Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal government announced small changes to the province’s welfare system that remove a little more meanness for people in dire need.
The government expects the changes announced by Clark this week will cost only about $5 million a year. But while the outlay is relatively small, the effect will be substantial for some citizens.
The measures also signal another break from the Gordon Campbell government of the past.
The changes will provide $100 for every child between five and 11 for school startup costs — a meagre amount, but helpful nonetheless. It also includes more tax exemptions for families.
More important is allowing people on disabilities to earn $800 a month, up from $500 today without their income being clawed back.
And in a philosophical break from the past, those collecting regular income assistance will be able to earn $200 a month without losing benefits.
The Campbell government took away the earnings exemption rights quickly after taking power in 2001.
A decade ago the B.C. Liberals argued that by allowing people who collect income assistance to earn outside income, the system was encouraging reliance on benefits.
In reality, that ability to earn up to $200 a month will be a welcome income supplement for some. It may also open a window into the satisfaction of working and earning for others.
Clark is down in the polls due to the perception she is part of the government of the past decade. But the premier has taken steps — including lifting the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour, along with this week’s changes to welfare rules — that show changes in philosophy and a less laissez faire attitude to those earning a low income.
To her credit, former Opposition leader and now NDP critic Carole James agreed with the changes, saying “it connects people to the workplace.”
The New Democrat added, however, what’s needed in this province is a widespread strategy to eliminate poverty.
Clark said the changes are part of her families-first agenda. But no matter the inspiration, the new rules will make a difference in some lives and show a willingness to escape from the rigid thinking of the past.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.