Alex Sangha: For decades, welfare rates have been too low in B.C.

I commend Surrey MLA Jagrup Brar for his efforts to draw attention to the thousands of British Columbians living in impoverished conditions on welfare in this province.

I feel $610 per month is legislated poverty and oppressive, and the welfare rates should be raised sooner rather than later. Why?

Raising welfare rates is an efficient way to stimulate the economy. Most of the money distributed to the poor will be spent in the local economy and stimulate demand. This will increase the need for more goods and services and workers, and unemployment may start to fall gradually.

Helping the poor pays huge dividends in every sector of government expenditure, especially big budget items such as health and education. Lifting children and families out of poverty increases positive outcomes for the most marginalized among us, whether it’s increasing literacy, reducing malnourishment, or increasing graduation rates. With a focus on a healthy and educated society, less youth will go into crime or gangs, thereby saving the government millions in police, court, and prison-related costs.

It is morally and ethically the right thing to do to help the less fortunate get ahead and reach their potential. That is good social policy. Every politician and government should strive to help their citizens make the most of their potential and contribute to society. The extremes between the rich and poor is already causing Occupy riots all over the world. It is in everyone’s best interests to moderate these extremes for the peace and good order of society. I believe in peaceful protests but not riots and permanent camps. The solution is finding support for the mentally ill, detox for persons addicted to drugs, and homes for the homeless.

Brar should also be arguing for streamlining the administration of the welfare system. I don’t see why the federal government cannot issue income-assistance cheques through the use of technology and centralization. This removes the stigma of welfare and huge savings can be made in overall administration. There is no stigma in receiving an HST cheque. The HST is relatively efficiently administered compared to setting up welfare offices in every town in the province and throughout the country. Most importantly, the administrative savings of switching to a federal centralized system can be passed on to those in need as an increase in the welfare rate. In this way, the government would not be spending a cent more by increasing welfare rates but would be simply passing on savings through greater efficiencies and economies of scale.

And yes the waiting period should be abolished! There is no direct relationship between a waiting period and a job search. The two are two separate things. The government should pay people their benefits while they’re doing the job search so they can survive and pay their food and shelter expenses. It also costs money to find a job. You need nice clothes, transportation money, telephone, access to Internet to check and send emails, and maybe even a fax machine.

Last, you must understand the history of the development of the welfare office to comprehend why it is unfair and unjust. The welfare office is a product of the old English Poor Laws and the concept of “less eligibility”. Less eligibility means a welfare recipient cannot receive more money than the least paid worker. This is why welfare rates are so low even for people with disabilities, who are among the most chronically unemployed, and why there is a focus on finding work. This concept of less eligibility basically drives down wages and benefits for all workers and is not a good thing for society. Welfare rates have not met market needs and requirements for decades. I think a welfare recipient receives $375 for rent per month. Where can you find a place for that amount in Vancouver unless you relocate to the marginalized and often dangerous parts of town?

Alex Sangha is a registered social worker and the author of The Modern Thinker.



Steve Y

Jan 3, 2012 at 8:32pm

No one said you have to live alone. I know accountants that share 1 bedrooms in vancouver. Yet our welfare people deserve their own downtown pad paid for by me.


Jan 3, 2012 at 11:12pm

Are there no poor dormitories, Steve? Are there no workhouses?

I've lived in more than one of those "Downtown pads" you so glibly refer to and all I can say is, you're an uninformed asshole. People already are forced into sharing agreements with strangers just to make their nut. Do you have roomies you barely know? Does the word "dignity" ring any bells? Felt any bedbugs lately?

For ignorant comments like yours... I have no more words. For the institutionalized poverty you champion... plenty.

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Mark S

Jan 4, 2012 at 12:04am

I agree with alex. It is an easy way to stimulate the economy. People on disability who come off income assistance can keep their benefits. Like medical and dental. But loose their bus pass.

How do they get to work, if they have to have one or more jobs. Recently, Global news highlighted the case that an additional $383.00 will be compounded this year.

Personally, i would like to see everyone in the province pay a flat fee for a bus pass to change behavior. Much like the drunk driving campaign and the new revised criminal code of canada. Will there still be drunk drivers or bad people yes. Did it work in the United States, NO. There stance on lets "GIT EM", and war on everything and everything has been a complete failure while the systemic moral decay of peoples lives are shattered.

The missing womens task force in bc and the provincial governements victim assistance fund currently sits at 53 million.
I suspect the victims assistance fund is more like an oxy-moron. In that, they pay for counselling but what about if i dont know correct me. But what about the loss of a loved one or the emotional or physical scars.

Or is it like ICBC's policy on soft tissue damage that they offer limited or no compensation and do not know the consequences years out.

Mark Stephens Cofounder with Alex Sangha of Mindset.

Arthur Vandelay

Jan 4, 2012 at 6:34am

Of course we all want to help those who are truly in need. The problem always becomes, however, that hard working taxpayers do not want to pay for "welfare cheats, deadbeats and varmints" as Mike Harcourt called them. Until there is a method of distinguishing these people from those truly in need, there will be public resistance to raising rates beyond levels where they are now, which are surely inadequate, as Mr. Brar's obvious grandstanding will highlite. This issue is not a winner with the general public and will get only lip service from the NDP should they form government.

2nd Nation

Jan 4, 2012 at 9:21am

(I suspect such a comment is unwelcome in the GS but here goes): yes, welfare is low. Paid work typically earns more than no work. Just a thought.

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davy jones

Jan 4, 2012 at 9:28am

the govt is so evil and corrupt, they don't care about the people, they couldn't care less if we die in the streets, unless of course its tourist season
they like low welfare rates so girls turn to prostition and guys turn to crime so the evil govt can continue its criminal injustice system with all thier high priced lawyer friends


Jan 4, 2012 at 10:07am

I agree with author Alex Sangha and I feel we should abolish welfare offices and replace it with a guaranteed annual income or a minimum threshold that every citizens will automatically receive support if their income dips below. It really is a waste to have a welfare office in everywhere. They are just designed to penalize the poor and have been ineffective in almost everything they do except keeping the poor trapped and impoverished.

Diane Robins

Jan 4, 2012 at 12:21pm

When will the rates be raised. You and many others talk about this fact each year, and nothing changes. Will it take another decade or two to change the government's perception on Welfare and the recipients who have been totally ignored by the BC Government. Another thing that needs to change is the way the staff lable people on welfare as difficult and not difficult - they must think they are somebody else. The welfare system likes to fight brining conflict into the lives of people. They deserve a slap on the face for their disrespectful actions.

unknown sample

Jan 4, 2012 at 1:29pm

giving the able bodied welfare is a societal disease. it creates a segment of the population who feel a sense of entitlement. it destroys human ambition and the self respect gathered from earning a living. it encourages a sense of victimhood.

call me an asshole if you want, BUT NOBODY OWES YOU A LIVING. either get a job (any job) or move to where you can find a job and/or acceptable accommodations.