COLUMN: Prosperity, for those who want it

Noted last week in one of the daily newspapers that an NDP MLA is going to spend a month trying to live on the $610 welfare rate ...

Noted last week in one of the daily newspapers that an NDP MLA is going to spend a month trying to live on the $610 welfare rate for employable men.

Noble gesture, but pointless other than to garner media headlines. Nowhere in the story did it say that he was giving up or donating his $8,500 a month salary while living in poverty.

Additionally, he gets to spend one night a week at home with the family, eating good food, being clean and, I’d guess, getting some snuggles.

There isn’t much of that available to the real guy on welfare, and he doesn’t have, at the end of the month, a well paying job to fall back on.

As for trying to live on $610 a month: take out the $375 (minimum) needed for a room and there isn’t a lot leftover for food, let alone anything else.

I know if I tried it there would go the cigarettes ($300 a month), wine and beer, regular trips to Canadian Tire for stuff I don’t need but just ‘gotta have.’ Perhaps for health reasons alone, I should give it a try!

Flippancy aside, $610 a month is an appallingly small amount to live on, but remember, this is for employable single men. It should be seen only as very short-term assistance to ward off starvation while you find and get a job.

And based on Sunday’s front page story about Dawson Creek having zero unemployment and businesses crying out for more workers, there are jobs available.

Found it revealing that the mayor of that northern city was in Vancouver recently and tried to convince a few of the “Occupy” bunch to find work in his town. No takers!

Also no job takers down here when farmers need to harvest their crops … they have to rely often on imported labour from Mexico, yet we have many who sit around collecting their meager welfare rates, complain about it, and do nothing to get out of the malaise of poverty.

But, low incomes aren’t just faced by those who are too lazy, unwilling to work or, due to mental health issues, stuck in the cycle.

What about those who spent their entire lives working, but never saved? They hit 65 years of age, are out of a job and have to look forward to living the rest of their lives on CPP, OAP and GIS, which in total isn’t much more than $1,500 a month.

That number takes the ‘golden’ out of your retirement years.

At a family Christmas gathering this weekend, conversation led to the likelihood that today’s generation of workers might be the last to be able to afford the lifestyle so many of us enjoy – big houses, multiple vehicles, all the trappings of comfort.

Then I reflected on what is happening now in the resource industry in Northern B.C., and the potential for even more jobs if the Site C dam is built.

Back in my youth, the Bennett dam was constructed, and that ensured prosperity for so many, plus it provided the power source that resulted in tens of thousands of other jobs created when industry and commerce flocked to our province.

Opportunity in the Lower Mainland may not be as quick as it is in the north, but it will come back. And the future, while it will always have its ups and downs, will for those willing to work hard be as strong as it has always been.

Poverty too, will continue to be omnipresent, an unpalatable but real certainty of our society.

I don’t have any time for those men who beg for money at shopping centre exits, but I do have a keen empathy for those who through no fault of their own live in abject poverty.

At this time of the year, when most of us enjoy the fruits of our labours with friends and family, think of those very less fortunate and put aside a little ‘Christmas cheer’ for them.

markrushton@abbynews.com

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