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Monday, February 28, 2011

Poverty in Abbotsford

Issues: Poverty In Abbotsford

Last in a seven-part series by Vibrant Abbotsford on Poverty in Abbotsford. Of all the myths we have highlighted its is perhaps the most glaringly untrue -
Myth #7: There’s nothing you can do.

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and United Way we are running a seven part series on Poverty in Abbotsford provided by Vibrant Abbotsford.
Abbotsford has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. The population expanded by 7.2 per cent between 2001 and 2006, higher than the provincial average.
Homelessness is only one example of poverty
Homelessness is only one example of poverty
Figures like these can easily mask the ongoing problem of poverty in Abbotsford. Despite recent growth, many people continue to struggle to make ends meet. The increase in low paying (often part time) service sector jobs, and the rising cost of living – for fuel, food, and housing – are acute concerns. This series explores common myths about the standard of living in Abbotsford. What follows is a brief overview intended to shed some light on the poverty in our midst.
Defining Poverty


According to Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) definition of poverty, a household is poor if it spends at least 20 per cent more than the average Canadian household on basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
The average expenditure on these basic necessities is estimated to be 43 per cent of after tax income. By these standards, a family is “poor” if it spends 63 per cent of household income on basic needs. In 2006, approximately 545,000 people in BC were classified as living in poverty.
Myth #1: People living in poverty do not have jobs.
In 2001, there were 653,300 working poor people in Canada. Including dependants, 1.5 million Canadians were affected by working poverty, of which about one third were children. These 1.5 million individuals accounted for about 40 per cent of all low income Canadians in 2001.
In a recent report, 13.1 per cent of food bank clients in Canada listed their primary source of income as wages, or employment income.
For a single parent with one child, the parent would have to work full time, and earn between $10.64 and $12.44 hourly (depending on city size) in order to be above the poverty line. Even for a single person working full-time, the hourly wage would have to be between $8.55 and $9.90 (again depending on city size). Given BC’s minimum wage of $8 an hour, anyone supporting themselves or a family on minimum wage would be under the poverty line.
In a recent study of the homeless in the Fraser Valley, almost half of the respondents (48.6 per cent) claim that the reason for their homelessness relates to the issue of affordability / inadequate income. Many of these homeless people represent extreme examples of the working poor.
Myth #2: A strong economy means that Abbotsford’s population is wealthy.
Although Abbotsford is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Canada (7.2 per cent between 2001 and 2006), too many are being left behind.
Abbotsfordians have an average individual income of $31,733 (2006): the widening gap between rich and poor is demonstrated through the fact that the income share of the bottom half (or poorest) of households is 24 per cent (i.e. 24 per cent of Abbotsford’s household income accrues to households earning less than the median income).
The incidence of low income families is nearly 11 per cent, with 1.6 per cent of the population on Income Assistance.
Average household incomes in Abbotsford range from $63,321 for a married household to $32,138 for the average female-lead single parent household. Single parent families headed by men earned $36,296. Single parents, especially the 4,015 female-lead families, are among the most disadvantaged groups in Abbotsford.
The new poor. Many are being left behind.
The new poor. Many are being left behind.
The median income for a full-time, full year worker in Abbotsford was $39,790 but a person working full-time at minimum wage earns less than $17,000 annually. BC has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for the last five years (21.9 per cent). Average incomes for families living in poverty were more than $11,000 below the poverty line.
Myth #3: Full time workers earn enough to support themselves and their families.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends that households spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. With the average rent in Abbotsford at $767, a household income of $30,680 is required. This situation puts renters at very high risk for homelessness. Finding rent-geared-to-income housing is extremely difficult.
The increased demand and rise in rental prices means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for low-income people to secure housing. A recent study concluded that a “In Abbotsford, a worker must make a minimum of $8.65/hour to afford a bachelor apartment.
A one bedroom requires $10.77/hour; a two bedroom requires $13.54/hour; and a three bedroom requires $15.19/hour.
As the minimum wage is $8.00/hour, this means that it requires 1.1 workers to pay for a bachelor suite, 1.3 workers to pay for a one-bedroom, 1.7 workers to pay for a two-bedroom, and 1.9 workers to pay for a three–bedroom”.
It requires 1.1 workers to pay for a bachelor suite.
Myth #4: Self-employed people are wealthy professionals.
Self-employed people are at a greater risk of working for low wages than salaried workers. On average, self-employed people are as poor as the non-working poor.
Foodbanks are becoming a weekly part of the lives of more families
Foodbanks are becoming a weekly part of the lives of more families
- If they are dependent on one employer, and the employers treat them as private contractors, as for example pizza drivers and newspaper carriers, then the workers have almost no rights such as the provision of benefits, the maintenance of working conditions, or the provision of any forms of job rights.
In Abbotsford 13 per cent of the labour force, or 8,535 people, were self-employed in 2006.
Myth #5: Poverty is only an issue for the poor.
On every measure of academic attainment, Abbotsford falls behind the provincial average. Fewer Abbotsford residents complete high school, get a grade nine education, or go to university. In 2001, only 11.4 per cent of Abbotsford’s population had a university degree, compared to 17.6 per cent in BC.
Over 17 per cent of Abbotsford’s population aged 25-64 have not completed high school, while 9.8 per cent of the population has less than a grade nine education.
The main reason for this is an inability to cope with the requirements of school life which may be caused by the challenges (many related to finances) that the student has at home.
Youth who do not complete their high school education are more likely to end up in low paying jobs and to experience repeated spells of unemployment.
Fewer Abbotsford residents complete high school, get a grade nine education, or go to university.
This in turn reduces employment opportunities and detracts from the multiplier effect associated with a thriving economy. Reducing the number of people living in poverty becomes an issue for everyone.
Myth #6: If the economy stays strong, the situation will improve.
Since the mid-1990s BC’s, and indeed much of Canada’s, economy has boomed.
These barriers represent acute problems for young people just entering the labour force, for new immigrants, and for visible minorities.
Since the mid-1990′s the top 1 per cent of Canadian earners enjoyed a 113 per cent increase in their annual incomes; by contrast, the average worker earned an increase of just 7 per cent.
Experts argue that family economic security prior to age six and access to quality child-care are closely related to a child’s level of “developmental readiness” for school.
After years of struggling to make ends meet, many seniors continue to work after they reach the age of retirement. Most working seniors prefer to take part-time jobs, although 23 per cent report that full-time employment is not available.
We continue to see citizens struggling to meet their basic daily needs: families at the food bank, children going to school without a nutritious breakfast, and mothers sacrificing their own needs to ensure that their sons and daughters have the basic supplies that the education system requires.
These issues cannot be remedied by stop-gap solutions.
Myth #7: There’s nothing you can do.
There are a number of ways that you can make a difference in the community:
Here’s what you can do:

Donate to the United Way of the Fraser Valley, specifying ‘Vibrant Abbotsford’ as the recipient of your gift, which will support long-term community-based initiatives to reduce poverty in Abbotsford. Call 604.852.1234. In-kind donations of time and talent are also more than welcomed.
Volunteer in your community.
Email Vibrant Abbotsford at for further information or to register for an upcoming Vibrant Abbotsford public update session. Learn about current projects and initiatives for reducing poverty in Abbotsford so that you can get directly involved.
Use your voice. You have the power to educate others about the realities and complexities of reducing poverty in Abbotsford.
Offer job / literacy training or employment to people who are unemployed, or encourage your employer to do so.
Consider how you treat people. Think about the underlying conditions that make people vulnerable to economic distress. Remember that there are many different groups of Abbotsford residents living in poverty.
    Learn more about poverty in Abbotsford at

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention
email :
twitter: davidmurray4ndp

What You Might Not Know About Stress Could (Literally) Kill You

What You Might Not Know About Stress Could (Literally) Kill You
We all have stress to one degree or another.
Work, finances, health, relationships, you name it.
Stress is everywhere in our modern society.
Learning how to manage, however,  can mean a healthier, longer life.
Mainstream medicine is finally making the connection between your emotions and your health.
Shyam Prabhakaran, M.D., head of cerebrovascular disease and neurocritical care at Rush University Medical Center confirms this in a recent article stating "Now we're realizing how interwoven emotions and [diseases] are." 
In some ways, I think we all know stress is bad. What's surprising though, is just how bad.
For example did you know stress raises your blood pressure and makes your blood stickier?
This makes for a perfect recipe for a blood clot which can lead to a stroke.
And consider this:
A recent National Institute On Aging study found that people who were aggressive and angry most of the time  had thicker carotid arteries than those who were more calm and easygoing.
If severe enough, a thickened carotid artery may clot and block blood-flow to the brain.
So the lesson to be learned?
Relax. Eliminate as much stress as you can in your life.
Here are a 4 great ways to do that:
1. Take up a meditative practice. Yoga is a great choice. You'll work on your flexibility and strength - all while relaxing! Other choices include Tai Chi or traditional meditation.
2. Breathe. Believe it or not, deep breathing is a great stress reliever you can use at any time. Simply take a deep breath in through your nose. Hold your breath for a count of 3 and then slowly exhale through the mouth. Do this at least 5 times next time you start feeling anxious or worried.
3. Exercise. Working out is a proven stress-reliever. As you work out, your body releases endorphins, those "feel good" hormones that will brighten up your day and let you toss your worries aside.
4. Put things in perspective. Sometimes all you need to relieve a little stress is to realize that the problems or situation may not be as bad as you think. Socrates wrote to this very point, expressing that if all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, where each had to take an equal portion, most would be content to take their own."
Constant stress seems like the norm in today's world. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Take some time out to relax ... reduce your worry ... and enjoy life a little more each day.
And by the way ... if you're stressing about your health, why not take advantage of your FREE Fitness or Weight Loss Consultation? (a $99 value)
During this consult, you'll receive detailed information on how to reach your personal fitness and weight loss goals tailored to YOUR body. It's the worry and stress-free way to get fit this year.
Quote Corner
"Give your stress wings and let it fly away" - Terri Guillemets
Eat Yourself Thin
Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi
(Serves Four)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic crushed or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6 ounce) mahi mahi fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1. In a shallow glass dish, stir together the honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place them into the dish. If the fillets have skin on them, place them skin side down. Cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the dish and reserve marinade. Fry fish for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets to a serving platter and keep warm. 
3. Pour reserved marinade into the skillet, and heat over medium heat until mixture reduces to a glaze consistency. Spoon glaze over fish, and serve immediately.
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Ready: 37 mins
Amount Per Serving - Calories: 259 / Total Fat: 7g / Cholesterol: 124mg / Sodium: 830mg / Total Carbs: 16g / Dietary Fiber:0.2g / Protein 32.4g

Social Media Rankings in Canada- Abbotsford pass Elizabeth May & Gilles Duceppe

@TonyClement_MPTony ClementtorymponParry Sound--Muskoka

@kadyKady O'Malleyother
onÜT: 45.431582,-75.6

@pmharperStephen HarpertorympabCalgary Southwest

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

16 billion for bomber jets…no money for health care

Stephen Harper’s federal budget bad for your health

This is an old post that appeared in the Georgia Straight Paper but I think it is still very relevant with a new budget about to be passed.


By Michael Byers,
To quote Ed the Sock: “If you don’t have anything good to say, say it often.”
This might explain why the word tax appears more than 1,000 times in last month’s federal budget, while overstretched and out-of-work Canadians receive little meaningful support.
In fact, Stephen Harper’s budget calls for more than $20 billion in “new tax relief”, including “reducing corporate income taxes so that Canada will have the lowest statutory corporate tax rate in the G7 by 2012.”
Responsible governments pay for necessities first. And the budget—apart from promising $500 million to digitize health records—does nothing to improve the quality of our lives through readily accessible, quality health care.
South of the border, Americans are learning the hard way about the long-term costs of neglecting health care.
Last December, after eight years of deep-reaching tax cuts, the congressional budget office reported: “The rising costs of health care and health insurance pose a serious threat to the future fiscal condition of the United States.” It concluded that without government action, spending on health care would increase to 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2025, up from 16 percent in 2007.
A December 18 New York Times article on the proposed U.S. stimulus package underscored the scale of the problem: “About a fifth of the [up to $1 trillion] Obama package could go toward health care…The biggest piece would be up to $100 billion to subsidize the states’ growing Medicaid caseloads of the poor.”
Unfortunately, Canada is on the same trajectory.
From 1993 to 2005, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin systematically underfunded our public-health-care system. The resulting declines in service created a market for private care where none existed before. Private, for-profit clinics like Vancouver’s Cambie Surgery Centre emerged and began drawing much-needed nurses and doctors away from the public system.
Now, with Liberal backing, the Harper government is pushing us closer to the health-care brink. And neither party is listening to Canadians.
A January 14 Nanos poll asked Canadians how important it was for the government to increase investment in public services such as health care and education during an economic downturn. Of those who responded, 70 percent ranked it important (25.3 percent) or very important (44.5 percent). Nine percent felt it was unimportant.
These results prompted James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (which commissioned the poll) to say in a release: “It’s not all about tax cuts and bailouts in the minds of Canadians. It’s about people, jobs, and protecting our social safety net during tough times.”
Investments in health care would constitute an economic stimulus, creating jobs while protecting those without employment. As Kathleen Connors, chair of the Canadian Health Coalition, pointed out in a January 13 release: “More than one in 10 Canadians work in this third-largest sector of the economy, and our public health-care system protects Canadians from one of the most devastating consequences of economic downturn in the United States, the loss of health care.”
Connors also opposed the turn toward private health care, noting that “Privatized, for-profit health care has become an increasingly serious threat that forces people to pay more… and receive less.”
In the United States, a family of four lucky enough to have access to an employer-supported health plan pays more than $12,000 per year for coverage. Many millions of less fortunate Americans are uninsured. It’s a terrible model to emulate, and yet the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association has just launched a suit in B.C. Supreme Court asking to have patient-access restrictions at their private, for-profit clinics struck down.
The clinics—led by the ubiquitous Dr. Brian Day—base their argument on a 2005 Canadian Supreme Court judgment known as Chaoulli v. Québec (Attorney General). That court held that a Quebec ban on private insurance for medically necessary services violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms because long wait times in the public system endangered life and personal security.
The argument would fail if the public system were adequately funded.
Adequate funding would also save money by creating a healthier, happier, more productive population. The market might be good at some short-term decisions, but—as the economic crisis has demonstrated—it cannot be trusted with long-term public policy. Privatizing health care divides societies into those who can and cannot pay. It undermines communities by promoting selfishness and inequality.
Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table and accessing quality, timely health care. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Harper’s tax cuts are the wrong prescription for Canada. Let’s build up the country instead of running it down.

Harper's Liberal approach to health care

Scott Stinson, National Post · Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
The waning days of a Parliamentary session that is about to break for six weeks seems an odd time for an opposition party to adopt a new message. But there were the federal Liberals this week, once again giving conventional wisdom the finger.
A trio of MPs delivered speeches on the new subject on Tuesday, then on Wednesday leader Michael Ignatieff used it as his first line of attack on Stephen Harper in Question Period.
"Mr. Speaker, Canadians wait for hours in hospital emergency rooms and patients languish in the hallways. The Canadian health system needs help, but the government has ignored the issue for four or five years," he said. "How can [the Prime Minister] expect Canadians to trust his government to protect our public healthcare system?"
Health care? Really?
Mr. Harper responded, of course, that the Conservative government loves the healthcare system to bits (I'm paraphrasing here) and that it was the dastardly Liberals who cut transfers to provinces back in the dark days of the Chretien era.
Mr. Ignatieff was undaunted. The federal-provincial accords signed in 2004 (under the Liberals) that increase transfers to provinces by 6% a year in order to fund health care run out in 2014, he noted. The government has not committed a penny of new money beyond that, he said. "How can Canadians trust the government to defend public health?" he said.
This is a puzzling strategy. Mr. Ignatieff's own question acknowledges that the government is locked into four more years of increasing health funding. Is there really much to be gained by banging on about what the Tories plan to do about 2015? At our present rate, we could easily have two elections between now and then. Three, even.
But aside from trying to give urgency to a problem that's barely on the horizon, what's odd about the sudden Liberal focus on health care is that it's a subject on which the government's approach has been decidedly Liberal.
"The Prime Minister is heard to muse about how he would like to get rid of the Canada Health Act," Mr. Ignatieff said on Wednesday. But Mr. Harper has made no such musings since he became leader of the federal Conservatives. Here's what he told my colleague John Ivison during the last election: "I support innovation within the confines of the Canada Health Act -- that's the position of all provincial governments. We particularly support innovation in the delivery of service but in the end we believe there must be a public insurance system."
This does not sound like a call for revolution.
Whether it was MP Maxime Bernier's call for the end of the Canada Health Transfer, former Alberta premier Ralph Klein's suggestion that the government must back away from a "strict interpretation" of the Canada Health Act, or any number of studies from places as diverse as the Fraser Institute and the OECD that say Canada needs to change the present single-payer public system, the Harper government has refused to take the bait. Most significantly, when Quebec announced plans in the spring to introduce a $25 user-fee, the federal health ministry refused to take a position, saying it needed to study the proposal. That study became moot when Quebec backed down in September.
All the evidence suggests the Tories want no part of serious discussions about health-care reform, presumably because it remains one of those things that polite Canadians just do not talk about.
I was in an editorial board meeting last year with the then-president of the Canadian Medical Association, who discussed at length the need for Canada to consider the example of Europe, where private delivery of public care is widely accepted. Robert Ouellet was kicking off a campaign to bang the drum about the importance of change. It went nowhere, even with a Conservative government in Ottawa.
If Stephen Harper was interested changing the public health system, why would he have passed up a number of opportunities to at least begin to walk down that road?
The historian Michael Bliss wrote last month a pretty biting criticism of Canada's infatuation with the present system.
"Despite the system's popularity and iconic status; despite the belief by many Canadian health experts that the Canada Health Act system ... is the best way to deliver modern health care; and despite years of nationalist proclamation that Canadian health insurance ought to be a model to the world (and especially to the United States), no [other] country has adopted the Canadian model," he wrote.
But you'll only hear arguments like this from historians and think-tank researchers these days. Not from politicians, for whom healthcare reform remains the issue that dare not speak its name.

16 billion for bomber jets…no money for health care, child care and seniors pensions

 16 billion for bomber jets, $1 billion for a fake lake and photo opportunities, but no new money for health care, child care and seniors pensions
The Harper government recently announced that they will be spending 16 billion of your tax dollars on C-35 fighter jets.
This, one of the biggest military equipment purchases in recent years comes on the tail of the recent budget where the Conservatives decided to cut funding to women’s groups and give tax breaks to their friends in the polluting tar sands big oil companies.
The purchase of these fighter jets is just the latest in Harper’s unfortunate pattern of not consulting Canadians or Parliament before making a major decision. To heap more insult onto our democracy wounds, the multi-billion dollar contract wasn’t even tendered.
Experts have pointed out that these fighter jets are ineffective against the threat our Canadian soldiers are facing in Afghanistan (isn’t it time for us to leave anyway?) Surely there are much better ways to invest our money.
On August 29, during Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday, local residents stopped by to share their ideas on how the government should invest our $16 billion. People of all ages wrote and drew their messages on the canvass (link to a photo) which I will deliver to the Harper government in Ottawa.
For a link to my statement in the House on this issue please click here:

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention
email :
twitter: davidmurray4ndp