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B.C. Liberals promise welfare rate hike days as government is expected fall

VICTORIA — There will be a promise to raise welfare rates in British Columbia by $100-a-month in the government's throne speech on Thursday, which is expected to set in motion the defeat of the Liberals after more than 16 years in office.

Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell said Monday the government wants to raise rates after freezing them for more than a decade.

Stilwell did not provide details about the increase other than to say it would take effect either in September or January. A single person on welfare in B.C. currently receives $610 a month.

An official in Premier Christy Clark's government, who did not want to be named, confirmed the monthly $100 increase, estimated to cost almost $107 million over three years.

Stilwell said the proposed changes are part of the government's reaction to last month's election that saw the Liberals relegated to a minority government with 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

"What we heard from people is they wanted to see more changes in the social programs," she told a teleconference call on Monday.

The New Democrats and Greens have an agreement to defeat the Liberals in a confidence vote in the days that follow the throne speech. Under the deal between the NDP and Greens, the New Democrats would get a chance to form a government using their combined 44 seats.

Selina Robinson, the NDP's mental health and addictions critic, said the proposed welfare rate increases appear to be part of the government's attempt to hang onto power.

The Liberals haven't raised the rates since 2007 and now that they face defeat in the legislature, they are making promises they rejected for years and during the election campaign, Robinson added.

"This is about game playing," Robinson said. "Christy Clark is making promises she knows she is not going to keep."

The NDP promised to increase welfare rates by $100-a-month during the campaign. Their agreement with the Greens includes a poverty reduction plan and a pilot project to test a living wage to reduce poverty and homelessness.

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