W2TV: Raise the Rates MLA Welfare Challenge

Coast Salish Territory – 600 block Powell Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver BC. Near the local office of the BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development.

On May 26, 2011, a group named Raise the Rates launches the MLA Welfare Challenge. A Challenge to BC MLA’s to see if any will live on the province’s rate of $610 for a single person.

Raise the Rates states an MLA accepting the challenge would be engaging in real action reseach and gain some understanding of what life on welfare is like.

It has been 25 years since Vancouver MLA and later Speaker of the House Emery Barnes spent 7 weeks living on the welfare rate of the time. Among those issuing the challenge to MLA’s is Constance Barnes, daughter of the late Mr. Barnes and a CoV Parks Board Commissioner. She explained with pride her father’s act to support a raise in welfare rates.

Based on his experience, Emery Barnes stated that the welfare rate for a single person without disabilities should be $700. That is 25 years ago and equivalent to $1,290 today, more than double what is the present welfare rate.

Bob Hopwood of Raise the Rates states they will provide MLA’s support and advice and work with them to ensure the month is a valuable and insightful experience.

As the legislature is in session until June 2, Raise the Rates states after that would be a good time to start with July 1 being the latest. MLA’s have until June 16 to respond. Raise the Rates commits to provide $610 to one MLA from each party and link them to people on welfare to hear their stories and experiences.

As MLA’s determine the welfare rates, they should be able to survive on them as 90,000 BC families and individuals do. Along with the MLA Welfare Challenge, Raise the Rates also has demands as Jean Swanson explains.

By taking the challenge, MLA’s would find current welfare rates for most does not provide enough for nutritous food or adequate shelter let alone hygiene or transportation.

The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver is $1,012 a month. Even in the lowest rent area of Vancouver the average rent is $805 a month. Raise the Rates is a coalition of over 20 organisation in BC concerned about poverty and nomelessness in the province.

For W2TV, Sid Tan reporting from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver BC.

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