Who is the economy working for in BC?

This editorial appeared in the December 7, 2016 edition of the Interior News. You can read or download the original here.

Two statistics came out last month that couldn’t have provided a better example of the stark contrast about who the economy is working for in B.C.

First, the BC Economic Forecast Council announced on Nov. 10 that the province’s gross domestic product (GDP) for 2016 is predicted to be a country-leading 2.9 per cent. Taking credit for this traditional economic indicator’s number, the Christy Clark government talked about “outperforming the country in economic growth.”

Four days later, Food Bank Canada’s annual hunger report was released. It revealed food bank usage in B.C. is at an all-time high, showing a 3.7 per cent increase over the past year alone. Most disturbing is the finding that more than 33,000 children in B.C. have to rely on food banks to eat.

It makes one wonder who the economy is working for in B.C. One in five children in the province live in poverty. One in 10 children go to bed hungry. And we have the biggest inequality gap of any province in the country between the top 20 per cent of earners and those in the bottom 20 per cent.

The author of the Food Bank Canada report said the growth in food bank usage is a result of factors like people working two to three part-time jobs and still not being able to make ends meet, or transitioning back and forth between low paid work and social assistance. Recent economic data shows most new jobs in B.C. are parttime, low wage.

So what can be done? In rural areas like Stikine, we have an abundance of natural resource wealth, yet we also have some of the worst socioeconomic indicators in the province. Ensuring jobs from those resources are filled by locals first would help. So would a focus on adding value on those resources before shipping them out of our own backyard. Plus some assurance that we will get the best market return possible and that a fair share of that revenue is returned locally.

And importantly, B.C. is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan. Creating one with legislated milestones and timelines would be a good first step. Something the Official Opposition I am part of has introduced as proposed legislation, but so far the Christy Clark government has voted against it.

– Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine and the Official Opposition spokesperson for energy and mines.