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The big issue facing our province, and Canada, is inequality - of incomes and wealth.  The past three decades have been very good for BC's elites, but others have stagnated or drifted downwards. Averages and aggregate numbers disguise the truth.  

A feature in today's Globe and Mail provides a vivid overview of the precarious situations confronting many people.  Young families, renters, seniors and many others are being stressed.  It is clear that measures like an increased minimum wage, higher social assistance payments, housing subsidies, and more effective taxation of wealth are needed.  Even a local business economist has endorsed the latter. Jock Finlayson of the BC Business Council is quoted in the Globe.  “In the business community, we are worried about it, it’s forcing people to look at living elsewhere. It’s forcing people with children to live in accommodations that are not really designed for families,” he said. “Those who are established in the market have all enjoyed an unearned windfall in wealth. It’s also tax free. How equitable is that, from the perspective of the 30 per cent of renters, or those who bought at top-dollar prices?”

The Vanishing Middle Class is a big issue in BC and in the US.  A recently published book from MIT academic Peter Temin paints the graphic picture. There is a good review and summary available at Evonomics.  As Temin observes, and Lynn Parramore emphasizes, these diverging populations are at the heart of political discontent and will demand attention.

Recent analysis has also shown that job growth in BC (and Ontario) has been in positions where wages are mostly below the average level, essentially low-paid work.  This is in stark contrast to elsewhere in Canada.   

Indeed, the system is rigged to benefit those who are at the top of the pile currently. And as government policy has caused the problem, government policy is also the way to correct it.

 

 

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This recently completed poll of British Columbians provides insight into what is aggravating us. The Centre for Policy Alternatives commissioned the poll of more than 1000 residents and it confirms that affordability and inequality are troubling many of us. The poll also finds substantial support for carbon taxes and climate change mitigation, and overall support for fairer taxation. For more information click here.   
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CCEC GM Ross Gentleman spoke to BNN today regarding the Vancouver housing market. The six minute interview considered economic issues, lending risk, and public policy responses. Ross said, "The rapid rise in values over this past year cannot be sustained."  Even the OECD has publicly called for government action this past week. The local real estate board reports prices are up 22-37% annually in the region. 

Ross expressed concern that rising real estate prices are pressuring middle and lower income households.  All credit unions are committed to ensuring these households' shelter needs are met.  He noted that CCEC does not finance speculation, with a primary focus is upon home ownership for middle income credit union members, secure shelter options generally, AND non-market community owned housing stock.

Ross also noted that CCEC supports co-op housing and CCEC sees a need for more collaboration between that sector and government to ensure that more non-market housing units are built. The community land trust model in Vancouver is a good example. 

Lastly, he projected a need for government intervention as affordability becomes a more serious concern for ordinary people.  In particular, he itemized the need for the reconsideration of (a) the property transfer tax system, (b) the municipal property tax system, and (c) the privileged tax exempt status of capital gains on primary residences. 

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Even Warren Buffet is saying, “Tax me!”  So why do we think that people living in Vancouver can survive on $610 per month?   In the most expensive City to live in North America (2013)  singles on welfare get only $610.

It is 10 years since Raise the Rates was established (and joined CCEC), but we would prefer that there was no need for them to exist. If only our politicians would buy-in to a living wage for all residents, and agree that it is not acceptable that BC has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada.   800,000 British Columbians are living in poverty, and that 1 in 8 people are food insecure.  Did you know that the poverty line in BC is around $1,500 a month?

Poverty is a political choice. We can afford to abolish poverty.  We are the only province that doesn’t have a Poverty Reduction Strategy.  Two recent polls showed that 78% of people in BC want a poverty reduction plan and the most important issue is poverty, housing, and homelessness.  More British Columbians are having difficulty dealing with the increasing cost of living, and are compromising on our food choices as our real incomes have stagnated.(BIV Insights West BC Gov’t Report Card, May 2016).  And, we know that hunger is a result of poverty.  Are you surprised that at least half of the new Canadians (Syrian refugees), are using the Food Bank? 

Basic welfare has been frozen at $610 a month since April 2007.  Bill Hopwood, Organizer and Activist with Raise the Rates says, “Nine years ago, you could rent a crummy SRO in the Downtown Eastside for $375 a month, now the average cheapest rent is $517.  Rents for the worst housing has increased $142 in 9 years, but no increase in welfare.  After rent and other necessities, a person on welfare has $93 left each month to pay for food, clothing, hygiene, a phone and transit which means $10 a week for food.  The cost of living index has gone up 15%.”  At the recent Vancouver Food Summit held at Gordon Neighbourhood House, the panel on Poverty: What can food policy do?  unanimously agreed that the Welfare Food Challenge, the annual event for Raise the Rates is impossible.  You simply cannot eat a healthy diet living on welfare.  In 2015, Kathy Romses, Dietician and Challenge Participant commented, “Social isolation was a challenge as meals with family and friends or meetings at the coffee shop were not an option.  Trying to guard limited food doesn’t help build or maintain relationships with friends and family.”

For people with disabilities the government announced the first increase in 9 years on the rate of $906 – up by $77.  That is not even half of what is needed to keep pace with inflation.  BUT, they stole most of it back.  They scrapped the free bus pass and now people have to pay $52 a month for the pass so the increase is only $25 a month.  Compare BC with Alberta’s rate at $1,588 a month.

Poverty is a political choice.The government makes it as difficult as possible to even claim welfare - watch the video -

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while being extra generous to very rich.  Last year the government gave $227 million in tax cuts to the richest people in BC on top of the $billions they have already received in tax handouts. The minimum wage was increased by 20 cents an hour and no increase in welfare.  Bill says, “The government chooses to feed the rich by starving workers and the poor.” 

One of the biggest challenges facing Raise the Rates according to Bill is keeping their activists confident when they see the abject failure of politicians to take seriously raising welfare rates.  Everyone in BC should live above the poverty line – we can afford it, it would make BC a much healthier place and in the medium term save money. Read the report from Policy Alternatives on the Cost of Poverty.  How can politicians support policies that keep people in poverty?  Yet, Bill say, “Can you tell me a politician who is advocating for welfare of $1,500 a month?”

Movements make change and we have to build public support to push politicians to act.  Welfare Rates need to be Raised.  Raise the Rates will continue to campaign.

JUSTICE not CHARITY.  WE need a HAND UP not a HAND OUT.  Isn’t it time we took a stand?  2017 is a Provincial election year.  Get involved.  Make your vote count.  

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Say NO to Kinder Morgan.

The National Energy Board has approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline with numerous conditions.  “It was always likely to be approved.  But we know this megaproject is not in the economic and social interests of our members” says Helesia Luke, CCEC Board Member.  Vancouver Mayor Robertson says, “NEB pipeline process a 'sham,' new Liberal plan not much better.”  Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee says, “The NEB has ignored and wasted the time of countless communities, First Nations and individuals who have stood up to oppose this irresponsible pipeline proposal.” 

McCartney continues by saying, “British Columbians have made it crystal clear this pipeline is not welcome in our communities.  No new process is going to change the widespread Indigenous opposition, the unacceptable risk of a spill, the massive climate impacts or the shoddy economics of this project.”

You may recall that CCEC Credit Union was granted Intervenor status, the only financial institution to do so.  We held a public forum in June 2014, over concern that the NEB process was not open, accessible and objective.  We wanted to make the debate more public and complete.  Read the blog

We need everyone to turn out to the meetings in the coming months to show Ottawa and the rest of the country that when we say no – we mean it.  We also need to turn the heat up on our MPs in the Lower Mainland.  Write letters, call offices, show up at events.  Our representatives must put a stop to this! 

Speak Out Against Kinder Morgan!  Learn more – see the map posted by the Wilderness Committee of community and First Nation concerns, and a pledge form where you can find out details of the meetings as they become clear.

 

BACKGROUND:

Click the articles for more information:

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Starting a public conversation in our country about the crime of sexual assault. 

CCEC Member Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is a long time champion women’s rights and fair treatment before the law. Recent court decisions and reported incidents have brought the issue to public prominence once again.  

Regardless of whether you feel the verdict in the Ghomeshi case was justified, it has prompted mainstream media to print editorials including  Time to drop the distinct crime of sexual assault and not as main stream to continue the conversation such as, Ghomeshi: a post verdict update in the Oracle.

In response to a video posted on facebook that went viral called, Your offender isn't a creep': One woman's story of reporting a sexual assault”, Louisa Russell, Spokesperson for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter  says, “I thought she was brave to speak out about the violence committed against her in her own name. Her experience is typical of what women tell us on our crisis line. I fully agreed with what she said about not going alone to the Police.” 

She continues by saying that her organization carried out a research project on attrition rates in Canada and found that the likelihood of a case proceeding to court went up drastically if the woman took an independent women's advocate with her.  Representatives of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter stay beside a woman throughout the criminal justice process and help prepare her for what to expect. Louisa says, “We know that most women do not want to use the police but for the 30% of our callers that do we go out of our way to make sure she gets the best response possible.” 

Be sure to support the work of the Women’s Shelter in their Annual Walk on May 29.  Funds raised will help pay for the operating costs of the rape crisis centre, the help-line, the transition house including food, transportation for women to get to safety, attend support groups and legal clinics, creating sexual assault prevention materials and public education in the community.

The outcome of the recent high-profile sexual assault case in Toronto prompted Jackie Stevens, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax to say, “we want to express our deep admiration and respect for the survivors who so courageously came forward in this case. Their willingness to come forward has started a public conversation in our country about the crime of sexual assault, a conversation we hope will help create a safer environment for others to come forward.”

Sexual assault is not the survivor's fault and is a violent crime. What clothes a person wore, where they were, who they were with, or whether they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their assault is irrelevant. The only person responsible for a sexual assault is the person who commits the crime.   http://students.ubc.ca/livewell/topics/sexual-assault

For more information and to support the work of Rape Relief:

Tel: 604 872 8212

Email:  info@rapereliefshelter.bc.ca

http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/

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Did you know?  In Vancouver:

  •  65,000 people who are spending more than 50% of their income on housing are facing homelessness. 
  • BC Housing has 5 year wait list. One person was told he better be prepared to go to a shelter as there are an awful lot of people like him on fixed incomes and facing renovictions.
  • More than half of Vancouverites live in rental housing.  But more than 81 per cent of the current rental housing was built in the 50’s and needs upgrading.
  •  People most affected are too busy surviving and lack the capacity to fight. 

Meet CCEC Member and Inman Award Nominee, The Social Housing Alliance (SHA), who are changing their name to Alliance Against Displacement.  They feel this will better represent their movement's roots in displacement due to real estate, and Indigeneous displacement due to resource extraction.  Sign up for their newspaper, The Volcano, and learn how our low-income, working class & Indigenous communities are struggling for social justice in Vancouver & in BC. 


Why we belong to CCEC:  
CCEC reflects our movement’s values.


Housing, like food, is a basic human right.  We all need affordable, good, secure housing to live a healthy life, to enjoy our friends and families, and to contribute to our communities.  Vancouver and BC has a housing crisis.

Those at risk of being homeless are not only in the Downtown Eastside.  For example, SFU students are evicted from student housing; and renoviction is becoming too common in the Metrotown area.  It used to be that you were evicted for being a bad tenant. Today, you’re more likely to be evicted because you’re in the way of someone maximizing their profit.

Letizia Waddington, volunteer organizer says, “We see the need to organize on a daily basis, the challenge is that people most affected are too busy surviving, and the greater proportion of British Columbians believe that they will be fine with working hard.”

 

Their platform to end the housing crisis in BC is: 

·         BUILD 10,000 units of good quality social housing per year.

·         FUND and support community-based solutions to the housing crisis.

·         PRIORITIZE social housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and those most discriminated against.

·         SAVE existing low-rent housing.

·         PROTECT and empower tenants.

·         INCLUDE everyone who needs housing.

For more information:  http://thevolcano.org/  The website is being updated. 

 

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The 2015 Roger Inman Memorial Award recipient has had a busy year.  The organization is a grassroots anti-colonial migrant justice group with leadership from members of migrant and/or racialized backgrounds. 

Brian Peaslee, organizer says of the Award, "The generous funding  we received was used to help cover legal fees for migrants facing deportation from Canada."

He adds that in addition to direct support for migrants, over the past year they also helped to organize a benefit concert that raised over $15,000  for a healing lodge at the Unist’ot’en Camp who are fighting  for indigenous sovereignty against pipelines in in Northern BC.  They produced an extensive report, web site and video series on the effects of changes to migration policy in Canada and took a lead role in the Refugees Welcome and Transportation Not Deportation campaigns in Vancouver. 

The Annual Community March Against Racism came back to the Drive for its eighth year in March and was a great opportunity to gather together and raise our voices against injustice.   Support the work of No One is Illegal-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories.

Click here to learn more and to become a financial sustainer.  Recipient of the Roger Inman Memorial Award in 2015.  Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 Award. Click here for more information on the Inman Award and for the nomination criteria.

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Medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada face a substantial hurdle doing business because the big banks have declined to provide services.  An excellent article in the Globe and Mail surveys the challenges, especially in light of the pending major changes to our federal laws.  

CCEC is highlighted in the article as an agent of change, because it has agreed to provide banking services. As noted in the Globe article, provincial governments, health authorities and even the Supreme Court of Canada have affirmed that access is essentially a health issue. CCEC has agreed.   

CCEC wants to build healthy and just communities, by empowering ordinary people. Political and social change is underway and there are roles for community groups and community-based financial institutions to play.  CCEC may be small, but we can have impact. 

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Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke at UBC last Friday and made the case that growing inequality in modern day America (and Canada) is a result of political choices we have made; the failed experiment of trickle down neo-conservative policies that have been advocated since the 70's. He boldly advanced the need for a new political agenda that will give ordinary people a bigger share of the pie. 

The presentation included graphs on income distribution, wealth distribution and other factors over the last 100 years, and the data clearly indicates the fact that the very rich have benefited handsomely since 1970, while others have barely held their own. He then provided comparisons between nation states to show that social equality was not so skewed elsewhere; in Scandinavia, western Europe, Japan and Canada the inequalities are modest compared to the USA. Approximately 20% aggregate 'income' in the USA goes to the top 1% of the population. 

He asserts that the rules of the game (video, Democracy Now), that is the legal and tax systems in the USA, the UK and New Zealand (and to some degree Canada), have been set to ensure the rich get richer. The analysis has been set out in two books by Siglitz over the last 6 years; The Price and Inequality and The Great Divide.  He argues that it is time for ordinary people to challenge the privileges given to the very wealthy. He referred attendees to the Roosevelt Institute for additional insights and proposals. He eloquently argued that the erosion of the 'equality of opportunity' will lead to potentially immense social and economic costs. And he held up a copy of his just published book Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy.

He closed his remarks with a pointed critique of the Trans Pacific Partnership ("TPP"), an international 'trade' agreement now being promoted in Canada and the USA. Stiglitz represented the deal as entrenching benefits for large corporations and international finance, and undermining democratic governments. He specifically noted that the TPP went well beyond 'trade' to impose limits on government regulation, government purchasing, and tax policies; and would have disputes settled by 'private' arbitration rather than in public courts. It can be noted that opponents to the TPP include the Council of Canadians, Open Media and Doctors Without Borders. 

 

 

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