Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett wasn’t able to participate in the Raise the Rates Fifth Annual Welfare Food Challenge issued to British Columbia MLAs that took place recently.
Barnett says she was unable to participate in the challenge because she has been recovering from kidney stone surgery.
“I totally sympathize with people. There are many people who for many reasons can’t work.”
The challenge issued by the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition asked MLAs to spend only $18 on food for that week.
The challenge was based on the B.C. welfare rate of $610 per month for an able bodied single person which the coalition complains has remained the same for the past nine years.
After rent and other expenses, the coalition estimates that a single person only has $18 a week left to spend on food.
Barnett notes that in addition to the basic social assistance rate, the province also provides a wide variety of additional supports for people living on low incomes, including housing subsidies, child-care subsidies, health-care benefits, dental and optical care for children, additional benefits for children and seniors, and numerous training opportunities offered through employment centres, which also include child care for single mothers.
People from other provinces are often astonished to learn how much support B.C. actually provides for people living on low incomes, she adds.
Simply raising social assistance and minimum wage rates won’t solve all of B.C.’s problems, she says.
Job creation and training are important strategies for reducing poverty in B.C., she explains.
Barnett adds raising the minimum wage always needs careful consideration because any increase comes with a corresponding increase in the cost of fuel, goods and services.
As part of its jobs plan, the provincial government raised the minimum wage rate by 40 cents to $10.85 per hour on Sept. 15.
A second increase of 30 cents plus an amount based on the 2016 CPI (estimated to be 10 cents) will bring the minimum wage rate to $11.25, effective Sept. 15, 2017.