This most recent election has concluded with lasting uncertainty. It is difficult to write with a clear forecast as to how the results will impact people living in poverty and how we as an organization, as part of our community, can effect much needed and long overdue progress.
Despite the uncertainty, there is certainly some room for optimism in a change of government. The past 16 years have marked a steady erosion of our shared social safety net through stagnant welfare and disability rates, a punishing culture of denial and inaccessibility within the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, disinvestment in social housing, erosion of worker protections with the lowest minimum wage in Canada, and ineffective enforcement of residential tenancy laws that have disproportionately favored landlords while perpetuating housing insecurity and ultimately homelessness.
The two parties that have now agreed to work together to support a minority government have acknowledged that a poverty reduction plan is a good place to start undoing the last 16 years. We are the last province in Canada without one.
Both parties have committed to an immediate increase in welfare and disability rates. Both parties have committed to new investment in housing and the strengthening of tenant protections in the Residential Tenancy Act. Both parties have committed to re-imagining the province’s approach to mental health and addictions. Both parties have committed to a substantial increase in the minimum wage. While these commitments in and of themselves will not end poverty in BC, they represent an understanding that change is needed. This is a distinctly different approach from the one we have witnessed over the past many years.
In order to effect the kind of change that is needed in this province, our small but mighty organization will have to renew and reinvigorate our work to address meaningful systemic change. Legislatures alone will not be the place to achieve this work. Whoever sits in power, we at TAPS will continue our work at the street level as we move toward a just province for all.