For the 500,000 people in this province, living off welfare is a monthly struggle and for the month of January NDP MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood Jagrup Brar took on the challenge of living it.
“It was an eye opening experience and at many times troubling and difficult to go through,” Brar told the Star on Wednesday. “The real feeling that I got as to how people feel in that situation wouldn’t have been apparent even from reading 200 reports in my office in Victoria. It was really, really eye opening and a disturbing experience.”
Brar was in Nelson on Wednesday as part of a West Kootenay tour, which included visits in Castlegar and Trail.
In addition to working with poverty activists, he is also the small business critic for the NDP.
“My experience is more limited to the urban setting so my visit is to gain more perspective from the rural communities as to what kind of challenges and opportunities they have in Nelson as opposed to a small business in Vancouver or Surrey,” said Brar. “What can we do as the provincial government to allow them to be more vibrant small business ventures. I am here to talk to them and listen to their aspects of small business and what we can do at the provincial government.”
Brar said that in addition to using the information gathered in Nelson to hold the Liberal government accountable and present information to the people of BC, he will also use what he learns to inform policy within the NDP caucus.
In his experience in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and now the West Kootenay, Brar said he is seeing that two key issues are challenges when it comes to small business and poverty reduction: affordable housing and public transit.
“In the urban setting maybe things are quite different, but with poverty what I know from the urban setting is that the key issues are affordable housing and I believe that is the issue here as well because when I was in Trail and Castlegar yesterday I heard that as well,” said Brar. “Another key issue is public transit and welfare rate and employment policies. I want to understand what the issues are for people facing poverty in this region.”
Brar was part of a Life on Welfare event at SelfDesign High on Wednesday night hosted by Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall.