The provincial government’s decision to raise income assistance rates for people with disabilities with one hand then reduce those rates with the other has been in the news lately.
Before the changes were announced, anybody forced to live on the paltry amount of $906 a month (a rate frozen since 2007) also received a free bus pass every month. While some individuals did not benefit from the free pass — for instance, if they lived in a part of the province that did not have public transit — the overwhelming majority did.
Then the provincial government, with great fanfare, announced a raise of $77 a month in the income assistance rate people with disabilities would receive. However, at the same time it also announced the elimination of the free monthly bus pass. So a disabled person receiving income assistance will now have to pay out of their own pockets $52 per month for his or her bus pass. Net these two amounts and the real increase is only $25 a month.
Now put this “raise” in context:
Stephen Hume wrote a great column in the March 7 Vancouver Sun on the topic, where, in part, he lists the price tags on some of the perks our MLAs and cabinet ministers enjoy. How about this? A cabinet minister gets a car allowance of $650 a month, or about two thirds of the total monthly living allowance for someone on disability assistance. And it’s safe to say that a backbencher gets more in per diem reimbursements at the legislature’s subsidized restaurant during the 20-day sitting of the legislature than “…your neediest person with disabilities receives to pay for the basic necessities of life for a month.”
Marie Antoinette would be proud.