Liberals to promise long-refused welfare hike in throne speech
Published Monday, June 19, 2017 12:32PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, June 19, 2017 6:59PM PDT
The BC Liberals are pledging the province's first social assistance rate hike in 10 years during the speech from the throne this week.
Christy Clark's government said it will be promising a $100 monthly increase to the welfare rate in Thursday's throne speech, as well as a ban on political donations from corporations and unions.
Both policies were part of the NDP's election platform, and have been embraced by the Liberals as their minority government faces likely defeat at the hands of NDP and Green MLAs, who outnumber them by one seat in the legislature.
Some advocates who have been urging the province to provide more social assistance funding for years described the Liberals' sudden about-face as "quite suspect."
"I do respect that maybe they've come around but I just think we could have come around a lot sooner. People are living in the most abject, desperate poverty in the richest province in Canada," said Faith Bodnar of Inclusion B.C., a group that represents people with disabilities.
"They don’t have proper places to live, some of them are homeless, they can't have enough food."
A 2015 petition to increase assistance rates that was signed by more than 20,000 went completely ignored by Clark's government, she added.
"We weren't able to even get the government to come out and receive the petition. We made sure they got it in the legislature, and they didn't even respond to it and say they got it," Bodnar said.
The social assistance hike would bring the rate up to $710 a month in B.C. The Liberals said they also intend to implement a new process for determining annual increases, and to index disability rates with the Consumer Price Index going forward.
But poverty advocates from the Raise the Rates coalition said after a decade without an increase, the expected hike simply doesn't cut it.
"We know this has nothing to do with actually making this province livable – it is way too little, much too late," organizer Kell Gerlings said in a statement.
Gerlings, who suggested the Liberals' promises are "shenanigans," said a monthly rate of $1,500 is what's needed to actually help struggling people back on their feet.
During the campaign, both the Liberals and NDP were criticized for accepting massive political donations, but only the NDP promised to rid the province of them. As opposition, the party proposed such bans half a dozen times in the legislature, only to see each of them defeated.
Supporting the ban now seems like little more than a last-ditch effort by the Liberals to cling to power, said NDP MLA Carole James.
"When they're in their last days, to be able to say that they care about it, it's simply a desperation move on behalf of the premier," James said.
But Andrew Wilkinson, who was recently named Attorney General for the Liberals, said the party is only trying to respond to the will of voters, who put them in their current precarious position.
"Governments and political parties need to be continuously learning and continuously listening, and we've done that," Wilkinson said Monday.
"We've learned the lessons of the election campaign, and one of them was to get union and corporate money out."
Apart from the ban, the Liberals also said they intend to impose limits on individual donations, but the party hasn't said what those limits might look like.
Currently, donors to B.C. political parties, including people who live in other provinces and countries, can legally give any amount they please.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan