Today March 23rd cbc did story on bus pass here what update to minister stilwell meeting with advocacy groups like inclusion bc
Disability advocates meet with B.C. minister over clawback to free bus pass
Minister sits down with advocates after backlash
People with disabilities are upset the province clawed back a free bus pass program. (Shutterstock)
The B.C. government has opened discussions with advocacy groups about the controversial claw back to a free bus pass program for people with disabilities.
Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell has been under fire after her government announced changes in the budget to disability assistance.
The B.C. Liberals increased disability assistance but at the same time took away the free transit passes for around 35,000 people on disability assistance. Inclusion B.C.’s online petition to restore the bus pass program has nearly 15,000 signatures.
Stilwell met with disability advocates behind closed doors on Tuesday.
“The minister is going to get back to us on how we are going to work together moving forward to address the issues that have come out of the petition,” said Inclusion B.C. Executive Director Faith Bodnar.
“What the bus pass is a symbol for people to say that this government understands some of the changes that people with disabilities face, I am confident we can work something that is fair and equitable.”
The Liberals have argued the changes made the benefits more equitable for the roughly 50,000 people on disability assistance who live in communities where there is no access to consistent public transit.
More funding not ruled out
Bodnar is not sure at this point that restoring the bus pass is necessary, but she says there needs to be sustainable funding.
Prior to these recent changes in the budget, the disability assistance rate had not been increased for nine years.
“It was a genuine and authentic meeting,” said Bodnar. “This is the consultation that should have happened before.
I am very encouraged she invited us all to a meeting.
This has been very difficult to all of us involved. We want to now commit to working together.”
The government says the meeting was set up to provide an opportunity for Minister Stilwell to provide clarity on why the changes were made.
The province has not yet ruled out a potential increase in funding for people on disability assistance.
“I know many people, including the stakeholders I met with, would like to see a larger increase in assistance rates, and that’s something we will continue to look at,” said Stilwell in a statement.
“It is clear from the meeting that the stakeholders’ main concern is about higher rates, not the transportation subsidies
that are now being provided to all 100,000 clients.”
NDP wants more supports
The NDP has been critical of the government changes. MLA Michelle Mungall says bringing back the free bus pass is the first step in restoring confidence in the government from people living with disabilities.
Mungall added that along with a reversal of the claw back, the government needs to increase disability assistance.
“What other jurisdictions are looking at doing is bumping those supports up to another level
so those people aren’t living so far below the poverty line.”
Here is a story in Vancouver Sun March 21 by Faith Bodnar Executive Director of Inclusion BC
statement on latest bus pass clawbacks raise the rates
BY FAITH BODNAR, MARCH 21, 2016
Opinion: Pittance paid to disabled
Vancouver Sun: By now many are aware of the Raise the Rates, Leave the Bus Pass Alone petition and campaign that was rolled out by Inclusion BC.
We launched this campaign in response to the B.C. government’s announcement of an ill-considered attempt to improve B.C.’s Persons with Disability (PWD) income program which is currently $906 per month. The budget announcement included a $77 per month increase in benefits for everyone on PWD followed by a claw back of $52 per month and $11 per month depending on whether a person received a bus pass or a special transportation subsidy. Those who do not get either would receive the $77 and are left to sort out their own transportation. Despite a strong negative response from all sectors, government has dismissed legitimate criticism and continues to assert that “people would be a bit better off” or “life would be a little less hard” or that “it is a little extra money.” Recent damage control strategies this week saw the premier making these same condescending and offensive statements.
This petition has struck a chord with thousands and thousands of people, including those who receive PWD, their families and supporters, friends and fellow citizens, service agencies, policy experts, members of the media and an ever-growing number of community agencies. We are all stunned by a government that failed to even, at the very least, consult with people on PWD and the disability community, the result of which has become a stunning mess. We are all further astonished by a government that is so out of touch it presumed and expected the announcements would be welcomed as good news and even progressive.
What continues to be lauded by our government as a way to address the “inequity” and shamefully low PWD rates that 100,000 British Columbians are forced to live on, was nothing more than a condescending and mean-spirited exercise that failed at all levels. And it continues to fail again, again and again. This failure is only amplified by public relations efforts to clarify the “facts,” clear up “misinformation” with more and better graphs and divide the disabled community, basically reframing the information in the hopes we would all finally get it. Except nothing has worked. Why? Because we can all do the math, we understand the facts, we have done the research and we know the truth about what it’s like to live on PWD in B.C.
There are some who are suggesting that the petition and rallies are divisive. That a public display of dissatisfaction with our government lacks maturity and is unsophisticated. That by stubbornly sticking to our positions, we are outliers. That if we really wanted to “work together” we would approach these issues more collaboratively. In the flurry of political positioning, let’s not forget that the cornerstone of democracy is our right to have and organize public discussion. It is healthy and, in fact, necessary. And it is our duty to convene these conversations because this type of civic engagement leads to greater enlightenment, social justice and change.
We have being trying to inspire our governments to address these shameful rates for more than 10 years. We were all initially hopeful on B.C. Budget Day, Feb. 19, 2016. Then we unpacked the announcement and exposed the truth. This was not a serious plan to address the poverty of those on PWD. It was a token and grossly insufficient effort that rubbed salt into a huge gaping wound.
It’s time to clear up a few facts and set the record straight. B.C.’s current PWD rates are shameful and tinkering with transportation subsidies while giving a paltry increase won’t make them “equitable” nor will it make “life a little less hard.” Having a disability is not a choice. Living on PWD is not a choice. Poverty is not a choice. Giving with one hand and clawing back with the other is a choice. Refusing to acknowledge or address the abject poverty of some our B.C.’s most vulnerable citizens is a choice.
Faith Bodnar is executive director of Inclusion BC
A chart showing disability assistance levels by province and territory. This is from 2012, but the March 2016 rates for Alberta remain unchanged ($1588/month for Alberta and $906/month for BC)
This is another chart about bus pass and income increase
March 10th inclusion bc updated statement
Raise the rates, leave our bus pass alone
Petition delivered to Legislature
Representatives from Inclusion BC and TAPS (Together Against Poverty Society) held a news conference yesterday on the steps of the BC Legislature before delivering the petition to Raise the Rates, Leave our Bus Pass Alone with over 15,000 signatures (online and hand-written) to the Hon. Minister Michelle Stilwell’s office. Copies of the petition were also delivered to Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office in Kelowna and Minister Stilwell’s constituency office in Parksville. View photos of the petition delivery here.
“We will continue to advance the interests of people with disabilities in B.C. who need a significant raise in rates,” said Faith Bodnar, Inclusion BC Executive Director. “We want this to be the first step in bringing disability rates to respectful and livable levels for some of the more vulnerable people in B.C. I would like nothing better today than to be congratulating the Minister and Government on the steps of the legislature for giving everyone a $77 increase without any claw backs.”
The petition was introduced in the Legislature by Michelle Mungall, NDP MLA for Nelson Creston and opposition critic for the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.
Introduction of the petition in the Legislature:
“M. Mungall: I rise to present a petition. This petition has over 15,000 people signing it. They are calling on the government to bring back the $45-per-year bus pass for people with disabilities, eliminate the new $52-per-month bus pass fee, let everyone receiving PWD benefits keep the $77-per-month increase and raise the PWD benefit rate to $12,000 [sic] per month by October 1, 2016, to reflect the cost of living.” Read the full transcript here.
Inclusion BC has been hearing from people and groups across the province who are committed to continuing public pressure, who want to mobilize and who are not willing to give up until the Minister reverses her decision. Many have already written letters or visited their MLA and Inclusion BC will ramp up efforts in mobilizing people to speak out to their MLA, the Premier and Minister Stilwell.
Minister to Meet with Disability Advocates
Minister Stilwell has requested a meeting in late March with disability advocates, including Inclusion BC, to “discuss the changes, and [her] concerns over some of the misinformation that is out in the public.” Inclusion BC has accepted the meeting request and will continue demanding that the provincial government reverse their decision to claw back the bus pass from the benefit rate increase and come up with a serious plan to raise people out of poverty and increase and index the PWD rates to reflect the rising cost of living.
Delivering petition on March 9,
Photos from today’s petition delivery at the Legislature. Thanks Tony Sprackett and Together Against Poverty Society – TAPS and Sheenagh H Morrison and everyone who signed and worked so hard to spread/share the petition. This is not over, we will honour the signatures of the 14,000 people and continue public pressure for change.
— Rob Shaw (@robshaw_vansun) March 2, 2016
Rally: Raise the Rates – Leave our Bus Pass Alone
People went to the BC Legislature today to react to the BC Liberals clawing back a recent overdue increase to disability rates in the province by cancelling their bus pass provision.
Kudos to TAPS for organizing this spirited rally.
What a day full of energy to get the message across that we want our bus pass by there a lot of people there was signs asking them to leave their bus pass alone we were there for one purpose and the purpose was to have our voice heard. I shared about being a mom because my team will be getting PWD in the fall and I don’t want her to worry about it if she could get fitted for her fridge or bus pass each month other people shared stories of what they thought and what they would like the government to do. There were some NDP party people that share their thoughts on the issue to them they were standing among us in the group .There was no liberal this rally at all there were lots of stories good and bad overall there for one thing.
Then I went to question period To see how things were done. The NDP brought up the rally on the bus pass and the Liberals keep saying that we will get the bus pass and depending on where we live we will get a little bit up on our cheqs so the Liberals never really answered the question they say it’s all be fine that we will still get our bus pass and our rents will not go up. If we were in low income the story has not stopped going to be more out there.
Please share your thoughts with your MLAs
We need to make a difference we all have the voice we just need to get people to listen
rally in Victoria at leg
Vancouver rally at sky train station
New Westminster rally at sky train station
Here headlines on the rally in newspapers and radio stations coverage of bus pass situation click on the links below