VANCOUVER - New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix surrounded himself with parents and children Friday at a community centre to announce increases in welfare rates and a family bonus program as part of plan to fight poverty in British Columbia.
Dix chose to make his poverty-fighting and income-increasing election announcement in the Vancouver riding of Liberal Social Development Minister Moira Stilwell.
Stilwell's ministry is responsible for many of the programs Dix was making promises about — as long as his party is elected May 14.
Dix said his primary goal is elevating B.C. from its years-long position at or near the bottom of Canada's child-poverty rankings. He said B.C. has been in last place for seven years under B.C. Liberal governments and currently ranks ninth, ahead of only Manitoba.
Dix couldn't say how much better B.C.'s child-poverty rate would be if his social reforms were implemented.
"My goal is to be better and this has demonstrable impact. When you address and focus resources on children living in poverty and lift them out, which this plan does demonstrably that's going to have a positive effect. We want to be better."
Dix said his plan will cost $558 million over the next three years. The NDP would allocate $146 million from a proposed Liberal government plan to offer families with children under six years old a $55 monthly bonus payment.
He said under the NDP's proposed $210 million B.C. Family Bonus Program as many as 300,000 families would get payments of up to $70 a month per child in family bonuses. Those monthly payments would be enough to bring about 8,400 B.C. children officially out of poverty as measured by Statistics Canada income cut off rates, Dix said.
The monthly bonus payments apply to families earning combined incomes of $66,000 or less. Families with children who earning $25,000 or less will get the full $70 monthly payments, while others will receive lower payments based on a sliding scale of combined income.
Dix said the plan seeks to improve equality rates in B.C. by increasing incomes.
"It is a change in approach," he said. "It's saying that we need to deal with inequality by addressing it directly in incomes."
Campaigning in northwest B.C. on Friday, Liberal Leader Christy Clark said child poverty isn't about poor children, but is the result of parental poverty.
"When parents aren't working and parents are living in poverty, children are too. The way to solve that is to grow your economy, put people to work in good, decent family-supporting jobs like the ones the liquefied natural gas industry is going to create for people. That's how we solve it."
Dix also announced that social assistance rates would be increasing under an NDP government.
Welfare recipients would immediately be eligible for a doubling in earnings exemptions to $400, which would not be clawed back from regular welfare payments.
Single people on welfare and couples without children would receive a $20 monthly increase within two years, Dix said. Single people on welfare currently receive $610 a month.
"These initiatives are targeted and focused initiatives," said Dix. "This reflects that we have decided to get at child poverty in this case and at (income) inequality by targeting it directly," said Dix.
Dix said the NDP would fund much of the proposed changes through plans to increase taxes on corporate, bank and high income earners, and to rework the carbon tax so gas companies pay for extra venting costs.
The Liberal party called Dix the two-billion dollar man, saying his "reckless campaign spending promises" have surpassed the $2 billion mark.
The New Democratic Party said its promises so far add up to $1.4 billion over three years.
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