24 HR“Attacking people with disabilities is the lowest display of power I can think of.” — Actor Morgan Freeman

Last week’s B.C. budget briefly raised the hopes of people with disabilities who had suffered nine years without an increase in benefits — and then crushed them when the awful truth came out.

This is an ugly story of what first seemed like slightly good intentions turning into an intentional attack on people who most need our help.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced a $77 increase in disability benefits — the first since 2007 — but the hike from $906.42 per month for a single person won’t take effect until September 2016.

But there was also a catch. Then another. And another.

When I questioned de Jong at the budget Feb. 16, he admitted the $66 per month Special Transportation Subsidy an estimated 20,000 disability benefits recipients now receive will be subtracted from their $77 increase — leaving them with just an $11 a month improvement.

That’s only a 1.2% benefits increase — averaged over nine years without any hike, the annual increase is literally infinitesimal — just 0.13%.

When I asked de Jong if the tiny amount wasn’t unfair, he responded: “For that group, the impact is very modest.”

No kidding. But it gets worse.

Roughly another 35,000 people with disabilities get a transit pass — and they will now have to start paying $52 a month for that pass.

Subtracting $52 from the $77 a month increase leaves just $25 more a month.

But it gets worse again. The government confirmed that in addition to the new $52 a month bus pass fee, people with disabilities will also still pay a previous $45 annual “administration fee.”

So the measly $25 increase is further cut by $3.75 — meaning their hike is just $21.25 a month.

For the 35,000 people with disabilities, that’s a rate increase of only 2.3% — over nine years. Go wild.

There’s a fast-growing petition at Change.org from advocacy group Inclusion BC demanding the government reverse its clawback.

But Chris Halarewich of Castlegar — who has cerebral palsy — has another suggestion.

“Everybody get out there and protest in Christy Clark’s riding — people in wheelchairs, everyone,” Halarewich told me Saturday.

Abusing power by attacking people with disabilities should not be tolerated.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman

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