It seemed a reasonable request.
The Representative for Children and Youth asked Premier Gordon Campbell and NDP leader Carole James to meet with her on the growing problem of child poverty.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the representative, is worried. For six years in a row, Statistics Canada reported, B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada.
And the recession has greatly increased the number of children at risk.
Children's lives today, and their futures, should be above partisan considerations. Turpel-Lafond invited the two leaders to sit down and talk about what is being done, and could be done, to help children.
James said yes.
Campbell said no. He refused even a meeting, brushing off the Children and Youth Representative and the issue of child poverty.
There are reasons for the premier to worry. The representative might point out problems - that is part of the job, created in as a result of the damning Hughes' report on the government's failures on children's issues. James might look for political advantage.
But the plight of some 126,000 B.C. children - with that number growing each week - seems more important than those political considerations.
The problems are serious. For six years, Statistics Canada has reported that B.C. has the highest proportion of children in poverty. You can quarrel about the definition of poverty, but StatsCan is comparing provinces on the same basis. And year after year, B.C. ranks at the bottom.
Across Canada in 2007, 9.5 per cent of children live in poverty. In B.C., 13 per cent of children fell below the poverty line. That is an improvement.
But not enough to move B.C. out of last place on child poverty. And it still meant 126,000 children in B.C. were living on the margins.
That number is much higher now. The recession has sent families on a downward spiral. Jobs are lost - there were 103,000 fewer people with full-time jobs in May than a year earlier.
Some people find work at lower wages. Others go on unemployment insurance. When that runs out - and any savings are gone - they end up on welfare, now known as income assistance. The government has kept life on income assistance pretty miserable. The focus should be on helping those who can work to find a job, the Liberals maintained.
It's a defensible position when the economy is growing and employers are hiring.
But it not when families with no options are forced to live in grinding poverty.
In four months, the number of children living on welfare has jumped almost nine per cent. A single parent with two children who is considered employable receives up to $660 a month on income assistance for rent. It's tough to find a decent one-bedroom - for three people - for that amount.
In addition, the family on assistance gets $650 a month for everything else. Try it. Put $650 in a jar and see if you and two children can make it through the month.
Bus passes, food, insurance, clothes, school trips, a movie with friends for your daughter, swimming lessons. Which will you drop?
If you get reckless, and spend $7 a day on food for each of the three people, all the income assistance is gone.
That's a long digression, but with a point. Times are grim for a lot of children in B.C. - for a higher percentage here than anywhere else in Canada). We benefit when children make the most of their potential.
But Campbell refused a meeting to talk about how we could give more children a chance to build great lives here.
Other provinces have already set out plans for reducing child poverty, with timelines and actions and targets to measure progress. B.C. has not taken that basic step.
The children's representative offered a simple opportunity to look at a critical problem. And the premier said no.
Footnote: Campbell said the representative should discuss child poverty with the legislative committee on children and youth. The committee has not met in almost eight months, and in any case has no power to direct the government or bring about improvements.