I had hoped Tom Fletcher’s recent opinion piece entitled “Why be so cheap with the poor?” was going to be a serious discussion of why income assistance and disability rates are so low that people in B.C. are going hungry and living on the streets. Instead, most of the column was used to criticize the NDP and unions, and to justify the BC Liberals taking away the annual bus pass when they increased disability rates from $906 a month to $983. He used the words ‘cheats,’ ‘deadbeats’ and ‘varmints,’ and although he attributed them to a premier who hasn’t been in power for 20 years, he says that most of the policies put into affect by that premier remain today.
Fletcher says he intends to find out how many disabled people decided to take the $77 increase and pay for transit only when they need it. Perhaps he can ask them how often they stay home because they needed the money to buy food and pay bills. And people on disability often do need their transit pass to go to jobs, not, as Fletcher says, mainly for shopping, medical appointments and social activities.
Fletcher says there are sound reasons for making a person who is applying for assistance look for work for five weeks before they get their $610 a month, an amount they are not allowed to supplement with any work. Maybe he can find out how many of them became homeless during that waiting period, and how many of them go to bed hungry.
The column has a quote from Faith Bodnar of Inclusion BC, who said the government equalized poverty for people with disabilities in BC. The mean-spirited Liberals are not only equalizing poverty, they are enforcing poverty.