For immediate release to all media, March 17, 2021

The Communist Party of British Columbia calls the March 16 announcement of $175 monthly increases to people on income and disability assistance “totally inadequate to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands living in dire poverty” during the current pandemic and into the future. While the NDP government argues that “more than 300,000 British Columbians will benefit from the largest-ever permanent increase” to these rates, this is cold comfort to those who still suffer from the impact of many years when the Liberals refused to raise the rates, and who remain far below the poverty line.

The latest increase is a betrayal of campaign promises by Premier Horgan to seriously tackle the crisis of mass poverty. It’s true that the $175 raise is the third increase in four years, but this still leaves a single person on income assistance at $935 per month, a single person on disability assistance at $1,358, couples on income assistance at $1,427, and couples on disability assistance at $1,947. These amounts are nowhere near what poor people need to survive. In fact, since 2007 there have been no increases to the $375-permonth shelter allowance given to people with disabilities to pay for rent and housing.

The increase even represents a cut from April 2020, when the government introduced a temporary $300 monthly Covid crisis supplement. That funding was callously removed just before Christmas, when the province said it would introduce a permanent rate increase. Nothing has happened between December 2020 and today to make life more affordable for people in poverty, so the March 16 announcement actually sets in place a $125 monthly cut from last year’s rates.

The news comes a month before the 2021-22 provincial budget to be introduced by Finance Minister Selina Robinson. For weeks, anti-poverty groups, the $300 to Live Campaign, and First Nations organizations, among others, have voiced increasing demands to restore the $300 crisis supplement on a permanent basis. The Communist Party of BC has called for several urgent demands in the budget: raise the minimum wage to $23/hour; boost income assistance & disability rates to at least $2000/month; increase the caps on monthly income earnings; build low barrier social housing owned by tenants; stronger sick leave provisions for all workers; and not least, to reverse the huge tax breaks given by the former Liberal government to upper income earners and corporations.

In the CP-BC’s view, the March 16 announcement is a cynical political move to undermine popular pressure around these issues. More and more people are angry that this government is willing to spend billions more on the Site C dam, and refuses to raise taxes on the rich, while claiming that higher assistance and disability rates are not affordable for the taxpayers.

“We will continue to support all efforts to mobilize British Columbians around the demand to raise assistance and disability rates,” says Kimball Cariou, leader of the  Communist Party of BC. “The NDP claims to be on the side of people in poverty, and Premier Horgan has a big majority in the Legislature. His party could easily take serious action. but this decision tells a very different story. The NDP needs to be told loud and clear: this is not acceptable.”

For more information, contact the provincial office of the Communist Party of BC, at 604-254-9836 or 604-255-2041.