Faking Poverty

Jagrup Brar, NDP MLA for the Vancouver-area riding of Surrey Fleetwood today embarked on his vow to spend one month living on the paltry $610 that single (ostensibly “employable”) people currently receive from the province on welfare, responding to a challenge by a coalition of social groups that wants the B.C. government to raise welfare payments.

Brar plans on living temporarily in an emergency shelter before moving on to private boarding houses for the duration of his month-long challenge. After spending an estimated $450 on accommodation, $42 on bus tickets and $25 for a phone for a month, Brar will be left with less than $4 a day for food.

So what is the point of this exercise? To demonstrate that poverty sucks? Well, I think we all recognize that fact already. To de-bunk the myth that people on welfare are egregiously “milking” the system? If so, I doubt this dramatic stunt will have any effectiveness in that regard, especially seeing as he’ll inhabit the guise of someone considered at the outset as potentially “employable” rather than one of the severely damaged creatures that more typically populate the welfare rolls.

And what of the goal of this “challenge” in the first place, which is to compel the B.C. government to raise welfare rates? While a modest rise in payments may help ameliorate to a small degree the misery of some individuals trapped in the system, does it really do anything at all to address the roots of the problem?

The NDP is full of good intentions and grand gestures, but in practice it delivers almost nothing of practical value – the welfare system it decries today is the very same one that it indifferently presided over in years past when it held power in B.C. with almost no positive effect whatsoever.