Today a group of Raise the Rates supporters visited the office of Adrian Dix and delivered the following letter.
Dear Adrian Dix,
We are a small group here today, but we are not alone as we represent hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who are affected by poverty and the millions more who want action. We are here to ask you to publicly state that you support increasing welfare rates substantially.
Across the globe, popular movements of ordinary people have emerged, declaring in words and actions that they are no longer satisfied with the status quo. People have grown restless with a leadership that serves the interests of the political, social and economic elite while ignoring the needs of the majority. There is a growing disconnect between the popular mood and leaders who are reluctant to act. Increasingly people are taking action and not waiting for leaders.
A year ago today, Jagrup Brar, NDP MLA for Surrey Fleetwood, completed his month of living on the welfare rate of $610. Raise the Rates had challenged all MLAs, “Can you live on $610 for a month?” Brar took the challenge and found he could not live on welfare; he lost 26 pounds in weight. A year later welfare rates have not changed and people still cannot live on $610.
Poverty is bad for individuals and society. Cost of Eating in BC, 2011 points out that many in BC cannot afford healthy food and that this has many negative impacts. Last October, over 100 people in BC spent only $26 for a week’s food, what a single person on welfare has for food. Even the people who were trained dietitians and chefs could not make the money stretch. Some people who couldn’t cope gave up before the week was out and all who finished were hungry, stressed and bad-tempered. A person on welfare cannot afford a healthy diet.
At a time when politicians talk about being careful with money it is astounding to see the waste of money due to poverty. The CCPA report, The Cost of Poverty in BC, estimated that poverty costs BC at least $8 billion a year, over $1 billion in health alone. A strategy to end poverty would cost around $4 billion a year, so ending poverty in BC would save $4 billion a year.
When you ran for leader of the NDP tackling inequality was a top priority. BC has the biggest inequality gap of any province between the richest and poorest 20% of the population; the highest portion of the population in poverty; and either the worst or second worst record on child poverty for the past decade. An opinion poll in October 2012 found over 70% support for action including a provincial poverty reduction strategy, raising welfare to cover real food and housing costs and a program to build supported and affordable housing. A government that acted on these popular policies, paying for it by taxing the rich, would significantly reduce inequality.
The BC Government imposes poverty on hundreds of thousands of people of all ages. The NDP states that, if elected, it will implement a poverty reduction plan with clear targets and timelines. Increasing welfare rates is the most direct way to reduce poverty for the poorest. We call on you to agree to do this. More than words alone, we insist on the action with real change for the better.
The tide is shifting; people are restless and rising up. Their allegiance cannot be purchased by traditional political loyalties or mere election promises. Align yourself with this movement of popular resistance and social change. Dare to envision and enact a future of equality and justice.
Raise the Rates