Premier Christy Clark scores top marks for hypocrisy in explaining why British Columbians on disability benefits, and their children, should live in poverty.
Clark said this week that she knows the benefits, frozen since 2007, are too low. But British Columbia is just too poor to provide any increase. That will have to wait for some unknown future when it is “affordable,” she said.
But Clark believes it’s perfectly affordable to have taxpayers contribute $76,000 a year to fund her pension.
A single parent with one child on disability benefits in British Columbia - someone like Clark - receives $1,272 a month. That’s up to $570 for rent and $672 for everything else. They are expected to raise a child on $15,000 a year.
Increasing disability assistance rates after seven frozen years is impossible, Clark says. Not “affordable.”
But MLAs believe that they need up to $1,580 a month for a temporary second home in Victoria to use when the legislature is sitting. That’s affordable.
They believe a pension plan that requires four dollars from taxpayers for every dollar paid by MLAs is affordable. The taxpayer contribution to fund the plan works out to an average $48,000 a year for each of the 85 MLAs.
The claim that British Columbia can’t afford to raise income assistance and disability assistance rates is simply false.
The reality is that government has chosen to leave some 33,000 children and their families in poverty. People on assistance benefits are forced into substandard, sometimes dangerous housing, and denied the ability to afford the basics of life.
It’s destructive for everyone. A single person is supposed to find housing that costs less than $375 and live on $122 a week. That is a grim existence for anyone, even people who are on income assistance for short periods.
For people with few job options - those on disability assistance and with “persistent multiple barriers to employment” - it’s especially dire. They represent about two-thirds of recipients.
And government-mandated poverty is especially devastating for children. It does lasting damage to their health, educational achievements and social adjustment, and damages their prospects in life. Raising the rates now will save money for taxpayers in future, improve their lives and build a stronger province.
Clark needs to be honest. The rates haven’t been increased since 2007 because government has decided the needs of those people aren’t as important as its other priorities.
Including pay raises, pensions and benefits for MLAs.