In a Globe and Mail special, Doctor Gary Bloch explains that the current minimum wage is so low that, despite working full-time, some are unable to afford basic food, shelter, and clothing necessary to stay healthy. He calls this tragic situation a “public health travesty”, and calls for government officials to “[bring] an evidence-based approach to improving health and wellbeing to the forefront of their decision-making.”Dr. Bloch advocates for a liveable income that lifts individuals above the poverty line and gives them the ability to make healthy and sustaining food choices.
Poor health is both a symptom of low wages and a contributor to huge national spending, as poverty is estimated to add ~$7 billion to Canadian health-care costs yearly, as well as ~$85 billion to the private and public spheres. Bloch explains that poverty-alleviation policies would result in increased productivity, higher tax revenues, and lower health care costs.
Thus, writing prescriptions for symptoms caused by deep structural issues will never solve the health problems of the poor. What’s our prescription? Minimum wages and social-assistance rates that lift individuals out of the cycle of poverty and back into society as productive and contributing members. After all, it seems this prescription will pay for itself.
August 31, 2013: With Welfare Rates Frozen, Even Renting an SRO is Often Beyond Vancouver’s Poorest
Rents are going up for the people who didn’t get a raise.
For residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that subsist on welfare, the housing shortage in Vancouver is going from bad to worse.
Even a room in an SRO, a single-room-occupancy building, with no cooking or private washroom facilities is now beyond the reach of Vancouver’s neediest residents. Read the rest…
May 26, 2013: Treating Poverty Works Like Medicine, Doctors Say
Adding to poor patients’ incomes works to decrease the health effects of poverty, Canadian doctors are finding.
The Canadian Medical Association is asking people across the country how poverty affects their health as part of its national dialogue tour. The group said that social and economic factors determine 50 per cent of health outcomes. Read the rest…
April 3, 2013: The Gap Between Rich and Poor is Bad for our Health
The gap between rich and poor in Canada is growing. Organizations across the country, from the Conference Board of Canada to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have recognized the rise of income inequality in Canada. For some, this concentration of wealth is an unremarkable trend, but for many more it is worrying change in the Canadian character. What is indisputable to those of us working in the health care sector is its effect on health of Canadians. Health is a concern common to all, regardless of political affiliation, and does not exist in isolation from this growing problem. Evidence continues to mount that rising income inequality is contributing to the deterioration of the health of all people in Canada, regardless of their income level. Read the rest…
March 28, 2013: Raise the Rates Takes Campaign to BC Political Leaders
ANTI-POVERTY ACTIVISTS WALKED 15 km from B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s office in Point Grey to NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s constituency office in Joyce Collingwood Wednesday as part of their ongoing campaign aimed at raising welfare rates.
The demonstrators delivered letters to both leaders calling on them to commit to a poverty reduction strategy. Read the rest…
December 12, 2012: “Temporary” Vancouver Food Bank Hits 30 Years of Service
It was set up 30 years ago as a temporary measure to feed the city’s poorest. Yet the Greater Vancouver Food Bank is still feeding 27,000 mouths a week.
Apparently, the food bank has now become a permanent fixture in the city.
That’s because, according to experts, the province is happy to rely almost solely on charities to supplement the meagre diets of those on welfare. And this as demand climbs another 10% this holiday season, pushing the food bank to a breaking point. Read the rest…
December 17, 2012: Caring About Inequality
As leaders in communities of spirit and faith, we are concerned about the new normal in our society. Sights that should shock us to our core are hardly noticed anymore: a tiny, elderly woman rummaging through the garbage; a man sleeping on the sidewalk, shuddering from the cold; a young woman begging with a toddler clinging to her leg. At some point, as a people, we stopped noticing and caring. Now is the time to notice and care again. Read the rest…
December 4, 2012: Raise Welfare Rates So People Don’t have to Depend on Charity
…no matter how generous the public is, charity cannot eradicate poverty. The season of giving will end in a month or so but the poverty continues all year round. In addition, forcing people to rely on charity can be humiliating. It is impossible to eat a healthy diet on welfare. People deserve justice rather than charity. Read the rest…
September 20, 2012: She Drove Trucks, Now ‘I Can’t Make Ends Meet’
If British Columbians knew how little money the province provides for people living with disabilities, they would surely support increasing the rate, says Rochelle Bergman, a 49-year-old former long-haul truck driver. Read the rest…
April 18, 2012: Why Welfare Recipients Need Immediate Relief
Two recent events highlight the need for emergency relief for B.C. welfare recipients, and make clear that people simply cannot meet basic needs on a welfare income. Read the rest…
March 15, 2012: BC Looks to Fly Welfare Recipents North to Find Jobs
The B.C. government is considering a plan to help people get off welfare by flying them north to cash in on high-paying jobs in areas such as the oil and gas industry. Read the rest…
January 31, 2012: Surrey MLA Ends his Month on Welfare a Changed Man
This afternoon, Jagrup Brar will bid adieu to the Downtown Eastside and his month of self-imposed exile among the poorest of the poor, and catch the SkyTrain back to his middle-class life in Surrey.
With proper food, the NDP MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood will doubtless start regaining the 15 or 16 pounds he’s shed from his 6-foot-4 frame as a result of spending a month living on $610, the amount social services provides for single, employable adults. Read the rest…
August 30, 2011: Assistance Rates Shame our Province
Victoria Times Colonist Editorial.
July 7, 2011
OP/ED: MLAs Challenged to Live on Welfare Rates, but Decline
…those 500,000 people living in poverty currently in BC are likely to stay poor for a very long time.
December 2, 2010
Earning a Little on Welfare
…for 75,000 people on welfare, no additional income is allowed. If someone finds a way to make $40 a week shovelling snow, the government cuts income assistance by an equal amount.
November 22, 2010
Poverty a Leading Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
A new Canadian study shows that living in poverty can double or triple the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
November 10, 2010
Downtown Eastsiders Expose Extreme Wealth in the Midst of Poverty
A busload of Downtown Eastsiders and supporters descended on a $31 million mansion under construction in Vancouver’s wealthy Point Grey neighbourhood to make a point about inequality. Read the news release from Raise the Rates and check out some photos here and here.
February 17, 2010
Welfare Caseloads in BC Continue to Rise
New data shows that the number of people accessing income assistance in BC has jumped by close to 50% in the last year. And, analysis by the National Council of Welfare compares welfare rates to the low income cut off. More>>