Families First?

father carrying boy

Jill and Joe Public live in Abbotsford. They have two children, Charlie (11)  and Cindy (3).  Jill’s parents live on Saltspring and Joe’s parents live in Kelowna.

Charlie attends a local elementary school where he has been on a list for the past two years waiting  to be diagnosed for a suspected learning disability.  Jill and Joe talk frequently about what they would need to cut out of their household budget to find the $3000 it would cost to get him diagnosed privately. They worry that he’s falling too far behind in school without the help he clearly needs. His teacher does what she can but in a class of 30 students, she’s overwhelmed. She too would like to know how to help Charlie and hopes he’ll be diagnosed so that he can be designated soon.

Each year the family is involved in several fundraising campaigns to raise money for various needs at the school.  The school’s PAC raises about $10 000 per year with all the money going to purchase items for the library or for classrooms.  The family spends about $200 buying the fundraising items from chocolates to plants and magazine subscriptions, coupon books, etc.  They also spend about $60 on school supplies each year for Charlie.

Joe’s brother who lives in Saskatchewan doesn’t understand why the PAC has to spend so much time fundraising instead of time discussing other education issues in schools as happens where he lives.  He brings up this point whenever Charlie asks him to buy one fundraising item or another.

Cindy is in daycare at a cost of $1600 per month.  (Jill’s sister, who lives in Montreal pays $7 per day ( $140/month) for her son’s daycare.) This is often a point of discussion during the sisters’  phone calls.

Joe works in the Information Technology industry in Vancouver and commutes daily to his non-union job. He spends about $200 per month on bridge tolls which takes a chunk out of this pre-tax income of $65 000.

Jill is a student of the University of the Fraser Valley working on a Bachelors degree in Child and Youth Care. She is grateful for the extended health benefits she can access as a student ( since Joe’s work does not provide this)  but is worried about the $30 000 loan she will have to start to repay soon after she graduates.

Jill’s parents, Martha and Mark, are in good health and live active lives on Saltspring Island. Jill would like to take the children to see them more often but the $220 round trip cost of the ferry has meant that they only visit on special occasions. 

Joe’s parents, George and Grace, are both in poor health and rely on medications to get through each day.  Recently the provincial government announced that George’s  brand name medication would no longer be covered under Pharmacare and that he would have to purchase the generic version instead. George wonders if the generic version is as powerful as the brand name medication even though he has friends who have had good experiences with generic versions.  Grace has had to switch back to the brand name medication for her asthma as she was not able to sleep when she took the generic version. The extra expense of the brand name medication for Grace meant less money for things like trips with the senior’s club.

Joe has heard rumours at his workplace that the company will soon be bringing in Temporary Foreign Workers. He wonders if he too will be replaced by someone from another country who will do the work for a lower salary.  He remembers that news story about the people who had to train the very people who would be taking over their jobs.

Jill and Joe often talk (and sometimes argue)  about their household budget.  Jill has noticed that lately the amount she spends at the supermarket keeps climbing and she can’t figure out what more she can cut from the shopping list. The family hardly ever eats out and if they do, it’s at a place that has a special deal for children. The Hydro bill keeps going up and they wonder why they don’t get a refund from ICBC given the huge surplus that the crown corporation has.  A refund would certainly put a dent in the  Port Mann Bridge tolls that Joe has to pay each month.

Their plans for a family holiday to Disneyland have been shelved for now but they keep buying lottery tickets in the hope that one day …

This is  a composite portrait of a typical middle class family in BC and was created from characteristics of many families trying to make it  since the BC Liberal Party formed government in 2001.

3 thoughts on “Families First?”

  1. I have been in the same boat as this family. I was a single parent and my son was struggling and so was I to help him!! I didn’t give up and found that the university of Victoria did this testing for a donation! I was a real pain and called weekly and like they say the squeaky wheel gets the oil. He got in after only a few months!! After all that I came to the realization that the public school system was unable to help him, but that is a whole other story!! Good Luck and don’t give up!!


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