“Even though the Premier says families are first, families on welfare are last.” Stacey Bonefant was explaining why a group of about 15 people, including single parents on welfare, were at the Vancouver Aquarium 4 days before Family Day on Feb. 11th. “Families on welfare don’t have enough money to eat and pay the rent, let alone take our kids to the Aquarium,” Bonenfant said.
The mothers and grandmothers are part of Parents and Grandparents in Poverty, a group that meets in Strathcona and works to get higher welfare rates and better housing. A single parent with one child gets about $1236 a month to live on from welfare and the Child Benefit. Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in a cheaper area of Vancouver is over $1000 a month, the group pointed out.
“Shouldn’t low income kids get to see whales too?” asked Colleen Boudreau, a single parent on disability. “It helps them learn and socialize. But welfare rates are too low for us to afford the Aquarium.”
“Where am I going to get $57 for Aquarium admission for my two boys and me, plus transit fare to get here?” asked Bonefant. “I’d have to not buy milk or vegetables.”
The group wants government to increase welfare rates to the federal government’s market basket level, about $1300 a month for a single person.
At the news conference, Bonefant went through a “Do the Math” sheet showing how little she had to pay for necessities and things that her boys need.
“One of the reasons BC has the highest or second highest poverty and child poverty rate in Canada is that welfare rates are too low to live on,” added Paul Comeau.
“If families really are first in BC, the Premier should raise welfare rates so families on welfare can survive without harming children or their parents,” added Sandra Pronteau.
“Most people on welfare don’t live in social housing,” said Pronteau. “Their rent is way above what they can afford and they have to take it out of their food money.”