Day 3: Why “get a job” just doesn’t cut it!

I am hungry today. The first few days I seemed to be doing OK. I even gave my “extra” food to my partner who has been really struggling with getting enough to eat. That didn’t happen today. I have been forgetful and very emotional. I am starting to get hesitant about leaving the house and I definitely haven’t been walking as much as I normally do.

It is clear to us that we don’t have enough food to make it through the full seven days but we will keep going as long as we can. We both understand that for the over 170,000 people in BC on welfare quitting is not an option. When they run out of food there is no backup. We want to keep going out of respect for these everyday struggles that show the incredible resiliency and courage of people in our community.

Music has really got me through the day. So today for my blog post I am suggesting a soundtrack. My favourite song when I was around five wasTake This Job and Shove It.  I am not saying that I could foresee the future but it might have influenced my current career choices. The other song I recommend is by a household favourite growing up, Buck Owens, Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line.

In reviewing comments on articles around the Welfare Food Challenge I am noticing a common assumption. The assumption is that getting a job will lead to immediately better circumstances. Unfortunately, this is nowhere close to being true.* What is most concerning to me, however, is that this argument tries to separate the poor into two groups: those that deserve our support and those that don’t.

A person’s income source should never be the determining factor in how we define their basic humanity. What are the characteristics we value about our friends and family? My mother taught me kindness, my father has helped sharpen my sense of humour and my friends have demonstrated loyalty over and over again. These personality traits are so rarely attached to the income a person receives and it is precisely these characteristics that make us human.

Canada is a rich country and that provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate our own values by ensuring that each person in our community has enough to eat. So many of us are one paycheque or unforeseen illness away from depending on government supports. We never think it will happen to us, until it does.

Let’s work together to raise the rates and have a real conversation about what kind of communities we want to live in.


* According to Stats Canada payroll information for the month of August 2015 the average weekly earnings of someone in the accommodation and food services sector was $364. After payroll taxes this leaves a working person with about $654 a paycheque or just over $1,300 a month. The market basket measure, an indicator of poverty that responds to regional costs, is around $1,500 across BC.

Working can still keep an individual in poverty while increasing their precarity as they are reliant on an employer for scheduling and often have no sick leave coverage. Missing a shift or being sent home early by an employer can endanger an individual’s ability to pay rent or meet other basic costs. Additionally, time at work is time that an individual may need to access food banks, health care and other necessary supports.

Single mothers face a much larger bind when considering employment. Not only do they need to find work which will pay an adequate income to support themselves and their families, that income must also be enough to cover child care. For many single mothers this just isn’t possible. A 10/a day childcare plan that would be free for parents earning under $40,000 a year would help reduce the largest barrier to employment for lone parents.