B.C. MLA fed up after five days on welfare rate
Published Thursday, January 5, 2012 4:01PM PST
After five days of living in poverty, Surrey-Fleetwood MLA is calling the conditions endured by thousands of B.C. welfare recipients "unacceptable".
New Democrat Jagrup Brar is attempting to spend January living on the welfare rate of $610 a month for a single person, a challenge issued to him and 85 other MLAs by poverty advocacy group Raise the Rates.
Brar is the only politician to accept.
His first task on Wednesday was to find affordable housing. For $375 a month, he settled on a cubicle-sized room in a seven-person shared home.
"That was a shocking experience for me when I saw [the space]," Brar said.
And with more than half his money going towards rent, Brar has found there is little left to spend on food.
"With $30 weekly budget you can buy survival food only, but not food for healthy living and that's reality," said Brar.
Brar has been living away from his wife and two young children as he sleeps and eats in shelters.
More than 180,000 people in B.C. live on welfare, according to Ministry of Social Development statistics, and Brar said he wants a first-hand look at how these people struggle to make ends meet.
The MLA has three weeks left to live on welfare but less than $67 in his pocket.
He is allowed to visit his family at home once a week, but will be forced to pay for food if he eats there.
In 1986, former B.C. New Democrat MLA Emery Barnes lived on welfare for seven weeks in the Downtown Eastside and lost thirty pounds in the process. Afterward he called for a welfare rate of $700 a month, which would add up to more than $1,270 today when adjusted for inflation.
Jean Swanson from Raise the Rates says the situation for welfare recipients is worse today than it was 25 years ago.
"If the welfare rate today had the same purchasing power it had in 1980 it would be $930 dollars a month, not $610," she told CTV News.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Brent Shearer