The B.C. Liberals plan to match an NDP campaign promise to increase welfare rates by $100 a month. The pledge reverses an insistence to leave welfare rates frozen that the Liberals held for the past decade.
Premier Christy Clark will use the throne speech that she’s scheduled to deliver this Thursday (June 22) to make the news official, according to the Vancouver Sun.
The increase to social assistance is unlikely to actually come into effect anytime soon. Once the B.C. legislature is reconvened and Clark is done with her speech, MLA’s will hold a vote of confidence and the Liberal’s minority government is expected to lose that test.
In B.C., the social-assistance rate is $610 per month for an employable single person. Under the B.C. Liberals, that’s where the province’s welfare rate has remained frozen since 2007.
The Welfare Food Challenge, a Vancouver-based group that holds an annual event aimed at raising awareness of hardships faced by low-income people, last year estimated that a “realistic” rent for a single-room occupancy hotel in the Downtown Eastside was $479. Raise the Rates B.C. then subtracted $20 for a damage deposit, $25 for a cellphone plan, and $10 for hygiene. What’s left for food was $76 per month, or $18 per week.
The Liberal’s proposed increase to $710 per month would leave $176 for good, or $44 a week.
For many years, activists and nonprofit groups who work with low-income people have begged the Liberal government to increase welfare rates.
During the last provincial election, both the NDP and the Greens pledged to do that.
“We will reduce the depth of poverty in BC by acting immediately to raise all income assistance and disability rates by $100 per month,” the NDP’s platform reads.
The NDP said they would also implement further increases to the minimum wage to incrementally bring it to $15 an hour.
During the election, the Liberals maintained they would not increase the rate of general social assistance; however, the party’s platform did include a $50-per-month-increase to assistance rates for people with a disability.
The B.C. Greens’ election platform discusses the idea of a guaranteed-basic income that would begin with a pilot program.