At the request of a Kelowna resident on disability assistance, city council will tender a rare ask to the provincial government.
A motion tabled by Coun. Loyal Wooldridge will see the city send letters to provincial ministries supporting the increase of social assistance payments and that the $300 COVID-19 supplement to those payments is made permanent. The city will send the letters to the ministers of Finance, Social Development & Poverty Reduction, Housing, and Children & Family Development.
Wooldridge drafted the motion after a Kelowna woman who relies on those programs reached out to him, noting the remarkable difference the $300 ‘top up’ made in her life.
With disability and income assistance rates stagnant, Wooldridge says many people on those supplements live below the poverty line.
“Given that the provincial budget is underway, time is really of the essence,” Wooldridge said.
While council passed the motion with a 6-3 vote, not all are happy with the approach. Mayor Colin Basran, Coun. Brad Sieben and Coun. Gail Given opposed the motion, and even supporting councillors took note of the unusual process. Many suggested that the proper means for the request would be for residents to contact local MLAs or the ministries involved themselves.
“I’m very concerned we are opening the door to many, many more resolutions coming forward because there are a lot of very worthy causes out there that aren’t the decision of our municipal council,” said Coun. Given, suggesting lobbying higher levels of government should come via the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
Mayor Basran said he’s unsure that a letter from a single municipality would carry much weight but said he’d support a motion, alongside other municipalities, through a UBCM resolution. Ultimately, Basran voted against the motion, taking issue with making a budgetary ask of the province without knowing what the cost is.
“I really have no idea how I’m supposed to do that,” Basran said. “To say, ‘Hey provincial government, add this to your budget, but, by the way, I have no idea what it costs.’ That, to me, is very concerning.”
Despite his opposition, Mayor Basran will be the one who pens the letters.
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