British Columbia

Surrey MLA to live on welfare rate of $610

A Surrey area MLA has started his month-long odyssey into poverty by exchanging his pay cheque for a welfare cheque.

Jagrup Brar aims to understand struggles of people on welfare

A Surrey area MLA has started his month-long odyssey into poverty by exchanging his pay cheque for a welfare cheque.

New Democrat Jagrup Brar will have just $610, the welfare rate for an individual, to cover all his expenses including housing, food, transit and personal hygiene.

Brar will also work with anti-poverty coalition Raise the Rates during the month of January.

"I cannot ignore the fact that in a province as wealthy as ours, we have over 100,000 children living in poverty. Nor can I ignore the fact that the gap between the rich and the rest of British Columbians has widened to the point that the top 10 per cent of B.C. families now earn considerably more than the entire bottom half of families," said Brar.

"I take on this challenge to gain a stronger understanding of the struggles people on welfare face including the challenges of navigating the system and the underlying causes of poverty."

People don't choose poverty

Raise the Rates issued the Welfare Challenge to MLAs in November so they could experience first-hand living in poverty in B.C.

"[Brar] will find out what it is like to live on welfare through his experience and meeting with many people living on welfare, disability and poverty," said Jean Swanson with Raise the Rates.

"We expect that this month will raise people’s awareness so that the public urges the province of B.C. to enact a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy with clear goals and timelines to end poverty in B.C., which is a rich province."

Brar’s month living in poverty began January 1.

"People on welfare don’t choose this life of poverty; people end up on welfare due to personal tragedies, loss of work, domestic violence, serious injury and illness. These are things that can happen to anyone," said Swanson.