Last week in the House of Commons, Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns called on the federal government to make education more accessible by reducing barriers to the Canada Learning Bond (CLB). A few days later, the Liberal Party announced a plan to spend $7 million over three years, starting next year, on a way to spend untapped money that could be assisting children.
“We’d like to see a lot more because there’s a lot of money sitting on the table,” Johns said in an interview from Ottawa. “Child poverty is a huge issue in our riding. We need to find every way we can, and every mechanism, to tackle child poverty. We all can agree, one child living in poverty is one child too many.”
Johns said one in seven B.C. children live in poverty (combined family household income less than $45,000 a year). He said the rate is more than one in five children in the Comox Valley, and one in three in the Alberni Valley.
The CLB program entitles a child up to $2,000; however, in Courtenay, only 228 of 590 eligible children signed up for the program.
“That gives us an opportunity to secure over a million dollars that otherwise will be left in Victoria and Ottawa,” Johns said. “We need to double down and bring stakeholders and groups together that are tackling poverty to apply for the funds, to develop local initiatives to make it easier to register children for the programs…Our goal is to reduce barriers.”
According to Vancouver Island University, a low- to moderate-income child with school savings of $1-$499 before reaching college age is four times more likely to enrol in college than a child with no savings.
“The number one determinant to health is education,” Johns said. “2018 will be a big focus of our office to make sure we enlist every child we can, and not leave any money in Ottawa.”
If interested in helping raise awareness about the CLB program, contact Johns’ office at Gord.Johns@parl.gc.ca or 1-844-620-9924.
His Courtenay office at 367 Fourth St. is open Mondays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.