A way to fix the Jobs Plan
By Bill Phillips
Why are social programs always at the bottom governments’ priority lists?
In her year-end interview with journalist Keith Baldrey, Premier Christy Clark was specifically asked whether the province will develop a poverty reduction plan, which most others provinces have.
Clark responded that British Columbia has a Jobs Plan and that’s all we need to combat poverty.
Sadly, it a mindset that many politicians have. Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer got himself in a little hot water during the federal election campaign when he suggested a getting a job would solve many of problems facing indigenous women.
While getting a job will certainly help people out of poverty, not having a job isn’t necessarily the reason why people end up living in poverty.
Systemic issues, mental health issues, racial issues, and the biggie, education, all play a role in people ending up in poverty.
We can have all the jobs in the world, but until we deal with the root causes of poverty, it will always be with us.
In her interview, Clark trotted out the age-old mantra that we have to have a robust economy before we can invest in social programs.
It’s a good sound bite. And it’s been trotted out for decades, by successive governments. The problem is that the economy just never seems robust enough for governments to really invest in social programs. In other words, it’s an excuse not to.
So let’s take a look at the B.C. Jobs Plan. When it was first rolled out, the constant phrase out of government was that there will be “one million job openings in British Columbia by 2020.” That was revamped to “one million jobs by 2022.” Then, most recently, it will be 2024, or later, and it won’t be quite one million jobs.
On top of that, two-thirds of those jobs will materialize through baby-boomers retiring, in other words they’re not new jobs. (More people not working and who knows how many of those will end up living in poverty.)
The B.C. Jobs Plan, which according to Clark is a de facto poverty reduction plan, isn’t delivering well as anticipated. The result, British Columbia has a horrendous poverty rates.
Just imagine, as we head into the New Year, if we had spent half of what we spent on the Jobs Plan on reducing poverty.
Anti-poverty advocates will also tell you that the best way to ensure people become productive members of society is to give them the building blocks for learning at a very early age (before six years old).
Perhaps Clark has it the wrong way around. Maybe if we fix the poverty problems first, the jobs plan will take care of itself.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com