Blog | June 14, 2012

Difference between rich and poor expanding: PIA

By Graeme Bruce, Daily Herald-TribuneA new report suggests the majority of the region’s low-wage earners aren’t just teenagers.According to a report released by Public Interest Alberta (PIA), a non-profit advocacy organization, more than 23% of the Peace River region’s workforce makes less than $15/hour, which is roughly the same as provincial numbers.It found 18,500 of low-wage workers are over the age of 20, which is considered “prime-earning years,” and well over half of those working for these wages are women.“The numbers are startling,” said PIA executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.The report comes out as the province surveys Albertans regarding its Social Policy Framework, which will guide future policy regarding social services.“We’ve been advocating for years to eliminate poverty in Alberta, and we’re one in only three provinces that doesn’t have a comprehensive plan so we’re pleased the premier has committed to go down that road,” Moore-Kilgannon said.He said the numbers reflect an expanding difference between the rich and the poor in Alberta; The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.He added the boom cycle means more jobs and a richer province, but the increase in economic activity further heightens the divide.According to the City of Grande Prairie website, the average household income in the city in 2011 was an estimated $121,375.Moore-Kilgannon said the most startling statistic to come out of the census-based data is 47% of children living in poverty in Alberta have at least one parent working full time.On the campaign trail in April, Premier Alison Redford promised to end child poverty within five years, which will “will result in equality of access to the economy, better health for the impoverished in our community, stronger families, safer communities and increased civic participation,” she said in a release in the spring.According to local spokesperson for PIA Heather Haiste, many of those who are working for low wages in Grande Prairie are in social work or childcare.“Many have post-secondary education,” she said. “And they’re not making enough money with one job.”Municipalities, including Grande Prairie, are part of a province-wide program called the Action to End Poverty, which includes input from businesses, non-profit organizations, health-care professionals and those living in poverty.Lisa Watson, community support supervisor for Grande Prairie community social development said the numbers aren’t surprising, and the numbers reflect a relatively quicker boom cycle.“We’ve recognized families living in poverty are high priority in Grande Prairie,” she said.She also said the issue of affordable housing is also a high priority for social development, with rental rates skyrocketing as vacancy rates drop to the lowest in Alberta at 1.1%.By Graeme Bruce, Daily Herald-Tribunegraeme.bruce@sunmedia.ca
Twitter: DHTGraemeThis article was published on June 14, 2012 in the Daily Herald Tribune. Read the full article on the Daily Herald Tribune website.