Prince Rupert has a lot of poverty.
That was the message MLA Jennifer Rice brought to council at the last meeting.
While city council listened patiently for the anticipated announcement from their provincial representative, they were taken down a rabbit hole of statistics on how bad the situation is for some in the city.
Rice used her time to prepare those listening for her government’s next initiative, the forum on poverty reduction, to develop a strategy with communities, and join the rest of the provinces in trying to remedy the issue.
Maybe we’ve all heard the stats before, but while sitting inside the city council chambers surrounded by people who have had precarious living situations for days, weeks or even years, hearing that Prince Rupert scored the worst in terms of human economic hardship with 7.3 per cent of the total population on income assistance was chilling.
“The numbers are bleak,” Rice said of the 2012 statistics.
No kidding. What would those numbers read today?
A couple of the councillors seemed shocked, and despite being pleased that the government was delivering 44 modular housing units for the city’s homeless, they were thrown off.
But then Rice, also the spokesperson for children and family development, said that 29.7 per cent or one-third of the children aged 0-17 in our city live in poverty, according to Statistics Canada.
Councillor Nelson Kinney spoke first. “We need a hell of a lot more than 44 units,” and then he said “poverty of 29.7 on children, are we going to do anything on that?”
Yes, the provincial government has launched its Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction as of Oct. 31, and Rice welcomed council’s feedback on how to amend the bleak situation.
Bringing in B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy is certainly welcome in Prince Rupert, and although the solution won’t be as expedited as getting the emergency shelter or units, just joining the conversation is a step in the right direction.