I really liked a lot of what I was hearing. Indexing PWD, an increase in how much money people can make before their disability gets clawed back, and the possibility of guaranteed basic income; all good stuff that has been too long in coming. Then the interview got to the issue of bus passes, and I rolled my eyes.
I still can’t believe that they’re talking like the bus passes were somehow cut: they weren’t.
But the myth that they were, goes to the heart of the main issue that Minister Simpson must deal with to have a real positive impact upon the lives of the people that his ministry is supposed to help.
Namely the level of distrust and disconnect that there is between the mid and high-level bureaucrats within the ministry (the front-line workers seem to get it but often don’t care) and the people they’re supposed to help.
The confusion around the bus passes is a really great example of this disconnect. When it was first announced it really was two separate issues.
One was a small increase to the PWD rates (the first in close to a decade) and the other a reorganization of how the annual bus pass was going to be paid for to allow for some ministry streamlining along with increasing choice and flexibility to people with disabilities.
Both issues were in line with other small changes (like increasing asset limits) that the then BC Liberal government had been making to PWD, and both really should have been good news stories.
Instead the Ministry officials combined the two stories, and made it sound much more complicated than what it really was.
Turning what should have been, at worst, neutral news story into something that everyone though was some sort of cutback.
I remember watching an interview with the then minister and noting her confusion as to why she was being attacked for what she thought was something positive (changes to make bus passes more fair and greater choice for people on PWD) into something bad (people losing their bus passes entirely).
And that confusion was the problem. The then minister had no idea of just how distrusted her ministry was by the people that it served.
Because of the confusion, everyone (including mainstream media) just assumed that the government was trying to spin a cutback in services, because that was the reputation that her ministry had when it came to treating people.
Even after clarifications and the ministry decision to wave processing fees many people still saw the entire process as a form of cutback they just weren’t a 100% sure how that came about.
This is Minister Simpson main problem along with trying to get all this good stuff out there.
He has to educate his own officials and make them understand that rebuilding trust between ministry and their clients is the most important thing that they can do right now. I mean seriously a ministry official could say that the sky was blue and everyone would still look up to fact check, that’s how bad the mistrust is right now.
That has to change or all the positive changes that Minister Simpson wants to do will fail because no one will believe that they were intended to help in the first place.