The provincial government is easing the burden on people who receive disability assistance, with an extra $52 a month for transportation costs. With the former B.C. Liberal government’s miserly treatment of the poor still fresh in many minds, the NDP seems determined to show a kinder face to those in need.

Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, said last week the first supplement will appear on Dec. 20 cheques, to cover the period beginning Jan. 1.

In a move that cemented its reputation for pinching pennies through the misery of people who couldn’t fight back, the former government raised payments to people with disabilities by $77 month, but at the same time started charging them $52 a month for a bus pass that used to cost $45 a year.

For many people, that slashed the increase to a paltry $25 a month

This year there are eight candidates running in the Vancouver city council by-election, including Jean Swanson and Judy Graves. Given their longtime involvement in Downtown Eastside politics, the media has been quick to conflate Graves with Swanson. But are they really so similar, and what exactly are the politics behind Judy Graves and OneCity?

For most of his life, Murray Barr was an ordinary American until everything changed abruptly when his story of personal tragedy and period of homelessness created a media frenzy. It was in his article, “Million Dollar Murray,” that Malcolm Gladwell turned homelessness into a celebrity cause by illustrating how Barr cost the taxpayers of Reno, Nevada around a million dollars despite not having a permanent home.

Murray’s story shocked many because it seemed unfathomable that homelessness cost money, let alone a million dollars. In reality, this is far from uncommon.

People without a home, and lacking supports for mental illness and addiction, can draw significantly on social services for survival, including shelters, social agencies and hospitals. They also tend to interact more frequently with police, fire and paramedic services – those agencies on the frontlines, dealing with the visible symptoms of homelessness. This all costs money.

Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? is the title of a new anthology co-edited by Mount Royal University associate English professor Michael Truscello and Toronto-based post-secondary educator Ajamu Nangwaya.

The book shares its title with a 2015 New York Times op-ed by American academic and journalist Thomas Edsall. Was that the impetus for the project?

It provided impetus, although the question of why don’t the poor rise up is always part of revolutionary thinking. But the op-ed was recognition that even capitalist media like The New York Times and The Economist are perplexed there isn’t more opposition to the system given the record levels of inequality, runaway climate change, and other [oppressive] facets of the current order. That suggested there was a new level of awareness, and the moment was ripe for popular revolt

There is data that demonstrates that for our poor, faced with the priorities of daily survival, voting is a “nice-to-do,” rather than a “need to do.”

Ironically, given their large number, if the poor got out and cast their vote, they could decide who will govern our city and influence policies to reduce poverty in Calgary. And at the same time, it would reaffirm their citizenship and begin to lessen their marginalization and powerlessness.

So what can be done in these final days of the 2017 municipal campaign?

… It seems so simple, yet we are not doing it. It is not too late. Start today. By assisting people get out to vote, you will be helping to reduce poverty.

Since June of last year, Stuart Wood School has sat empty. However, this winter it will be given new life as a safe haven for the city’s homeless population.

“We had the space available,” said acting mayor Arjun Singh. “It’s obviously not used right now, and we’re still waiting for some discussions to go through in terms of the final use for that building, so it was an ideal position for us to utilize it for the extreme weather shelter, just the gym portion, for the wintertime.”

The temporary shelter is fully funded by BC Housing, and will be operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Have you ever taken on additional shifts at work for some extra cash and then failed an exam because you didn’t study enough? Bought a phone for $0 to save money then only to end up stuck in a three-year contract? Signed up for a high-interest credit card without really reading the fine print because it meant immediate access to funds?

This may be how are brains are wired to operate, according to researchers who have been studying the cognitive mechanisms behind scarcity. They say when we’re under financial stress and focused on solving a problem related to money, our brains tend to tune out other information and hinder our ability to do unrelated tasks. And it may explain why some people who are living in poverty can’t seem to get themselves out of it.