-from Delphine Charmley
Open Letter to: Premier Christie Clark, Ministers Michelle Stillwell, Todd Stone, Mike DeJong and the Liberal Government.
Let me start with a quote from June 17 1998 Vol. 10 #23, BC Government Hansards from the then Liberal Critic for Ministry of Children and Families and now Premier Christie Clark to the then NDP Minister for MCF during estimates…..
- “Where are the government’s priorities here?”
- “It’s a disgrace. It’s embarrassing. I’m sure this woman is embarrassed to be represented by a government that has policies like this and applies them so inequitably…..”
The woman she was referring to was myself and my sons with special needs. While it had applied to fostering issues then, now the same could be said to what the Liberal government is doing to those with disabilities on pensions within this province.
In 1998, our Premier assisted me in her capacity as MCF critic in bringing to light the injustices that the then-NDP government were trying to do with fostering funding. Premier Clark back in 1998 stood on the floor of the legislature and kept the NDP’s feet to the fire on the issue of funding around fostering, and how it affected not only our sons who have special needs but many others throughout our province.
[sam id=”15″ codes=”true”]Now here I am, 18 years later, and once again I am trying to bring the government to task on funding issues and in particular the Disability Bus passes and the inadequate increase for those persons with disability pensions. Only this time it is NOT the NDP who need to be held accountable it is Premier Clark, Ministers Michelle Stillwell, Todd Stone and Mike DeJong and the Liberal government.
The Liberals would have us believe that they are being more than generous in giving a $77.00 monthly increase in the disability pensions.
For those of you not aware those on disability have only received $120.00 increase in their pensions since 2001 while the cost of living has increased substantially since then. In contrast in 2013, the BC Liberals gave their top bureaucrats, roughly a $30,000.00 increase and their aids almost a $10,000.00 increase. The MLA’s themselves got a raise in 2007 with I believe had a cost of living increase tied to the base amount….. those on disability? not so lucky.
Now, as a result of this disability pension increase of a whole $77.00 monthly, our sons and many others on disability will lose their bus pass which currently cost $45 per year. In its place the government will deduct $52.00 monthly of that $77.00 monthly increase they are giving them for a bus pass if they chose to have a bus pass. As well they will charge them a $45.00 yearly administrative cost for that bus pass, again coming out of that $77 increase.
Then if those on disability already have an existing bus pass which they have ALREADY paid for the entire 2016, this government has decided to penalize them. Those on disability who have a current valid disability bus pass will be charged starting in September 2016, a $52.00 monthly fee for the remaining of the year (4 months) at a total cost of $208 for a bus pass, a bus pass they ALREADY had paid for that supposed to be good till Dec 2016. That means this government wants to claw back monies from that $77 increase for a bus pass that has already been paid for that should be good till end of 2016 from those who can least afford it.
I am writing today because I am shocked after seeing the Minister for Social Development and Housing Michelle Stillwell during a recent question period appear to minimize the concerns that the NDP raise on behalf of others by Minister, saying “It is only the NDP that would characterize an increase to everyone in the province as something less.”
I am here and beg to differ.
While I am speaking up on behalf of my sons on disability pension, many others with disability may not have the same voice and hence turn to the NDP for help to voice their concerns. While others may be confused, or do not fully understand the ramifications of the change or they are concerned should they speak out they may be penalized or worse yet lose their disability pensions.
Maybe they do not have family close by to advocate for them.
I myself too am concerned about some form of retaliation, but I could not sit ideally by and see such an injustice done to those who can least afford the effects of this increase/claw back. Must they come, cap in hand, begging for what they should get all along? a decent increase without the back-dooring/claw back of funds under the ides of having to choose whether to have a bus pass.
For Ms. Stillwell to make that statement I find demeaning…… shame on you.
So I take it that the minister’s message is “Sorry we’re nickel and diming you; sorry we’re making your life difficult……” “Aren’t you lucky for all the things you don’t get promised?” “I’m sorry but that’s not a way to run a government. That’s not convincing way to tell the public that you’re providing services they need.” “If you make a promise to them, then you should keep it.”
All those statements are taken from the same 1998 Hansards and were said by the then MLA /now Premier Christie Clark. When the government promises an increase then deliver an increase, do not backdoor or claw it back.
Call it what you like what this government is doing is not the great increase they would have us believe. Premier Christie Clark words echoed back in June 17 1998, still ring true today. Perhaps had this government heeded those words we would not be stressing out those with disabilities about their bus pass.
What this government needs to do is give those on disabilities a decent monthly increase while leaving their bus passes as is: $45 yearly not the $624 yearly + $45 yearly administrative cost that they are proposing for September. The Liberal government needs to walk a mile in the shoes of those with disabilities……
In closing let me quote Premier Clark again in statements she made in the house as copied from the HANSARDS back in June 17 1998 afternoon session.
- “The best I can hope for is that the Minister will take some time to think about it…..”
- “Find out what’s really going on…”
- “find out what their real costs are then address some of the inequities that are in the system, that they experience every day.”
- “It’s a process of consulting and then listening and then making sure what you heard is reflected in the policies that come out at the end of the day from the government.
Delphine Charmley, Nanaimo
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