What do two associate professors, a lawyer and a dentist have in common? They are all displaying a banner that says, “Raise the Rates. Welfare=Hunger” on their Vancouver home.
These folks have three of the ten banners lawyer Megan Ellis had printed for Raise the Rates, to show that people all over the city want higher welfare rates. The current rate for a single person is $610 a month and $906 for a person with a recognized disability.
“I had the banners made because I found it difficult to remain silent knowing that many people in my community live with hunger as a frequent, if not constant companion,” says Ellis, a lawyer. “The government has allowed the minimal support which is “welfare” to erode to such a point, that people can no longer maintain even the basics of food and shelter, let alone live productive lives. I find it intolerable that people in this wealthy province live in hunger, despite the efforts of food banks and charities to fill the growing gaps. It is immeasurably cruel and short-sighted that children go without the nutrition they need to grow and to learn. There must be a basic standard of living to which all of us are entitled, even those of us who cannot provide it for ourselves, and welfare rates must be brought up to meet it. The banners are a way of protesting this wrong.”
“I was excited to have a chance to display my opinion on the welfare rates,” said Penny Thompson, a dentist. “I find it discouraging that the public mood on welfare has been shifted by business-influenced politicians toward a much less compassionate culture than we used to have in Canada. I was happy to be offered a means to speak up about it. When we are silent, the politicians think they have support for their ideas.”
“I live in what many people would consider a ‘nice’ house,” continued Thompson, “and I liked the idea that people would see my banner and know that not everyone who is lucky enough to have enough in these troubled economic times is complacent about how hard a lot of people are struggling to care for themselves and their families.”
“We put up this banner because Canada is a very wealthy country that can afford to look after our elderly living on fixed incomes, single parents raising children, or people with disabilities,” said Charles Dobson and Alex Phillips, both Associate Professors at Emily Carr College.
“Making sure that everyone’s basic needs are met also saves money in the long run by reducing costs to social services and the justice system. We don’t want our country to look like the third world where income inequality is extreme and the elite drive around in huge SUVs while children go hungry. Raising the rates won’t eliminate poverty but it will relieve a lot of suffering and maybe make a difference in helping some people get a foothold on self-sufficiency.”
People with banners are posting pictures of them on Facebook and sending pictures of them to Premier Christy Clark. Raise the Rates is asking people to keep them up for 2 or 3 weeks and then pass them on to someone else. If you would like to get on the waiting list for a banner, or sponsor some more banners, email. email@example.com
“Just like the rally we had on Tuesday, the banners are showing that there is broad support for increasing welfare rates which haven’t been raised for 8 years,” said Raise the Rates organizer Bill Hopwood.