Opinion

EDITORIAL: Understanding poverty plight

Against a backdrop of stunningly high home assessment values for 2011, Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Jagrup Brar found “seven-star” accommodation in Newton last week, as part of his quest to live on a single, employable man’s welfare income for the month.

It’s a 12’ by 12’ room in a Newton house he’ll share with six other people. Brar’s portion will cost $375.

The space is reasonably clean, at least, and there’s room for Brar and his large frame to move around. That can’t be said about one of the other rooms he viewed – not much more than a closet, barely big enough to fit a twin bed, but nothing else.

The person who will be occupying that stellar room – to the tune of $500 a month – will be coming out of hospital after surgery.

With a place to lay his head secured, Brar’s attention turned to another necessity: food. With his finances already dwindling (after spending money on rent/damage deposit, and a cellphone and bus tickets – needed in order to search for work, a requirement for collecting his social assistance), Brar budgeted about $30 for a week’s worth of groceries.

Is Brar’s stint on the streets ‘real’? Technically, no. Even he admits that. Is it worthwhile? Yes.

The public often demands that politicians walk a mile in their shoes, yet many are damning Brar for what appears to be an earnest attempt on his part to better understand the plight of the poor.

In our instant-gratification culture, going without – even for a short period of time and in the context of a simulated experience – can go a long way toward providing insight.

Hopefully, Brar will bring new wisdom, along with the voice of his constituents, to the legislative table and bring positive change.

That’s why people voted for him. In fact, it’s his job.

– Surrey North Delta Leader

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