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Post-pandemic policy should lift vulnerable out of poverty, say British Columbians of all political stripes

Last Updated Jul 20, 2020 at 12:08 pm PDT

FILE - Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbians show concern for one another and are likely to support government intervention for equitable future

A new poll from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows voters from all political stripes are fairly aligned

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The COVID-19 pandemic has made British Columbians more worried about one another and more likely to support government intervention to create an increasingly equitable future.

Most people in B.C. want social change, according to a new poll that shows strong support for housing the homeless in hotels, as well as continuing rent freezes and eviction bans as the pandemic continues.

Alex Hemingway, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says British Columbians are generally happy with the NDP handling of the pandemic, but fears over growing inequality and the impacts this emergency will have on others are tied to strong support for more government intervention.

“That’s one of the most striking results of the poll,” he says.

(Courtesy CCPA)

“Support for a shift in the direction of the economy to a more equitable economy, more sustainable economy, across these policy areas, holds across all regions of the province and across all political parties,” Hemingway says.

The poll shows strong support for doing things differently going forward, such as increasing social assistance rates to pull people out of poverty, and increasing taxes on the wealthiest citizens to pay for the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“There’s a whole range of policy areas, people in British Columbia, across the regions, across the parties believe that government action is really going to be key to a successful recovery,” he says.

“We’re in a crisis that has exposed some of the pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society and there’s a very wide consensus for addressing those through public investment.”

(Courtesy CCPA)

Paid sick leave, public seniors care, interest-free mortgage and rent deferrals and stronger safety measures for all workers had between 70 and 80 per cent support across party lines.

Nearly 70 per cent say the government should increase social assistance rates to be above the poverty line.

Respondents also report high concern for loved ones safety, women facing violence, and safety in the workplace. But those making more than $100,000 per year are significantly less likely to share the concerns of those making less money.

“There is perhaps a broad shift, or certainly a broad census across society and across the party lines, including among those who are typically voting on the right of the political spectrum, that may be a reflection of the crisis that we’re in exposing the need for us to act together collectively.”

Almost two-thirds of people say they support raising the minimum wage for grocery workers to $20 an hour immediately.