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Internet provider discontinues service in Haida Gwaii - Aug. 19.  The COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharper focus a digital divide that is both socioeconomic and geographic. As our lives have shifted to online, many of us take for granted our internet connection and the access that comes with it. The Internet is considered a basic service, but there are too many people who don’t have accessible, inclusive and affordable service.


A Digital Divide is a difference in access to technology between nations, regions and people based on demographic factors such as income, race and age.  One year ago, we wrote a blog on the Digital Divide and its importance to our communities. The crisis has highlighted how essential an internet connection is to daily life - to earn a living, to access mental health resources, or to apply for benefits - and why it’s unacceptable that one in 10 Canadian families do not have a home internet connection.  


Racialized, low-income people are being hardest hit by the Divide. With COVID, it has become more difficult for marginalized populations to stay connected to their social and community support networks.  This is not only in remote areas or on Indigenous lands but here in Vancouver. The Binners Project in the Downtown Eastside, for example, had to change its weekly meeting to phone calls. Most Binners, who do not have access to the internet or a cellular phone, felt more disconnected and lonely as many still are not employed.


Internet access is expensive both as a customer and for the service providers. Many rural, remote, and Indigenous communities don’t have access to a good connection due to the costs to service a small number of people. A town with a population of 14,000 reports that it can take at least 2 hours to download large files like homework.  Teachers with slow or no access are wondering how they will provide online learning for their students. ACORN reports that more than one third of Canadians have to make sacrifices to afford home internet, like forgoing spending on transit or even food.


The Province included internet and telecommunications in the list of services that must continue to be delivered during the pandemic, describing these services as “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.”  Home internet is used for vital life activities and at the same time remains unaffordable and inaccessible.  Let’s support a Just Recovery where all British Columbians have access to high speed internet. 


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We’ve come to a fork in the road. We need to decide if we are an ‘oil country’ or a ‘country of nature?’ Do we want the previous status quo, with its now-obvious holes in our health and social well-being nets, and its trajectory towards climate catastrophe? Or do we want to “build back better” in ways that fight climate change, inequality & injustice?


We talk about  building a healthier, fairer, greener province based on a clean economy. We want to support strong climate and clean energy policies needed to build a resilient economy. We know the projects generated from a clean energy framework can put people to work in safe, healthy, well-paid jobs. We understand that a green recovery is a  just recovery and we don’t want anyone to be left behind. 


The Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force is scheduled to release its findings from the 6 week public consultation process this month. The report aims to provide recommendations on how the $1.5 billion fund set aside for recovery spending will be deployed.  A member of the task force,  The BC Federation of Labour, submitted, “We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy. The global collapse of oil prices is only the latest drastic swing in the fossil fuel economy — and one more sign that a sustainable future must rely on a swift transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy.” They continue by saying, “We must look beyond economic indicators to human outcomes — our goal entails nothing less than the end of poverty, homelessness and other inequities. And it goes deeper: a meaningful connection to the communities they live and work in and with — even in times of crisis, with no exceptions.” Reading submissions like those of the BC Federation makes it sound hopeful that the BC Economic  Recovery Plan will support a Green New Deal. 

At the same time, however, we continue to invest in fossil fuel projects. The Trans Mountain Pipeline, owned by the Canadian Government, continues to be built despite knowing there is no longer a market in Asia or in the US to sell the gas; that we publicly committed  to climate action in the Paris Agreement; we have a flawed consultation process with Indigenous communities; a  failure to consider the risks posed by increased tanker traffic; ongoing protests and other concerns.  We know that the BC Recovery Plan Task Force is represented in favour of heavy industrial business and is  lobbying to have their projects be financially supported through the Plan.  

The Report
is scheduled to be released this month.  Let’s see how well the  recommendations reflect the importance of workplace safety, strong public services, and our collective responsibility to take care of each other. We have the chance to address those gaps, and to do much more. We can build back better than before.

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Rooted in social justice values—like human dignity and freedom, fairness, equality, solidarity, environmental sustainability, and the public good—and a strong belief in the power of participatory democracy, CCPA released its’ 25th edition of the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) Recovery Plan. 


It is time to put human rights, labour, environmental protection, anti-poverty, arts and culture, social development, child development, international development, women, Indigenous peoples, the faith-based community, students, teachers, education, and health care workers at the forefront of policy planning and decision-making. 


2020 is  a critical turning point, a year in which the systems that sustain our societies failed. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped, highlighting the irrefutable link between how we live and climate change. Globally, billions of lives have been disrupted, more than half a million lives lost.


In Canada, we are guilty of racial, ethnic, and Indigenous injustices. The inequities that were baked into our systems have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19.  We need investments in a just, equitable and sustainable recovery and to fix many areas of public policy. 


The AFB Recovery Plan identifies the following immediate action items: implement universal public child care so people can get back to work, reform employment insurance, strengthen safeguards for public health, decarbonize the economy, and tackle the inequalities in gender, race and income. 

The Plan includes an analysis of key areas being impacted by COVID-19 including affordable housing and homelessness.  We know that when eviction bans are lifted, more households will be on the brink of homelessness.  Also, the closure of daytime services and public spaces offering washroom facilities and internet access created challenges for those who depend on these shared services.  

We need to increase our social housing stock and in Barcelona they are doing this by seizing empty apartments.  The city told the property owners to fill the vacant rental units with tenants or they would take over their properties. The landowners have one month to comply. Would or could our city government be willing to take such bold action? 

At CCEC, we work to reduce barriers to open a bank account and to provide equitable and just access to financial services. We know this is our chance to bend the curve of public policy toward justice, well-being, solidarity, equity, resilience, and sustainability.  Learn more and read the CCPA Alternative Federal Budget Report to build healthier communities where no one is left behind. 

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We have an opportunity to build back better. We need a recovery map that fixes the systemic inequalities that are embedded  in our communities. 

It is tempting to want to return to the status quo pre-Covid, but that cannot happen.  There were too many crises raging that will worsen if nothing is done.  For example, last month Vancouver recorded our highest number of opioid related deaths.  Income inequality, an inadequate social safety net and climate change are just three of the crises that must be addressed. 

We have an opportunity to redesign our economic programs, social infrastructure and public services to build an inclusive, fairer and more resilient economy. During Covid we learned that we need to invest in our workers, our shared prosperity and to have economic justice for historically marginalized groups. 

We can all agree that out of Covid, we are more aware of care and compassion.  Dr. Henry’s words, “Be Kind. Be Safe. Be Calm”  resonated with us. 

CCEC was formed in 1976 by groups who were unable to access financial services through banks and other credit unions. We continue working to reduce barriers to open a bank account and to provide equitable and just access to financial services.  

We encourage our members to get involved, speak up and be part of shaping our community economic development.  For example,  @JustRecovery and the #BuildBackBetter campaigns.  Share your stories with us.


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We all play a part to create an economy that's more just, equitable, and sustainable.


At CCEC, your funds allow us to support local, grassroots businesses and reinvest in our community. For over 45 years we have served member organizations and individuals who are underserved to meet their basic human needs and rights, for community enterprises and community action. 


At this time, it is even more important that we shop local and eat seasonal produce. Your independent owned or co-operative business contributes to your neighbourhoods’ arts, culture and sports. They build community, connect us to each other and form our economic activity.  


A member recently commented, “We appreciate the role CCEC plays in Community Economic Development and your roots from the Community Congress for Economic Change.”  


Community Economic Development (CED) is a core value for CCEC.  We know that CED empowers communities to shape how the local economy provides for them and how it impacts their lives.  We can ask ourselves, “What kind of community is created and sustained by the local economy, and how do we include the people who may be  left out.”  CCEC supports a Just Recovery and an economy where there is a shortening of the supply chain. 


Local businesses help our communities by:

  • Creating diverse, inclusive employment

  • Adapting to challenges

  • Being proactive, prepared, and resilient.


There is an additional economic benefit to an area when money is spent in the local economy.  Independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises*). In other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.


CCEC has always kept your money in your community to support our local economic development. We encourage our members to shop or keep shopping local to support our arts, culture, sports, restaurants, greengrocers and other neighbourhood businesses. 


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What actions can we take to make poverty an issue in the next provincial election? How can we ensure there is coordination of the CleanBC Plan and the poverty reduction strategy? These, and other questions are being asked by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC) of its’ members. CCEC and our members,  Raise the Rates and the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are part of this discussion. 

After a decade of advocacy work by the BCPRC and other groups, the BC Government released TogetherBC, their first poverty reduction strategy. It addressed some needs for children and families in poverty through the Child Opportunity Benefit, and a continued commitment to building a quality, affordable child care system in BC.

However, there are still huge gaps. The BCPRC has identified priorities that are not addressed in TogetherBC. They include “better access to good food for families, enhanced investments in affordable transportation, and improved income security, including assistance rates.” The coalition is asking the government to address housing, child care, education, employment, health, transportation, access to justice and food security. Learn more and sign their open letter to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. 

Another related initiative is the BC Governments’ Clean BC Plan.  There is a public consultation process underway through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to develop a clean growth strategy. The BCPRC is working to ensure there is coordination between the poverty reduction strategy and the clean growth strategy. There are three papers for consideration: clean transportation; clean, efficient buildings; and a clean growth program for industry. Unfortunately, BCPRC says that none of the proposed initiatives apply a “poverty/equity lens” to ensure accessibility to low income people. Read their submission for a Clean Growth Strategy where they outline recommendations for housing affordability, transportation, and education and training for good jobs. 

You can be involved and provide your feedback about the following topics:

Poverty is an election issue. We encourage our members to get involved. 

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC) is an alliance of over 400 organizations in BC that have come together to raise awareness about poverty and inequality, and improve the health and well-being of all British Columbians.

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Raise the Rates says that the BC Government $2million grant for “food rescue” operations will not solve the problem of food insecurity in BC as the root cause is income poverty.  

They say, “Distributing surplus food has won out over raising welfare rates to enable the hungry and homeless to afford to feed themselves and their families. The year’s humiliating $50 monthly benefit increase keeps them with incomes 50 per cent below the poverty line.” Cash is needed to shop for food in normal and customary ways: a living wage, adequate income benefits, real rent control.

Click here to read the article as it appeared in the Tyee.

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Released March 18, 2019 called, TogetherBC.

BC. has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country, with more than 557,000 people living below the poverty line, including about 100,000 children. Nearly half of those who live in poverty work, and children from single-parent families, Indigenous people, refugees and people with disabilities are much more likely to be poor. In B.C., the poverty line is about $20,000 a year for singles and about $40,000 a year for a family of four.

The Plan brings together policy changes the NDP government has made since its 2017 election. Together, those changes are expected to reduce overall poverty by one-quarter and cut child poverty in half in the next five years. That means 140,000 people, including 50,000 children, should no longer be living in poverty by 2024.

“It’s a strategy that at its heart is about people,” said Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction. “It’s about the challenges they face every day just to get by. It’s about the right of every British Columbian to be seen to be valued, to have access to opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families.”

The Pan brings together policies already announced by the government, such as increasing minimum wage to $15.20 by 2021 and making childcare more affordable, which the government plans to spend $1 billion on between 2018 and 2021.

In this year’s budget, the government announced a new child tax credit, which boosts the money families with children get to a possible $1,600 per year, up to age 18. It also increased income and disability assistance rates by $50, bringing basic income assistance for a single, employable person up to $760 per month, still well below the poverty line. The plan uses the Market Basket Measure, which is based on what it costs to buy the goods and services for a modest, basic standard of living, to count people living in poverty.

Future changes could include initiatives on a basic income plan — a plan where all people would receive a minimum income, based on what it takes to live a basic life in BC. An expert panel is exploring the idea, including looking at what may need to happen as artificial intelligence and automation grow and the jobs of today disappear. It is also reviewing our income assistance programs.

Poverty costs all of us, every day. We see its effects in our schools, in our hospitals and on our streets as people struggle to get by. How poverty interacts with our justice and mental health systems is impossible to separate. Alleviating poverty benefits everyone — it’s money well spent.

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The nutritious diet recommended in the new Canada Food Guide is out of reach for millions of Canadians because they can’t afford it.

If we want to stop millions of Canadians from going to bed hungry every night, we need to ensure that they have the ability to access food. So, who is going hungry in this country?  We know that BC has the highest poverty rate in Canada. However, did you know that we have a growing community of working poor whose wages do not cover basic necessities? Inadequate wages, shrinking social assistance rates, meagre pensions, illness and disability are at the heart of food insecurity in this country.

Did you know that 31% of single mothers are missing meals so their kids can eat? Or that one in six children live in households that can’t afford to put supper on the table? In BC, the average monthly cost of the 2017 nutritious food basket for a family of four is now $1,019.  

Individuals don’t fare better. A person receives $760 per month on social assistance and has $18.25 per week to spend on food. Despite the two increases in the past year that have raised the rate to $760 per month, the additional $150 has been eaten by the increase of $130 in rents to Single Room Occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (example).  Jean Swanson, speaking to her experience on the Welfare Food Challenge says, “It was hard eating on $19 a week (2017 amount). I tried, then cheated and gave up. The food was too boring and not nutritious. Dieticians have told us that you just can’t have a healthy diet on this paltry amount of money.”

The new Canada Food Guide aims to support people to live healthier lives. The new guide provides guidance on what we should eat that is more plants and plant-based protein, more whole grains, less sugar, less saturated fat—and more importantly,  how to eat—at home, with others, with joy and  pleasure. The addition of this social context is important. We know the power of food to connect us to our communities and neighbours thereby increasing our sense of belonging. 

The guidelines in the new Canada Food Guide are to be commended, especially introducing the social aspect on eating with friends, family and at home. As long as we continue to have poverty in our rich country, there will be millions of our neighbours who cannot afford to live healthier lives.  Poverty is the root of the problem for those who are food insecure. 

We encourage all our members to support the work of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and Raise the Rates, and to support food and garden programs that allow all our community members to eat and share a meal together. CCEC will continue to advocate for decent living wages and fairer social benefits.

For more information:

The new Canada Food Guide highlights the biggest obstacle to healthy eating—poverty – McLeans Article

The New Canada Food Guide

Jean Swanson on Why the Welfare Food Challenge was cancelled in 2018

 * Food Costing in BC 2017: Assessing the affordability of healthy eating  October 2018

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Did you know that:

·         In BC, 50% of all seniors live on an income of less than $26,000/year?

·         The 2018 Homeless Count found that 23% were over the age of 55?

·         It is estimated that by 2038, about one in four people living in B.C. will be a senior?

Seniors face many issues and challenges that include social isolation, loneliness and poverty.  The Seniors 411 Society offers programs that reduce social isolation, increase social inclusion, and are a critical component of any anti-poverty strategy.  The Society’s submission on a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Seniors (Feb. 2018) states that the BC plan must address both increasing income and helping reduce or manage costs.  They also provided recommendations in seven areas that include housing, transportation, food insecurity and community based programs.  BC is still the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

In the 411 Seniors Centre Society submission, they emphasize the importance of community and social connections for seniors.  Seniors have told staff at the Society that they feel a loss of community if they move to a different and unfamiliar neighbourhood.  However, aging in place and finding quality, affordable rental homes in Vancouver, is a challenge for seniors on low and fixed incomes.  The new 411 Seniors Centre (anticipate ground breaking in Spring 2019) is a step to providing more seniors social housing.  It will have approximately 50 units of social housing, a multi-purpose centre and be located close to other amenities and services they need.

Leslie Remund, Executive Director for the 411 Seniors Centre Society, says, “We are a peer led membership organization that aims to cushion the impact of poverty by providing information, referral and advocacy services, a drop in for socialization & connection& daily activities that promote aging with pride and curiosity.”   The Centre strives to enhance the quality of life of seniors by adding a collective voice on seniors’ issues such as affordable housing, income, and health services.   Join us!”

Find out more about the 411 Seniors Centre Society.  Support their capital campaign for their new building.

(This year, CCEC was pleased to support a fundraiser for the 411 Seniors Centre Society.)

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