On August 15th, a small group of Raise the Rates organizers and volunteers headed to Minister Shane Simpson’s downtown Vancouver office to give him our demands. This is our confirming letter.
To Minister Shane Simpson;
Hello! Raise the Rates coalition here. We are writing to confirm the demands we brought forward to our meeting on Tuesday August 15th, where we spoke about the necessity of raising welfare rates to at least the market basket measure of $1680 (for Vancouver area), how we can’t end homelessness without raising rates, how impossible it is to get PWD, how people are losing their lives in poverty, and how a more equal society benefits everyone.
Raise the Rates is a coalition of people in poverty, organizers, advocates, faith groups, unions, community groups and organizations. We have spent many years demanding the government to commit to ending poverty. Two weeks ago, we asked you, what kind of legacy does the NDP want to have? Do you want to end poverty, legislate it further (which it will be with rates kept at the level they are now, $710/single person), or reduce it? We gave you a list of arbitrary barriers to accessing welfare that you could remove with an order in council. These barriers stem from the 50% diversion rate in welfare offices, which, if this policy was abolished, more people would be able to access the support they need.
We are sending along this letter asking you to respond to our demands:
One of our group members said to you, “We know you are inheriting a huge mess, but people are losing their lives”. We understand the mess the Liberals made, and the devastating effects of their policies. We call upon you, Minister Simpson and your fellow ministers, assistants, deputy ministers, parliamentary secretaries, everyone in office, to push forward bold ideas and an unshakeable commitment to ending poverty. We will continue to change the minds and hearts of the public to come to understand that $610, $710 is not enough to live on, and that a more equal society benefits all. What you must do now is support these ideas publicly, and set an example of what a just, reconciliation-focused BC could actually look like.
In Struggle and Solidarity,
Raise the Rates
In early June, Raise the Rates contributed to the Federal Consultation on creating a poverty reduction plan. We doubt this will have much impact– consultations feel very removed from any actual change. However, it’s about time the federal government was talking about a poverty reduction plan (though it should really be a poverty ABOLISHMENT plan). If you ever wanted a comprehensive idea on what we stand for, read on…
Dear Honorable Jean Yves Duclos,
This is the response of the BC Raise the Rates coalition to your request for input into how a National Anti-Poverty Strategy should look.
Who is Raise the Rates? Raise the Rates includes 22 member groups such as the Carnegie Community Action Project, Positive Living, Streams of Justice, BC Teachers Federation, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Gordon Neighbourhood House. Our members also include low income individuals. We have been working since 2006. We sponsor the Welfare Food Challenge every year, where we ask people to eat only what they can buy with what a person on welfare has for food money. We also hold actions designed to pressure governments to raise welfare rates, restore bus passes to people with disabilities, etc.
Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: We believe Canada should comply with the Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “ Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” We believe that these rights should be enshrined in Canadian law so they are actually enforceable.
We support the development of a comprehensive national poverty reduction strategy that is grounded in human rights and has strong targets and timelines. It should be legislated and adequately funded. This strategy should provide strong policy responses to address poverty.
Raising welfare rates: Raise the Rates has focused on trying to get the BC government to increase current welfare rates which have been frozen at $610 a month for a single person for over a decade. This means that single people who pay the average rent of $548/month for a single room occupancy hotel room in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have only $2 a day left for food and everything else. http://www.carnegieaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CCAP-SRO-HOTEL-REPORT-2016.pdf
We need to restore national standards for welfare: Prior to 1996 the federal government shared the cost of welfare payments 50/50 with provinces providing the provinces complied with 4 rules that guaranteed basic economic human rights:
When the Liberal government abolished the Canada Assistance Plan in 1996, provinces lost half of the money they spent on welfare and low income people lost these rights. Provinces began either cutting or not indexing welfare payments until, now, they are completely inadequate and people who rely on welfare have an extremely hard time subsisting. This is about the time that homelessness in Canada started becoming a major problem. Before 1996 welfare provided enough money that people in need could access it and have enough to pay rent.
Therefore, Raise the Rates is calling on the federal government to again require national standards for welfare and contribute to provinces’ welfare expenses.
Two other national standards should be added to the four above:
Welfare amounts and access: Raise the Rates is calling on welfare to be paid at Market Basket level which would be about $15oo a month for a single person without disabilities. Provinces should also be forbidden from enacting measures that restrict access to people in need such as BC’s 5 week wait for assistance when you first apply, and the requirement that you prove that you’ve worked for 2 years prior to receiving assistance.
Minimum wage: A huge part of ending poverty is increasing the minimum wage. It should be $15 an hour now. While this is mostly in provincial jurisdiction, the federal government could enact it for federal jurisdiction and provide incentives for provinces to follow suit.
Housing costs are causing poverty: The federal government needs to allocate billions of dollars to build social housing that low income people can afford. In BC we need at least 10,000 units per year. Housing must be seen as a human right, not a commodity and governments must act to get a huge portion of housing out of the market like it is in places like Vienna and Hong Kong.
Childcare: Support for $10 a day or free quality childcare should also be a right of Canadians and would help many mothers escape poverty, although we believe that if single mothers want to stay home and raise their children income assistance should provide enough for them to do that.
Employment Insurance: Unemployment Insurance should be restored to all people who are unemployed, not a mere 40 or so percent, and rates should be increased, especially for people who have low wages.
End poor bashing. The federal government should take a leading role in countering discrimination, stereotyping and poor bashing of people who are poor. For example, the government shouldn’t just say it wants to help the middle class and people who want to be middle class. People who are poor are human too and there is no shame in not having a lot of money. The Canadian Human Rights Act should be amended to prohibit discrimination based on social condition including low income.
Poverty of Indigenous peoples: Land should be restored to Indigenous peoples. The theft of land has been proven again and again as the source of harm and poverty in Indigenous communities. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People needs to ratified and implemented immediately, and the federal government needs to uphold the rights it has granted Indigenous communities through land and title immediately. All resource and land development on unceded Indigenous lands needs to be returned, and Indigenous economies need to be encouraged to flourish. In the meantime, the basic human right to an adequate standard of living should be implemented immediately for all Indigenous people–clean drinking water, the right to speak Indigenous languages, raise their children, and live free from discrimination.
Tax the rich. Studies by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have shown that it’s cheaper to reduce than to maintain poverty. But there will be some up-front costs that should be paid for by increasing taxes on the rich and corporations, considering all the tax breaks and benefits that they receive. More studies show that inequality is associated with shorter life expectancies for people at all income levels but especially low income people. So taxing the rich can not only provide money for needed programs but also provide more equality and longer lives.
Thank you for looking at our recommendations
Kell Gerlings, organizer Raise the Rates
Jean Swanson, organizer Raise the Rates
If you are outraged by the games the BC Libs are playing with welfare rates and poor people’s lives….
If you are sick of the status quo, frozen welfare rates, homelessness, poor-bashing…
If you want to see change happen…
then JOIN US on MONDAY JUNE 26th at 7PM at Grandview Cavalry Baptist Church (1803 East 1st Ave) for our annual Thank You and What’s Next?! event. We will be sharing stories, desserts, and brainstorming for new ideas, fresh voices, and more energy in our campaign to raise the rates!
If you’ve never been to a raise the rates meeting…make it to this one! please RSVP to email@example.com so we know how many desserts to make!
We are excited to announce that we found our new organizer!
Welcome to Kell Gerlings, who has slowly been starting with Raise the Rates over the past few weeks. Kell is a queer youth activist, originally from Toronto, living on Unceded Coast Salish lands for 6 years now. Kell studied political science and social justice at UBC, and has been involved in many different organizing spaces in their time here– from climate justice to gender justice, in the classroom and on the streets. Most recently, Kell has helped launch the Vancouver Tenants Union, and is involved in the struggle for housing justice in the Downtown Eastside. Kell is excited to bring their passion for justice and energy for mobilizing to the Raise the Rates fight.
Over the next few weeks and months, we are going to be brainstorming where we want to go and what we can do, and do differently, as a campaign. This is the perfect time as the government changes hands to strategize and imagine what we want and need to see happen next. Keep an eye out for updates in this space — and save the date for Monday June 26th, for our Thank You//What’s Next? event. More details to come!
You can get in touch with any ideas and plans for Raise the Rates at our new central email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
At a mock funeral today people commemorated the shameful 10th anniversary of BC’s frozen welfare rates.
“Welfare cheques don’t come with a health warning,” said Raise the Rates organizer Bill Hopwood. “But about 100 people every week are killed in BC” because politicians have decided to promote poverty and inequality.
Hopwood was speaking at the event called by Raise the Rates to make the point that low welfare rates contribute to the inequality that causes about 40,000 deaths a year in Canada.
“Inequality is a political decision,” explained Hopwood. “The richest 1% in BC got a $41,000 a year tax break. The government must think it’s harder to be a millionaire than to live on welfare of $610 a month.”
“Wealth is not being fairly distributed,” said Dr. John Millar, former BC Public Health officer. As a result there is a “loss of hope, feeling of despair, pain and mental illness.”
Carmen Paterson called on the government to raise welfare rates to $1500 or more so people can have a healthy standard of living.
Without higher welfare, disability and minimum wages people living with HIV “are more likely to die in poverty just as they’re winning the war on HIV,” said Neil Self or Positive Living.
Raise the Rates is calling on the province to increase welfare rates to at least $1500 a month, the federal market basket measure, to promote more health better lives for low income people. The last increase in welfare for single people on basic welfare was on April 1, 2007.
April 1 is 10 years since basic welfare was last raised in BC, frozen at $610 a month . Statistics Canada reports that inequality kills 40,000 Canadians a year. BC has the worst inequality in Canada.
Gather at Carnegie (Main & Hastings) at 10 am on Friday March 31, set off about 10:15 to walk to the welfare office at Main & Powell. There we will have eulogies.
You are welcome to join us.
Report in the Toronto Star on Inequality Kills
The job description is below.
If you are interested please apply. Also feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested.
Raise the Rates Campaign Organizer
Contract hours: ~ 15 – 20 hours per week
Pay rate: $20/hr. plus 15% in lieu of benefits
Commencing: Ideally during May 2017
Raise the Rates is a coalition of community organizations, faith based groups and unions working to get government to raise welfare rates, build more social housing, eliminate arbitrary barriers to accessing welfare, increase the minimum wage and raise taxes for the wealthy.
Raise the Rates uses a variety of activities and events to raise public awareness of the many reasons to significantly increase the present poverty welfare rates in BC.
Email resume plus 2 letters of reference plus a half page essay on the causes of poverty to:
by April 21, 2017.