Guest Editorial: Child Poverty and Olympic Dreams in BC

November 24th, 2008

As the international press learns this week how much it will cost them to cover the 2010 Winter Games, many activists hope to apprise them of how much they believe the Olympics are costing British Columbians.

A three-day world press briefing began on Tuesday, which will see over 200 members of the media tour Olympic venues, visit with tourism officials, and be introduced to the behind-the-scenes of the coming Winter Games.

Typical to the modern Olympics industry, Vancouver’s project is already nearly a billion dollars over budget, for what amounts to a two-week spectacle. Questions have been posed since prior to the bid about the validity of this expenditure as an investment for the people of our province.

Many suggest there are more pressing priorities that needed to be addressed – priorities that will have more long-term benefit for all British Columbians.

As a consequence, this week in Vancouver, several community groups are also holding their own briefings, in an attempt to bring more international attention to several issues. Among the many complaints, some of which are expressed in a documentary named “Five Ring Circus”, are the large expense to taxpayers (estimated at $580 million), destruction of the natural environment, such as Eagleridge Bluffs, loss of affordable housing and rising homelessness.

In the 2005 speech from the Throne, the Government of British Columbia proclaimed that “BC will become the healthiest jurisdiction to ever host the Olympics.” Unfortunately, according a recent study, British Columbia is ranked number one in Canadian child poverty, continuing a streak that has kept our province in that leading spot for the last five years.

The annual report reveals that the number of poor children in this province was 22% in 2006, far above the national average of 16%.

As the study, conducted by First Call, points out, “researchers note that children and youth who live in poverty are at greater risk of poor health, poor performance in school, having to cope with dangerous or unhealthy physical environment, failing to graduate from secondary school and, as adults, suffering from job insecurity, underemployment, and poor working conditions.”

The study cites a recent report by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, which concluded that:

  • children who live in low income families scored lower for school readiness in areas such as knowledge, skills, maturity, language and cognitive development.
  • investments that work towards ensuring a healthy start in the early years will reduce the long-term costs associated with health care, addictions, crime, unemployment and welfare.
  • average incomes for both female single-parent families and two-parent families with chil-dren living in poverty fell more than $11,000 below the poverty line.
  • over half of BC’s poor children lived in families where the adults worked the equivalent of a full-time full-year job or more.

Studies indicate that despite relatively positive economic times, wealth has increased for the top tier of income earners, while the lower income portions of our society are faring worse than only a few years ago.

Taking the extraordinary expenditures required to fund the Olympics, it is also important to con-sider the investment needed to improve the health and well-being of BC’s children and youth. What better investment is there than investing in people?

You’ll find the remaining parts of “Five Ring Circus” on YouTube here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

David Livingtone
(David Livingstone is the publisher of the Rossland Telegraph)

Categories: Op/Ed

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