The story of Cloud City and the problem with BC’s $300 welfare bonus

Once there existed two societies in a place called Cloud City: Upper and Lower. Upper was “enlightened”: learned scholars, scientists, teachers, artisans, politicians; non-violent.

Lower was a base society. Sub-IQ. Subject to Upper’s control: their place was to keep the Upper from having to do anything to inhibit its own beauty. Lower hated the filthy, back-breaking work, with all the heavy toll and exhaustion, but they could not rise above what they construed as truth from Upper: that its function was to maintain Upper. 

One day a woman from Lower found a hidden route into Upper Cloud City. It was very different and she began to form new ideas out of the necessity of security and survival. She went back to Lower and brought more Lowers with her to Upper. They too began forming ideas and previously unheard-of concepts. Through the exploration of theory, one of them discovered an absolute truth about Lower: people who lived there were being suppressed.

The Lowers, in protest, ceased to work and after a while Cloud City began to sink towards the ground. The Uppers felt their brilliance slipping into the sea of ignorance below and only then agreed to accept the Lowers into their society without further doubt or question. 

This story is, of course, fiction but allow me to open your eyes to some real myths and truths!

Myths and facts about the cost of being Lower

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, but the government is giving more support to some people than others. People who lost work to COVID are getting $2,000 a month from Ottawa while people who were already poor and on welfare are only getting a COVID bonus of $300. They use some myths to explain why:

Myth: People of low income don’t need to have cars or extra money to pay for them. They can take the bus because it’s cheaper.

Truth: At the rate bus fares are increasing, it’s no longer affordable to take the bus anywhere. Extra zones equals extra fares; it costs almost $20 for two people to ride to Vancouver from Maple Ridge. Low-income parents would be able to keep their children safe if they could drive them where they needed to go. It is not cheap to take a bus or train, and cab fares are extravagant. 

Myth: Employed people have extra costs in the area of bills. They need less income, whereas welfare recipients don’t require as much, having less bills. 

Truth: The above statement is completely false! Employed and unemployed alike require these following services to be content: telephone, Hydro, internet, gas, water, garbage. 

Myth: Welfare people can get by on what they get. They don’t need more. It’ll just be wasted on booze or drugs. 

Truth: This is one of the most ignorant statements! The phrase “living below the poverty line” means just that. We receive less money than a family considered “poor.” Welfare recipients tend to live where rent is cheap, and are forced to shop where they live, which is where food prices are not cheap. Discount club stores are generally in outlying suburbia. So here we are again. 

Dehumanizing the poor and keeping them poor

People say that people who have lost jobs have it tough because they have lost income they’re used to, so it’s harder for them than for people who were already poor. But COVID has made poor people lose income too, and it’s not being replaced. 

I believe that the sex trade workers have been hit the hardest, although I have no stats to back up my claim. But with the stigma that accompanies sex work is the scarcity of clients during the time of pandemic. 

Believing that welfare recipients don’t need the same amount of money as a working family with the same amount of family members is an insult equal to a slap in the face or a kick in the ass. Are their children so inferior that we don’t need to spend the same amount for them? Aren’t they worth it? They bloody well are!

We’ve watched our own government ignore an entire segment of our society, already downtrodden and worn out by hardship the likes of which many of us can’t imagine. The poor have been shown how much value they are held in: none. 

It takes years of pain and suffering to bring a person’s head and heart so low that when they get an extra $300, they think it’s a windfall. Consider this: EI is being sped up for some. People who were employed at the start of the virus and are newly unemployed are receiving $2,000 a month for four months. 

Those who were already not employed, and have less, will receive $300 a month for three months. So the people who were doing fairly, if not great, are getting $8,000 total, while those who are always in hardship are getting $900 total.

That’s a fine way to show us where we stand in the eyes of our government. We are given a pittance when we need it more than ever. In a time when food services to the poor are shut down in the name of public health, and when libraries, drop-ins, and coffee shops, the only places the poor can spend their days or go to the bathroom, are closed. We are being told, “Here, go buy some ice cream and stop complaining!”

It’s an insult. Kill COVID-19 – not us!

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