‘Leave bus passes alone’: PAACL

Province ‘promoting poverty’ with cuts to Persons With Disabilities’ bus passes.

Susan Waldie

Susan Waldie

A Port Alberni advocacy group was shocked when they heard the Government of British Columbia declared a cut to the annual bus pass program for those receiving Persons with Disabilities (PWD) benefits on the heels of an increase to monthly benefits.

On Feb. 16 the B.C. government announced a monthly increase, beginning Sept.1,  of $77 to people receiving disability benefits—the first increase in nine years. At the same time, changes for PWD clients who access a subsidized annual bus pass, was introduced: cancelling the $45 a year bus pass and replacing it with a new monthly fee of $52 plus a $45 administration fee. The disability pension for people living in B.C. is $906 a month.

Susan Waldie, Liz Riddalls and Craig Summers, board members of the Port Alberni Association for Community Living (PAACL), are concerned with the government’s decision to claw back transportation support for those receiving disability pensions.

“When you’ve had a bus pass for $45 a year and now it’s going to be $52 a month, I mean just think of the ramifications of that,” Riddalls said. “[PWD] don’t have money to spare to begin with, it’s ridiculous.”

Craig Summers, executive director at PAACL, said the group strives to support PWD individuals in community inclusion. With the new $45 a month bus pass charge he questions how the people they serve will access the community and resources that are available to them.

“They don’t have a drivers’ license so they rely on public transportation,” Summers said.

“Now they have to choose between, do I get a bus pass or do I get an extra bag of groceries. Or do I stop going to programs?”

The group unanimously agreed that with the cost of living on the rise, those trying to survive on disability pensions could slide deeper into poverty, trying to live on their $906 a month.

People on disability assistance who access a subsidized annual bus pass will see an increase of $25 per month and those who do not receive transportation supports will receive the full $77 increase to their monthly cheque.

A release from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation stated that “around half” of B.C. residents with a PWD designation had access to the subsidized pass, or to a $66-per-month special transportation subsidy.

The government’s announcement prompted Susan Waldie, who is a parent to two sons receiving PWD pensions, to write a letter to Premier Christy Clark urging her to raise the rates for PWD clients and leave their bus passes alone.

“We want to keep this on the forefront,” Waldie said. “Even if [the government] gives them the full $77, it’s nowhere near what they need to keep up with the cost of living.”

Waldie said government representatives did not discuss the monthly bus pass increase with any poverty reduction teams prior to implementing the transportation clawback.

“There was no consultation with any of the individuals who are on the poverty reduction team, none of them,” Waldie said.

“They didn’t talk to mental health, they didn’t talk to community living or the disability caucus. There was no consultation, it was a slap in the face.”

Scott Fraser, MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim, said this region has some of the highest poverty rates in the country and that, in his opinion, “government is engineering poverty for a large segment of the population through their tax policy.”

Fraser read segments of Waldie’s letter in the B.C. Legislature on March 2 to shed light on the struggles that could sprout for those who will be affected by the $45-a-month bus pass rate.

“I thought I’ve got to help [PAACL]. They’re taking the step to highlight the unfairness of this government, I’ve got to do my part in this legislature,” Fraser said.

British Columbia’s PWD benefits are among the lowest in Canada, said Waldie.

“This from the province boasting prosperity.”

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

facebook.com/abernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Education advisor Tom McEvay congratulates two Alberni Valley Bulldogs on their high academic achievements for the 2015-16 season: Quinn Syrydiuk, left, for college and Cayden Kraus for high school. (KAICEE TROTT PHOTO)
BCHL: Port Alberni’s Tom McEvay joins Coquitlam Express as education advisor

McEvay now schools players for three teams, including Alberni and Nanaimo

Gary Bender from Bailey Electric secures two art banners on lampposts at Argyle Street and Sixth Avenue in May 2020. Despite a delay due to COVID-19 measures, the Rotary Club of Port Alberni-Arrowsmith was able to collect and put up half of the art banners it usually does in the Rotary Arts District. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Rotary Arts District banner program switches to ‘paint at home’ for 2021

Arrowsmith Rotary Club needs 80 registrations to go ahead this year

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
BUDGET 2021: City of Port Alberni looks at tax increase of 3.95 percent

City of Port Alberni held its first budget meeting of the year

Emma Nunn from Alberni Valley Rescue Squad waits at the summit of Mount Arrowsmith for the rest of the AVRS rope rescue team on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
UPDATE: Injured hikers among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni have chosen the Voyent Alert! app for emergency notifications. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni, ACRD unveil new emergency alert system

Program is a response to criticism of botched communication after 2018 tsunami warning

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

Most Read