Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

" I want to experience first hand what life is like being on welfare or in poverty," Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar told CBC as he announced he will live for one month on $610.

British Columbia has one of the highest rates of child poverty in Canada. Around 70,000 British Columbians use a food bank every month and one-third are children. Social assistance is provided to one in 25 people in the province.

New Democrat Jagrup Brar cited those statistics as he took up a challenge from Raise the Rates, a coalition pressing for hikes in welfare payments. The group asked provincial politicians to live one month on $610, the provincial welfare rate for a single employable person.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Brar, who is married, a father of two and earns more than $10,000 a month, said he accepted the challenge to experience first hand what 180,000 B.C. families and individuals who are on welfare go through and to come up with proposals to help reduce poverty in B.C.

But concentrating on $610 minimizes the challenges confronting those who turn to social assistance to survive.

Mr. Brar will not go through the qualification process, which requires applicants to use up almost all their savings, exhaust any other means of financial support and go through intensive needs testing that includes a review of all assets, income and basic requirements. He will not have to consider selling his home or car in order to collect the $610.

Mr. Brar will not have to contend with the consequences of some of the toughest rules for social assistance in Canada. Any money earned while on welfare in B.C. must be handed over to the government. A welfare recipient cannot move ahead by taking on part-time work. B.C. claws back every cent.

By comparison, most other provinces allow recipients to keep some of their earnings before reducing assistance.

To qualify for assistance in B.C., a single employable person must have no more than $150 in the bank, which is less than applicants anywhere else in the country except Prince Edward Island, a National Council of Welfare survey shows. In Manitoba, a single employable person was allowed to have as much as $4,000 in liquid assets and still receive welfare, the 2009 survey of rates shows.

Mr. Brar will be living on more money than welfare recipients receive in several other provinces.

Story continues below advertisement

Only Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Ontario are more generous than B.C. in their assistance for single employable persons. Annual rates in 2010 across the country ranged from $9,652 in Newfoundland to a low of $6,637 in Nova Scotia, based on basic assistance, child tax credits and adjustments in some provinces for inflation and heating. B.C. provided $7,824, about midway in the range.

B.C. does even better if only the payment of $610 a month for basic social assistance is considered. The province pays more than Ontario although still trailing Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

Mr. Brar's experience on $610 will be representative of a small portion of those on welfare. Only about one-seventh of the welfare recipients in B.C. are receiving the minimum $610, according to the ministry of social development.

Higher rates are provided to those with persistent multiple barriers and with disabilities, recognizing they will be on assistance for a longer period of time. The majority of people on welfare receive $906 a month in disability assistance, a ministry official stated.

Despite the limitations, Mr. Brar will no doubt experience some aspects of the lives of some people on social assistance. He has already achieved something by drawing widespread media attention, including Crosscheck, to the plight of the poor.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies