Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory
April 1, 2014, Tour of Two Cities
7 years since last Welfare Raise!
This is No Joke!
After seven years of no increase in welfare rates, it is time to Raise the Rates.
On April 1, Raise the Rates organized a Tour of Two Cities, highlighting the contrast between the rich and poor in Vancouver. The Tour was to mark 7 years since the last welfare increase. The welfare rate for a single able-bodied person has been frozen at $610 a month while the rate for a single person on disability has been frozen at $906 a month. Inflation and soaring rents means that a person on disability welfare is at least $114 a month worse off than 7 years ago. This is No Joke!
The tour started outside the Carnegie Community Centre, the heart of the community with a huge range of activities including seniors programs, health advice, music, theatre, writing classes, a library, yoga and volleyball, education, conversation, friendship and good food. Lunch at Carnegie costs $2.25. Jean Swanson contrasted the treatment of rich and poor in BC today. Fraser Stuart explained what it is like on welfare, living on the able-bodied rate of $610.
The Tour set off down Hastings to go to the other side of town, the area for the rich and powerful. The tour highlighted that BC has enough money to raise welfare, tackle poverty and provide good housing for all. Instead, the BC Government gives handouts to the rich. Tackling poverty would save lives, make for a happier province and save the people of BC $4 billion a year.
Birks, the Luxury Jeweller, at 698 Hastings, was the first stop. Clearly there is plenty of money in Vancouver and Canada; Canada wide sales in 2013 were $158,834,000. The CEO’s income is well over $1 million a year.
The BC government’s tax cuts between 2000 and 2010 made the rich even richer. The richest 1% of British Columbians received, on average, an extra $41,000 a year from these tax cuts! This tax cut alone is more money than the income of half of the workers in BC. The median individual income, after tax, in 2011 was $26,842. To mark this marriage of the rich and government, Raise the Rates performed a symbolic wedding using a $41,000 ring!
Raise the Rates next visited the Vancouver Club, 915 W Hastings. This where some of the rich and powerful who make the decisions in BC hang out. Dave Diewert and Harold Lavender pointed out that, to join the Club the entrance fee alone is $6,500 and in addition there are monthly dues of $213 (for a resident of Vancouver over 45 years old). This doesn’t even get you cheap food. One of the lowest cost items on the menu is soup or salad, a sandwich, and tea or coffee all of costs $24 (plus tax and service charge!). This is more than a person on welfare has for a week’s food.
Trish Garner, Poverty Reduction Coalition, demonstrated the inequality of wealth in BC using a rope cut into 4 sections, and an invisible 5th piece. The richest 20% of people in BC have 75% of all the wealth while the poorest 60% share only 8% of the wealth.
Tracey Morrison, highlighted that poverty is one of the biggest causes of poor health as people cannot afford a healthy diet, have stressful lives and often have inadequate housing. Poverty costs the health system of BC over $1.2 billion every year. But the rich can afford extra private health treatment. Medisys Corporate Health Services, 900 W Hastings, a private health company had sales of over $50,000,000.
One of the hardest things do to on welfare is to find decent housing, as rents soar and affordable housing is replaced by condos. At the top of Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, 1038 Canada Place, sits Vancouver’s priciest condo, sold for $25 million, in June 2013. The $25 million, apparently spent for only a part-time home, could build over 100 units of good quality social housing.
Across the street is the BC Liberal’s office, Waterfront Centre, 200 Burrard Street. Bill Hopwood, Raise the Rates, stated that it is political decision to subsidize the rich, which means the BC has the worst adult and child poverty in Canada. In the last 30 years, people on welfare have had a 20% cut in income, while the Premier and MLAs are 25% better off and the 10% richest are 40% better off.
Sam Snobelin pointed out that Canada is a wealthy country and the Canadian Banks have plenty of money, the combined profits of the five big banks were $29 billion in 2013. The Royal Bank of Canada, Burrard & Georgia, is the most profitable, making $8.4 billion. The CEO received $12.6 million in compensation at the same time as firing 1,100 workers. The Canadian and US governments found around $140 billion to help out the banks during the financial crisis of 2008-9, yet the government will not provide a national housing strategy.
We Are Poor Because They Are Rich!
More Photos here.