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Disability changes hurt vulnerable, critics say

September 1, 2016 2:38 P.M.
Michael Crawford of the B.C. Association of Social Workers speaks at rally Thursday.

New B.C. disability rates — minus a transit subsidy eliminated by the province —took effect Thursday, sending critics of the government move into the streets in protest.

A dozen people rallied on Seymour Street outside of the offices of the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to protest what they consider, in effect, a clawback that hurts vulnerable people struggling to get by.

“It’s a very important day for people on disability because this is the day when they receive less,” said Michael Crawford, president of the B.C. Association of Social Workers.

The Liberal government saw fit to spend $65,000 on a plaque to commemorate the Coquihalla Highway but is too miserly to provide adequate support for people with disabilities, he said.

In its budget this year, the government increased disability support by $77 but cancelled the $45 a year bus pass for people with disabilities. In effect, that meant an actual increase of $25.

Kamloops and District Labour Council organized the rally in conjunction with others held across the province representing the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition. They want the bus pass restored and the new $45 bus pass fee eliminated with the increased support maintained. They also want disability and employment supports to reflect cost of living increases.

“That meagre little increase doesn’t even cover the cost of living,” Harmony Raine, a KDLC member, said of the $77 increase.

“It’s unconscionable what the Liberals are doing,” said Lillian Kwan. “They’re targeting the most vulnerable segment of the population. How can Todd Stone defend that?

“People on disability and the unemployed are struggling from one day to the next,” said Peter Kerek, carrying the flag of the Communist Party of Canada.

Nancy Bepple, seeking the NDP nomination in next spring’s provincial election, said she just had coffee with a woman on disability who can’t put together the change for bus fare.

“That really hampers you,” she said. People on disability support are allowed earn extra income through part-time employment, but it’s more difficult when they can’t use public transit to look for work and attend appointments, she added.

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