Pulling Teeth: Budget 2019 a big disappointment

Commenting from unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories, known as Vancouver–

After a year of poverty reduction “consultations” with the BC government, we at Raise the Rates are extremely disappointed to see that they did not hear us. Another year of rapidly rising housing prices, unlivable costs of living, and government inaction on welfare and disability rates means more suffering, trauma, and deepening debt for folks living on income assistance.

It’s true: this year, the government announced an increase to rates. By $50. Now a single person on income assistance is receiving $760 per month.

This $50 proves to us that the government really did not listen to the deep, meaningful, visionary words and work that we and our anti-poverty allies brought to the table. It demonstrates to us that people in the depth of poverty don’t matter in light of the “fiscal responsibilities” of the government, and aren’t worth investing valuable money into.

We know what it takes: a mere 1.16billion in bringing up income assistance rates to the poverty line in BC. This is only 1% of the provincial GDP. What we are starting to realize is that the government cannot be bothered to spend even 1%. 1% of its wealth to drastically change the lives of the over 180 000 people living on income assistance.

An increase of $50 is half of the increase that the government gave to income assistance in September 2017.

They seem to care about 50% less now. And it’s not looking great for the future.

It begs the question, are we at the dentist? Because getting any government in BC to care about people on income assistance seems to be like pulling teeth (and the astronomical bill that comes after).

We told them: raise welfare rates. Raise disability rates. If not to the federal poverty line (market basket measure), at least commit to 75% of the poverty line.

We told them: make sure to tie rents to the unit, and not the tenant, so landlords can stop taking advantage of low-income people to make a profit off our human right to housing.

We told them: create a more equitable, accessible assistance system, that is actually here for the support of vulnerable and targeted populations.

We told them: make a poverty reduction plan that has no holes, no gaps, no lack of communication between ministries because everyone pays for poverty, and every ministry is responsible for an equitable plan.

We supported the work of many other groups who have been saying the same things for many years, in many different ways.

We urged them to end poverty, or at least reduce poverty. Instead they have entrenched poverty for those in the deepest poverty and the greatest need.

Who exactly was the government listening to?