What will Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates do for youth in care? That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or parties.
Leading up to the election we’re publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is: “Being 18 and on a youth agreement from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, my needs moving out at 16 were nowhere near met – from not being able to sign my own tenancy agreement to people taking advantage of me. What are you going to do to improve the quality of life for youth?”
As of Oct. 17, The Discourse received answers from two of the four candidates via email. BC Liberal Party candidate RJ Senko will not be responding to questions due to his full schedule, according to a spokesperson from the BC Liberal team. The Discourse reached out to Independent candidate Desta McPherson over Facebook – since no other contact information could be found – but has not heard back yet. This story will be updated if additional responses come in.
I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.
Mitzi Dean, BC New Democratic Party
I am sorry to hear that you had to endure this – at such a young age, especially. Quality of life is a top priority of our government, and we’re working hard to improve services to help those who most need it.
Our government eliminated post-secondary tuition and provided additional funding for living expenses for former youth in care, up to age 27. With this elimination of fees, so far more than 1,119 former youth in care have been able to attend post-secondary and work towards their dreams.
We increased funding and supports under the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program by removing barriers for youth leaving care by supporting tuition waivers and helping with living expenses for their post-secondary studies up to age 27. We’ve increased the needs-based monthly support rate by up to $250, to a maximum of $1,250. And now we allow for year-round financial support, so young people can continue to receive supports during school program breaks.
If we are re-elected, we will expand tuition waivers to all former youth in care, regardless of age. We will freeze rent increases until the end of 2021, and then limit increases to inflation (which we started in 2019). A $400 renter’s rebate and COVID recovery benefit are also helping to make paying the bills easier.
Andy MacKinnon, BC Green Party
Government needs to work more closely with youth to develop a system that better recognizes their needs and better supports those needs as teens become 20-somethings. This is clearly a multi-faceted challenge requiring involvement of education, jobs training, physical and mental health support, and more. And it has to be a flexible system that recognizes and accommodates the diverse needs of diverse young people.
- The recently-released Green Party platform has a section on affordability and equity, which includes public education, housing affordability and equity and inclusion. The platform can be downloaded online. The platform supports implementing basic income for youth aging out of care, creating a housing office to assist people with disabilities and youth aging out of care to find suitable accommodation and early intervention mental health care for youth.
- On the BC Liberal Party platform, a section entitled “children and students” as well as “adult learners” looks at school programs, streamlining the adoption approval process, building schools and more. The platform is available online.
- The BC New Democratic Party platform is broken down into “commitments” which include affordability and security and equity, inclusion and human rights for everyone. The full platform can be viewed online. The platform mentions focusing on mental health in schools, making education and training more affordable and available and expanding tuition wavers to all former youth in care.