We are poor because they are rich: By Bill Hopwood

Finally, the proof we have been waiting for. Most of us have long suspected that the government of BC was in bed with the richest 1%. On April 1, 2014, this was confirmed.

During Raise the Rates’ Tour of Two Cities, the Premier of BC married the super rich of the province, putting a $41,000 ring on their finger. The Premier promised to give more and more tax cuts to the richest 1%. They in turn promised to “lounge around in luxury until death do us part” and vowed to be married “for richer and richer, and richer, ignoring the poor.”

Tour of Two Cities march, April 1, 2014, in front of the Vancouver Club
Tour of Two Cities march, April 1, 2014, in front of the Vancouver Club

The Tour of Two Cities marked seven years since the last increase in welfare rates in BC. Although the tour was held on April Fool’s Day, the issue is No Joke! Inflation over the last 7 years has reduced the value of the $906 a month that a single person on disability receives by at least $114 a month.

Sixty people from Raise the Rates, Carnegie Community Action Project, Vancouver Area Drug Users’ Network and Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society started at the Carnegie Centre and made a tour of some of the symbols of extreme wealth in BC, stopping at each place to explain the issues.

The Tour highlighted that there is a lot of money in BC but the government has decided to subsidize the rich at the expense of the working people and the poor. The BC government cut taxes between 2000 and 2010 for the super rich and big corporations. The richest 1% of British Columbians received, on average, an extra $41,000 a year from these tax cuts! This tax cut alone is more money than the annual income of half of the workers in BC.

Tackling poverty in BC would save lives, make for a happier province and save the people of BC $4 billion a year. Instead, the BC Government gives handouts to the rich, and refuses to increase welfare payments, oversees the worst poverty in Canada, and cuts vital public services.

The Tour of Two Cities went to Birks, the luxury jeweller, where you can buy a ring for over a $1 million. The next stop was the Vancouver Club, which costs $6,500 to join and a monthly fee of $213. Inside, a sandwich and soup costs $24 plus tax and tip – more than a person on welfare has for a week’s food.

Most people on welfare struggle to stay healthy due to poor diet, bad housing and high levels of stress. Poverty costs the health system of BC over $1.2 billion every year. But the rich can buy their health at private health clinics, like the one run by Medisys Corporate Health Services, a company with annual sales of over $50 million.

It is impossible on welfare to find decent housing, as rents soar and affordable housing is replaced by condos. Yet for some, housing is no problem. At the top of Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, sits Vancouver’s most expensive condo which sold for $25 million in June 2013.

Canada is a wealthy country and the big five Canadian Banks had combined profits of $29 billion in 2013. The Royal Bank of Canada was the most profitable, making $8.4 billion. The CEO received $12.6 million in compensation at the same time as firing 1,100 workers.

The provincial government chooses to keep people in poverty while showering gifts on the rich. The richest 20% of people in BC have 75% of all the wealth while the poorest 60% share only 8% of the wealth – with the poorest 20% having no wealth, only debt! We Are Poor Because They Are Rich!

Raise the Rates will continue to work to end this huge inequality, so that all people in BC can live a healthy life with dignity.

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