family $585. The party takes aim at cellphone bills, promising that increased competition would reduce them 25 per cent and threatening regulation if that doesn’t happen. The party would increase student grants by $1,200, to reach $4,200 a year. The party’s promises to seniors include increasing old-age-security payments by 10 per cent.
The Conservatives’ tax plan aims straight at cutting the lowest-bracket tax rate to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent, which the party bills as its “universal tax cut,” saying it will save as much as $440 for individuals or $850 for a two-income family. The party’s plan also includes increasing Registered Education Savings Plan grants to $750 a year from $500 and reviving tax credits for expenses on children’s arts and sports programs and commuter transit passes.
The NDP platform doesn’t include promises to cut taxes but it does seek to reduce cellphone and internet bills and to make post-secondary education more affordable. The party would require carriers to introduce basic internet and cellphone plans, and would order caps on phone and internet bills. The NDP would cap and reduce post-secondary tuition and would eliminate interest on student loans and increase access to student grants. It would work toward making post-secondary education part of the public system.
The Greens call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a “guaranteed livable income” to replace supports such as disability and social assistance payments. The party’s affordability plan also promises universal access to post-secondary education. That means free tuition for Canadian students and forgiving existing student debts held by the federal government. For seniors, the party would increase the Canada Pension Plan’s target for income replacement to 50 per cent of pre-retirement income from 25 per cent.
The Liberals would work with the U.S. to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement. They would increase immigration to 350,000 a year by 2021 — up from 310,000 in 2018 — and would create a program to allow communities, chambers of commerce and labour councils to directly sponsor immigrants, with a minimum of 5,000 spaces. The party would make applying for Canadian citizenship free for permanent residents.
The Conservatives would renegotiate the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country where they arrive. They would stop border crossings at unofficial points of entry. The Conservatives would improve language training and credential recognition so it is easier for immigrants to use their skills in Canada. The party would promote private sponsorships of refugees and prioritize “people facing true persecution.” They would set immigration levels “consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.”
The NDP would suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. It would work with provinces to address gaps in settlement services and improve foreign credentials recognition. The NDP would end the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents, and address backlogs that delay reunification. The party would regulate immigration consultants, give status to caregivers brought to Canada and expedite their reuniting with families. They would set immigration levels to “meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions and ties to Canada.”
The Greens would terminate the Safe Third Country Agreement. The party would include “environmental refugee” as a refugee category. It would create a system to evaluate immigrants’ education to help them get accreditation and jobs. It would also eliminate the temporary foreign workers program, increase immigration to address labour shortages, process the estimated 200,000 people in Canada who don’t have official status, and regulate immigration consultants. The Greens have not announced immigration levels but would “attract immigrants and establish a system that is fair.”
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. — For the past five months, 69-year-old Betty Nicolaye and her family of five have been on a desperate search for housing that has turned empty every time.
“Houses are selling like hot cakes around here,” she said Thursday after an NDP campaign announcement in Campbell River, B.C. “One application after another, they keep telling us there are 80 people on the list and we never get any calls.”
In April, Nicolaye’s home of five years was sold and since then, she has applied to dozens of rental units but nothing has worked out.
She and her husband are on a pension, her one son has a disability and two others work as janitors. Together they can barely afford a five-bedroom home, which costs approximately $3,000 a month, but Nicolaye said the properties just aren’t available.
“It’s not good. It’s hard, but it’s harder being the mom because you are trying to be the tough person,” she said.
According to the latest census, the median income in Nicolaye’s home riding of North-Island-Powell River is $32,254, below the national average of $34,204. The average rent, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is pegged at $833 a month.
Knowing she was facing an uphill battle for housing — the toughest she’s experienced after 30 years in Campbell River — Nicolaye bought a “beat up motorhome” to provide temporary shelter for her kids, while she and her husband live in a tent. The family pays a dollar each for a shower at a nearby gas station and right now Nicolaye says they are currently living out of their van.
“It’s been rough,” she said. “Now it’s so cold that you wake up in your bed and the blankets are wet, you don’t feel warm.”
Nicolaye is not alone in her unsuccessful search for housing in British Columbia. A lack of affordable homes and rental properties has been an issue in the province for years.
At an announcement in Campbell River Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh re-committed to building 500,000 affordable homes within 10 years. He also pledged up to $5,000 in annual funding for roughly 500,000 households who are spending at least 30 per cent of their pre-tax income on rent.
“This will make the difference for families that are unable to pay their bills, for families that are making a tough choice between do they pay for their groceries or do they pay rent,” Singh said.
“These are difficult choices that families are making — far too difficult for far too many families — and we’ll put an end to that.”
Nicolaye was at that announcement and said the party’s pledge would help people like her as long as more properties hit the market. She said she was not brought to the event by the party, but was encouraged to attend by a local Indigenous group.
“I don’t know how anyone can hear that story and not be heartbroken,” Singh told reporters travelling on his campaign bus after meeting her. “I think about her and I think that’s why we need to tackle housing and why we need to build half a million new houses but also why we need to do something immediately because for her, we couldn’t afford to wait.”
A report from the parliamentary budget officer said the current national housing strategy, introduced by the Liberals, would build 150,000 new affordable units, modernize 300,000 existing units and protect 385,000 community housing units.
VICTORIA — Annie Ohana was in her classroom at L.A. Matheson high school in Surrey last week, when an all-too-common scene played out. A young woman ducked into her room after the final bell rang and quietly asked: “Ms. Ohana, do you have a tampon or pad?”
“Teachers at schools and counsellors, especially as women, we do often keep a little stash of products,” said Ohana.
So Ohana, the Aboriginal department head at the school, gladly reached into her own supply to help out. It made the difference between the student being able to stay at school for her extracurricular activities, or having to leave.
“She was volunteering for something, but instead of going home because of her period, she was able to ask me,” said Ohana. “I was able to provide it, but that’s my own money … the system should provide it. In this case I was there, but what if I was gone?”
It’s a question increasingly being asked by teachers, parents, students and advocates in hundreds of schools across the province. Why is there no provincial funding to provide free tampons and pads for female students in school washrooms?
Instead, B.C. has a patchwork system that varies from school to school and often results in embarrassment and shame for female students.
Some districts put coin-operated dispensers in women’s bathrooms (requiring girls to have exact change to get a pad or tampon while bleeding and in need). Others schools have literally nothing. In some cases, like in Burnaby North Secondary, students have taken it upon themselves to organize free baskets of products in washrooms because nobody else will do it for them.
Some schools do offer free tampons or pads — but only if the student interrupts her teacher in class, asks to be excused in front of all her classmates, walks to the office, waits in the queue at the front desk and then asks the (possibly male) receptionist in front of everyone else sitting in that office if she can please have a tampon thank-you-very-much. You couldn’t create a more cumbersome and humiliating system if you tried.
Some girls can’t afford to buy their own products. And there’s cultural and social stigmas around menstruation that can leave young women, at a difficult time in their life, isolated from family and friends. It’s even more difficult if the student is transgender. The very least the education system could do is offer them a discreet, free, and easy way to get a tampon or pad from every school washroom, without having to ask.
One in seven Canadian girls have missed school because they couldn’t get a tampon or pad during their period, according to a Procter & Gamble survey.
The issue was raised at the legislature by Green Leader Andrew Weaver during International Women’s Day. He based his question on a suggestion from one of his staff members, Stephanie Siddon.
Education Minister Rob Fleming responded by pointing to community grant programs that schools could try to tap, while offering to conduct more research into the issue.
It was an unimpressive display of leadership, said Weaver.
“There are some things that you just think about for 30 seconds and you realize, yeah that just makes sense,” said Weaver. “Here we are in 2019. You just do it. This falls into that. … “I would have thought he’d just have done it.”
Weaver’s own quick calculations — done in the middle of an interview using public pricing for hygiene products — pegged the rough cost at $200,000 a month for the education system, or $2.4 million a year to give more than 260,000 enrolled female students access to tampons and pads.
That amounts to a “rounding error” in the ministry’s $6.5-billion annual budget that should be acted upon without wasting time researching further, said Weaver.
New Westminster became one of the first school districts in Canada to fully fund feminine hygiene products when it voted last month to spend $10,000 of its own operating budget on dispensers and $7,000 annually to stock them with free supplies for women.
The issue is also on agendas for school trustees in Surrey, Greater Victoria, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Burnaby and Vancouver.
School districts are charging forward on their own, while the province lags behind.
The government could save time and effort by simply listening to advocates like Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who has been clear, consistent and vocal about the issue for months.
Or Sussanne Skidmore, the secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour who is helping lead the United Way’s Period Promise campaign that sent a letter to Fleming on March 7 asking him to “take a leadership role in addressing period poverty in our province.”
“If there’s public policy around this, we can normalize it and make it no different than toilet paper,” Skidmore said. “It’s a human right.”
How frustrating it must be for socially progressive New Democrats to watch their government move so slowly on a clear-cut human rights issue like this.
“There are lots of leaders stepping up to say it can be done and it’s not that complicated,” said Skidmore.
Social Development Minister Shane Simpson is set to announce B.C.’s new poverty reduction strategy on Monday. There’s no good reason why this couldn’t be included.
Fleming said in statements last week that he’s “committed to supporting students around the province who need access to these products and I look forward to putting forward a plan soon.”
In the meantime, he said, “ministry staff are currently researching this further.”
Researching what exactly?
Is there some sort of cost-benefit ratio needed before the minister will sign off on funding access to hygiene products?
Is there a price to be put on the embarrassment faced in having to ask the office receptionist or school nurse (if the nursing office hasn’t already been eliminated due to cutbacks) for a tampon?
Is there a figure we can apply to how many days it’s acceptable for a female student to go home sick because they get their period in class and have nowhere to turn?
Does the ministry research the cost of toilet paper or soap?
For Ohana, who teaches social justice to her high school students, the issue is clear.
“To me, this is tied in to social justice,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a human right. It’s a human reality.
“There’s a shame element,” Ohana added. “If girls can feel they can be proud of their bodies, and part of that being menstruation, that’s going to impact their self-esteem and confidence.”
That’s worth the cost.
Free advice to the education minister: Just do it.
The B.C. government has announced anti-poverty targets. Getty Images
Roughly 50,000 fewer B.C. children will be living in poverty by 2024 if the provincial government meets its new targets to cut child poverty in half and overall poverty by a quarter.
The NDP campaigned in the spring of 2017 on a promise to establish a poverty reduction plan for B.C., the only province without one. But residents will have to wait until March 2019 — two years later — for the unveiling of the plan, and to find out how the targeted reductions will be achieved and how much they will cost.
“I accept and I respect the criticism (about delays), but I would rather take a few more months and get this right. And the reality is we didn’t create this problem overnight, so we’re not going to fix it overnight,” Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, said.
“We have at this point the second-highest rate of poverty overall and the highest rate of poverty for children (in Canada).” About one in five B.C. children live in poverty.
If achieved, the new targets will improve B.C.’s ranking, he said.
Legislation proposed on Tuesday offers few details beyond targets to reduce B.C.’s population of people in poverty — estimated at 557,000 residents — by one quarter by 2024. That would require lifting 140,000 people above the poverty line, including half of the 100,000 children who are impoverished.
Trish Garner, of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, said it is a “good first step” to have targets and timelines after years of no action by the previous government.
“We would have liked to have seen a stronger overall poverty reduction target, and faster,” said Garner, a member of an advisory forum that provides advice to the minister. “Although, the target around child poverty is bold.”
First Call’s Adrienne Montani agreed, as her organization has advocated cutting child poverty in half since 2009.
Both women provided a wish list of what measures they thought should be financed in February’s budget and included in March’s plan in order to achieve the government’s targets.
Those include more-accessible child care, better wages, reduction of fees, improved access to jobs and more affordable housing through such things as rent controls.
Garner believes there are several things missing from the new legislation, such as any mention of the “depths” of poverty, which refers to how far someone is below the poverty line. She would have liked to see a commitment to increase the incomes of all poor people to within 75 per cent of the poverty line in the next two years, which she said could mainly be achieved by boosting welfare and disability rates.
Montani also hopes the province will consider enhancing the three-year-old early childhood tax benefit, so the payments are larger and continue longer — as is the case in other provinces. She noted the federal child benefit, which provides money monthly to needy families, has successfully reduced poverty nationally.
Asked when the other 50 per cent of B.C. children could be lifted out of poverty, if the first half is helped by 2024, Montani said she is cautiously optimistic that most of the solutions being discussed will help all kids in poor households.
“I am somewhat hopeful that maybe we can exceed that target,” she said.
Simpson said improvement to the early childhood benefit tax is one of things being investigated, although he made no specific commitment.
Funding this poverty reduction plan will require “significant” spending in the next five provincial budgets, but Simpson would not estimate the overall cost. He said it will include portions of NDP programs, totalling well over $1 billion, that have already been announced, such as the affordable child care plan; new housing and rent subsidy programs; increasing the minimum wage; raising social assistance and disability benefits; and ending tuition for adult basic education and English-language learning.
New measures will also be required, among them how to reduce costs of housing, food and transportation for needy people. Another necessity is jobs, said Simpson, who has met with business groups about trying to get people with mild disabilities into the workforce.
Of the 557,000 people living in poverty, about 200,000 receive welfare, disability or other services from Simpson’s ministry. The rest include seniors, the working poor, and young people aging out of foster care. That means other ministries must be involved in the poverty reduction plan, he said.
The new legislation requires government to report annually on its progress, and it will be monitored by an advisory panel.
“We’re confident that while those targets are bold, we have the capacity to meet those targets as well as to build the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty moving forward,” Simpson said.
BBG Constructive & Security Installation Consultants is a multi-disciplinary property and construction consultancy. Working with businesses on built-environment projects, we are client-focused with the recognised experience, knowledge base, expertise and track record to tackle projects irrespective of complexity from a position of strength.