It turns out the reality is rather underwhelming. (And the article’s headline incorrect and misleading.)
Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together from 4 online articles and a provincial press release:
There is no funding for this initiative. Ministry consultants already on the payroll are being assigned to work with communities (local government, business, NGOs, etc) to come up with an ‘action plan’, targeted at families with children,
that ‘uses existing resources in each community’.
Basically, the Liberals are sending some bean-counters out into 7 communities (with 20 more to be chosen in the next two years) to help communities make service delivery more efficient.
It sort of makes sense. The government is on a tight budget and are looking at ways of cutting costs. They hear us clambering for more help to reduce poverty, and so, seeing as they don’t want to spend money on poverty, they want to help us make sure we are making the most of what we have. Pretty slick. Good way of not spending a dime on the problem, and yet appearing as if they’ve set out to do something innovative and comprehensive.
NDP Social Development Critic Carol James had this to say: “I worry we’re going to be downloading responsibility to communities,” James said. “It says to communities, ‘you have to talk more, you have to reduce redundancies.’ The community organizations I know have been doing that incredibly well. They’ve had to stretch dollar, they’ve had to find efficiencies to survive.”
It’s going to take a lot more than a new committee and some sharing of resources to end poverty. Do we truly already have the resources we need to end poverty in our communities, but just have not been working together well enough yet?
Maybe so, but not in the sense that the government is implying.
I’m the first to admit that we shouldn’t be looking at a big centralized colonial government to solve all our problems. We could be looking out for each other, sharing resources among ourselves, donating to some innovative anti-poverty programs or helping our friends and neighbours instead of buying that second mocha latte of the day. It sucks that we’re being forced into this, but just complaining is not enough.
The writing is on the wall here. This is the best we can hope for out of the BC Liberals, (and it’ll be better, but far from enough with the NDP in power.)
The trick is in convincing the public that their tax money is not being used to help the poor, and that slowly, dollar by dollar, the responsibility for social services are being downloaded onto communities, and we’ll need to dig deeper into our pockets, or roll up our sleeves and pitch in to help each other.
The social safety net has been slowly eroding for the past twenty years in favour of a flawed neo-liberal idea that smaller, cheaper government will mean more money out in the private market for jobs.
The sad truth is that this reality has been building for decades, and even if the political will were to exist with the NDP, this is a very deep hole that the neo-liberal governments have created for us. There are a lot of variables with any of these plans, and a lot is riding on what we, the public, decide to do.