Poverty fighter says election platforms by major B.C. parties deny people on welfare a life with dignity

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      A hundred bucks a month may seem like a lot of money.

      That’s what people on welfare will get in additional assistance if the B.C. NDP wins the provincial election on May 9.

      Income assistance rates have been frozen since 2007 by the ruling B.C. Liberals, and unlike New Democrats, they’re not talking about an increase.

      If by some stroke B.C. Greens get to form government after May 9, welfare recipients will be a bit better off.

      Green leader Andrew Weaver has promised to raise welfare as well as disability rates by 10 percent in October, and 50 percent over current rates by 2020.

      At present, a single individual on income assistance gets $610 a month, and of this amount, $375 is for the cost of shelter. The person has to make do with remaining $235 for food and other needs. 

      A single parent with a child gets $945.58.

      In B.C., a person is considered to be living in poverty if the individual does not have an income of at least $1,500 a month.

      When reached for his opinion about what the major political parties have declared in the campaign, Bill Hopwood, an organizer with the Raise the Rates coalition, said that at least, the B.C. NDP have done better this time.

      Hopwood recalled that New Democrats announced in the 2013 election that they will increase welfare rates by $20 over two years.

      As for the Greens, he’s not too optimistic that they’ll get to form the next government.

      What strikes Hopwood is that the election platforms of the three major parties will continue to leave welfare recipients in perpetual poverty.

      “It would mean that people on welfare are still desperate poor,” Hopwood told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      He noted that even the City of Vancouver has publicly called for increasing the shelter allocation of welfare assistance from the current rate of $375 to $600 a month to reflect the cost of living.

      So even if a potential New Democrat government will increase welfare rates by $100 a month, it will still come short.

      “One hundred dollars is not going in any way get anybody out of poverty,” Hopwood said.

      It saddens Hopwood that there is not much hope offered by the ongoing provincial election campaign.

      “There’s still this attitude of unwillingness to recognize that people on welfare, whether it’s disability or not, are human beings, who deserve a life of dignity,” Hopwood said. “The idea that somebody, due to whatever misfortune, whether it’s fleeing domestic violence or losing your job or serious disability, could somehow be condemned to live far below the poverty line. None of the policies are willing to address that fundamentally.”

      “It says something deeply, I don’t know quite the right word is,” Hopwood continued, “but it seems to show quite a lack of human decency, that somehow people on welfare are not deserving a dignified life.”