Kristina Craig, executive director of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, issued a Poverty Report Card on March 26. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Kristina Craig, executive director of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, issued a Poverty Report Card on March 26. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Rent freeze, minimum wage increase proposed by Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition

YAPC’s 2020 Poverty Report Card made 10 recommendations for tackling poverty in the Yukon

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition (YAPC) has issued 10 recommendations for tackling poverty in the territory in its inaugural Poverty Report Card for 2020.

“We are pleased to be joining other jurisdictions in raising awareness and providing information about poverty in Canada,” said Kristina Craig, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Coalition.

The report is part of Campaign 2000, a federal initiative sparked in 1991 and committed to eradicating child and family poverty. The report card was released on March 26.

About 11 per cent of Yukoners are considered low income, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. The report card highlighted housing, food insecurity and the minimum wage as agitators of poverty.

Ongoing housing crisis is getting worse, YAPC says

The YAPC’s first recommendation is to freeze rent increases for the duration of the pandemic, and limit future increases based on the Consumer Price Index.

It also recommends that all levels of government “substantially increase” investments in social and affordable housing to eliminate social housing waitlists and homelessness.

The report card notes that the Yukon has a low vacancy rate of 3.2 per cent, while the median cost of renting increased six per cent in the last year.

The YAPC also reported 195 people living without a fixed address on April 17, 2018.

“There is significant data that highlights the magnitude of the housing crisis across Yukon,” the report says.

Fighting for a living wage

The Whitehorse living wage was tallied at $19.07 in 2019. The minimum wage in the Yukon was increased to $13.71 per hour in 2020, with promise of another increase to $13.85 in 2021.

“As a result, the gap between the living wage and the minimum wage remains high and ensures that minimum wage earners in the territory will face significant challenges in meeting their basic needs,” the report says.

The report card is recommending that the minimum wage immediately increase to $15.12 per hour, with plans for future annual increases.

It also recommends that the Yukon and federal governments develop a basic income program for the territory. The YAPC developed a policy brief for such a program last spring.

Transit, childcare and healthcare improvements recommended

The YAPC added a recommendation for the Yukon government to implement actions outlined in the Putting People First report, which called for a systemic overhaul of health and social services last spring.

It also recommends that the Yukon government renew the Poverty Reduction Strategy, first introduced in 2012 with a mandate of improving access to services and reducing inequities in the territory.

“A comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that includes a formal definition and measurable definition of poverty with legislated targets is needed to ensure that the Yukon Government can effectively reduce the number of Yukoners who experience poverty,” the report says.

There are also recommendations to move forward with a universal low-fee childcare program and grow affordable public transportation options in Whitehorse. It also calls for subsidized transit passes to low- and modest-income households.

The report’s final recommendation asks for action on the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate’s 2020 report.

The advocate’s report recommended a mandate to review critical incidents and deaths of children; apply a child rights impact assessment to relevant governmental policies; and develop culturally safe youth programming in partnership with First Nations.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

Poverty

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