Write to your MLA

[MLA Address]


Dear [MLA Name],

I am a member of your constituency and I want you to know that I support the work of the Raise the Rates campaign. Here are some things which I would like to see the British
Columbia Legislature take action on:
• Increase Income Assistance Rates to the Market Basket Measure. This is approximately $1600 a month in Vancouver, for a single person. I want to see the rates indexed to inflation.
• Remove arbitrary barriers that prevent people in need from receiving assistance. The 2-year independence test, the 5-week work search and restrictions based on citizenship status are unfair and prevent people from receiving the help they need.
• Increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and index it to inflation.
• I want to see an end to the clawbacks that prevent single parents receiving support from the absent parent.
• Build at least 10,000 units of affordable non-market housing per year in addition to increases in supportive housing, assistive living units and shelter beds.
• Provide high quality public childcare.
• Increase the tax rate on people who earn more than $250,000 per year and reverse the tax cuts to corporations.

These measures will ensure that everyone in British Columbia is able to participate in our economies and communities. These measures will help to end poverty in our province.
We should not have anyone in our province that has to live in poverty since there is no
reason why anyone in Canada should have to go without.

By implementing the solutions brought forward by the Raise the Rates campaign, this
government can show the people they care about the well being of British Columbians,
and are willing to fulfill their responsibilities to their constituents.

Yours truly,





Premier Clark’s reply to Raise the Rates

On October 20th, 2013 Raise the Rates wrote to Premier Clark highlighting that people on welfare cannot live a healthy life – they cannot afford basic nutritional food. Read Raise the Rates’ letter

On November 5th Premier Clark replied and assured us that “the fight against poverty continues”.

This just days before First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition released its annual Child Poverty Report Card. This year BC is again the worst in Canada, been that way for 10 years, and child and adult poverty has increased in the last year.


2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge

At the End of the Welfare Food Challenge.
People who Took the Welfare Food Challenge and Who live on Welfare

Raise the Rates’ 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge between October 16th and 23rd was a success, with around 100 people across the province of BC taking part. The social media was busy and we also had coverage in many local media outlets around the province. To find out more go to the website on the Welfare Food Challenge.


World Food Day

October 16 is World Food Day and today

·      the Vancouver Sun carried an op-ed by Graham Riches, emeritus professor of social work, UBC, on the Right to Food

·      Raise the Rates launched its week long Welfare Food Challenge (http://welfarefoodchallenge.org/)

 Also a month ago a coalition of some of BC’s leading antipoverty, food, health and social policy organizations invited the CBC to host a day of discussion around the theme of a BC ‘Right to Food Day’ to coincide with this year’s World Food Day.

Unfortunately the CBC declined this invitation to be part of a public discussion about reframing how to tackle hunger in BC from one based on food charity to a right to food.

Graham Riches refers to this exchange in his piece in the Vancouver Sun, and Raise the Rates in the interest of informed public policy publishes this exchange. Hopefully next year CBC will be part of the important discussion on the right to food and need to end food insecurity.



The letter was initially signed by 13 organizations that have since been joined by more. The letter has the support of the following organizations.

·      Aboriginal Front Door

·      ACORN – Canada

·      Africa Great Lakes Networking Foundation

·      BC Food Systems Network

·      BC Healthy Living Alliance

·      BC Poverty Reduction Coalition

·      British Columbia Nurses’ Union

·      Canada Without Poverty

·      Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC

·      Carnegie Community Action Project

·      Community Legal Assistance Society

·      Dietitians of Canada, BC

·      Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House

·      Faith in Action

·      First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition

·      Gordon Neighbourhood House

·      Justice For Girls

·      Parent Support Services Society of BC

·      Public Health Association of BC

·      Raise the Rates

·      Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver

·      Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition

·      Vancouver Food Policy Council


Raise the Rates has launched the 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge: Hungry for a Welfare Raise

The Welfare Food Challenge will start on Wednesday, October 16, World Food Day. We are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase based on what welfare recipients receive for one week (October 16 to October 22). Welfare Food Challenge participants will be expected to live on only the food they can purchase with $26 dollars.

Raise the Rates is inviting you to participate in the 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge. Starting on October 16, World Food Day, we are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase based on what welfare recipients receive for one week.

The event is to highlight the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. A single person receives only $610 a month, stuck at this rate for over 6 years. Raise the Rates, with others, is working to raise public awareness of the extreme poverty of people on welfare and how this causes ill-health, stress and emotional harm. It also costs the people of BC billions of wasted dollars every year.

Taking place from Wednesday, October 16 to Tuesday, October 22, Welfare Food Challenge participants will be expected to live on only the food they can purchase with $26 dollars. This is based on the knowledge that welfare recipients have to pay for rent, bus tickets, phone calls and some hygiene out of their $610, and there is little money left for other expenses.

Last year’s Welfare Food Challenge was a success with over 130 people taking part across the province including families, school and university students, people in work and seniors. We gained good mainstream and social media coverage.

We also hope you will document and publicize your experiences. This could include:

·      Writing blog posts for our website

·      Posted directly to social media

·      Attending a news conference and speaking to the media about the challenge.

·      Sharing your experiences with your friends, family, community members, and policy makers.

If you would like to find out more about Raise the Rates or last years Welfare Food Challenge look at www.raisetherates.org and http://welfarefoodchallenge.org/.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/635990433089949

Twitter is: @RaisetheRates

The issues of poverty and low income are of great concern and are garnering huge attention in BC. We hope that by continuing to push the government and raise public awareness about the inadequacy of welfare rates and the costs of poverty we will eventually see a change.

Thank you for considering taking the Welfare Food Challenge. Please contact Bill Hopwood at bill50@vcn.bc.ca or 604 738-1653 if you have any questions or would like to participate.


Bill Hopwood

Raise the Rates, Organizer


Supporting Raise the Rates: Report of 2012

There is no doubt that the work of Raise the Rates, and other campaign groups, is raising public awareness about the extreme poverty in BC and the need for a significant increase in welfare support as part of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. In 2010 there were 688,000 people in poverty in BC, more than 1 in 7 of the population. Many more people are touched by poverty with family and friends in poverty or being only a couple of pay cheques away from poverty.

People on welfare are the poorest of the poor and tackling welfare poverty will help tackle all poverty. An opinion poll, organized by the BC Healthy Living Alliance in 2012, found that 78% of British Columbians support a provincial poverty reduction strategy, and 75% support adjusting income assistance rates to account for the real cost of a nutritious diet and real market rental rates.

However there is much more to do. While voters said that poverty and inequality were issues for them, misguided concerns and hopes about the economy and jobs dominated people’s choices. We will need to work harder to convince people that poverty is a cost to society and their wallets – it is estimated that poverty costs each person in BC $2,100 a year.

Raise the Rates has been active this year and has plans for further activity in 2013. One example is that there is a resolution moved by the City of Vancouver going to the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September.

With your support, we will work to build a movement for change that raises welfare, tackles poverty and shifts the priorities of society to putting the needs of people first.

Take a look at our 2012 activities report to see what else we’ve been working on.

We hope you will consider supporting Raise the Rates. Please send any donations to Raise the Rates with cheques payable to ‘Raise the Rates’.

Contact us:

  • Letter: c/o CCAP, 401 Main Street, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7
  • Phone: 604 738-1653 (Bill) or 604 729-2380 (Jean)
  • E-Mail: bill50@vcn.bc.ca

Thank you for your support.

Bill Hopwood, Organizer, Raise the Rates


News Release: NDP welfare announcement dashes hope for poorest

“It’s a complete, horrible insult to the poorest of the poor,” said Dave Jaffe, a senior who used to be on disability, about the NDP’s platform announcement that they’ll raise welfare by a mere $20 a month.  The proposed rate increase for single employable people would be about $45 below the cost of living increase since the last welfare rate increase in 2007. 

“It’s not right at all,” said Sandra Pronteau, a woman on disability.  “$20 is insane.  Why can’t they be realistic and put the needs of the people first?  It’s like we’re being punished.”  People on disability won’t get any increase, according to the NDP platform statement.

The total $630 a month welfare rate won’t be enough to allow single people on welfare to both rent a cheap place to live and buy nutritious food.  According to the BC Dietitians 2011 report, the minimum cost of rent and nutritious food for a single person is $950, not counting bus fare, telephone, and other necessities.  The current welfare rate for a single person is $610 a month.

The NDP announcement also said if the NDP is elected it will give low income children about $70 a month more, but there was no increase at all for people with disabilities who subsist on a mere $906 a month, compared to $1588 in Alberta.

The NDP also said it would index welfare benefits to the cost of living.  While this could be a good idea, if the benefits are too low to survive on in the first place, the indexing will only perpetuate desperation.

“This paltry increase won’t reduce my anxiety about voting NDP,” said Tami Starlight, who is on disability.

“It’s completely insignificant,” said Herb Varley.  “For me the earning exemption of $400 will help but not everyone can work.”

Last year Raise the Rates challenged MLAs to live on $610 a month and organized over 100 people to live on $26 a week, the amount people on welfare have to spend on food.

“A lot of people in BC want an effective poverty reduction strategy,” said Jean Swanson of Raise the Rates.  “The foundation of that strategy is a significant increase in welfare to the poorest people in the province.  This $20 announcement is an insult.  Voters who want poverty reduction are left wondering who to vote for.”

 Read some of the media coverage:

BC NDP releases proposal to reduce child poverty
BC NDP’s $20 welfare raise won’t tackle poverty, says advocate
Anti-poverty activists call Dix’s proposal ‘pathetic’