Questions for BC Liberal and NDP Leadership Candidates

Questions for BC Liberal and NDP Leadership Candidates

The BCCPD has sent the following questions to candidates for the
leadership of the BC Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party of BC.
Responses will be posted at the bottom of the page as they are received.

The BC Coalition of People with Disabilities is writing to you as a candidate for
leadership of your Party to determine your position on the following important
issues for the disability community. We would appreciate your response to the
questions below.

We would also like to invite you to meet with us at your convenience to discuss
these issues.

1. BC’s disability benefits
People with disabilities who receive provincial income supports must live on $906 a month (Persons with Disabilities benefit – PWD) or $650 (Persons with
Persistent and Multiple Barriers to Employment – PPMB). These rates include
$375 for shelter which is the maximum amount provided for PWD and PPMB
recipients. According to a Fall 2010 report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the average monthly rent for a bachelor apartment in east Vancouver is $797; in the Fraser Valley the average is $626.
People with disabilities are living in abject poverty on these inadequate amounts. Most do not have sufficient money for basic essentials and consequently find it necessary to use their support allowance (intended for food, clothing and other living costs) towards their housing costs.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
significantly increase the disability benefits rates the province provides to people with disabilities so that they have sufficient income supports to be able to access clean, safe housing and nutritious food?

2. Ministry of Social Development health supplements for people with
In April 2010, BC implemented a number of funding cuts to the health
supplements provided to people with disabilities by the Ministry of Social
Development. These included cuts to funding for orthotics, medical supplies, and
dental coverage, which was already inadequate. As a result, it is now even more
difficult for disability benefits recipients to access the health goods and services
they need.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
reverse the 2010 cuts to health supplements provided by the Ministry of Social Development and increase the historically inadequate dental coverage?
3. Poverty reduction plan
British Columbia is one of the most expensive provinces in Canada to live in.
Six provinces: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, New Brunswick,
Manitoba and Nova Scotia have established poverty reduction plans:
comprehensive strategies towards poverty reduction with measureable outcomes and timelines. Poverty reduction plans that incorporate targets and a coordinated set of policies have resulted in positive outcomes in Canadian provinces where they have been implemented.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with measurable
outcomes and timelines such as that proposed by BC’s poverty reduction coalition?

4. Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI)
According to Statistics Canada, people with disabilities in British Columbia have
high levels of unmet need for equipment and assistive devices. Over the last two
years, the federal and provincial governments, through the Ministry of Social
Development, and community organizations, through the BC Personal Supports
Network, have developed the Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative

EATI exemplifies the ideals of the UN Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities and represents, in the words of Kevin Krueger the
Minister of Social Development, “an innovative approach to collaborative policy
development and service delivery.” EATI enables people with disabilities to acquire the equipment and devices that they need to overcome a functional barrier to eventual participation in the labour force and is financed through the federal government’s Labour Market Agreement (LMA).

This is a five year initiative which will conclude at the end of March 2014. EATI has budgeted $4 million per year ($20 million over 5 years) for the purchase of equipment and assistive devices with the assurance, according to the terms of the LMA that any unspent funds in one year can be carried over to subsequent years. This carry over provision is essential to meeting the needs of British Columbians with disabilities.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
ensure that EATI is able to guarantee that at least $4 million/year will be available until March 2014 through the Labour Market Agreement to fund equipment and assistive devices for people with disabilities in British Columbia? Will you ensure that any unspent funds in one year will be carried over into the subsequent year?

5. Disincentives to employment for people with disabilities
Under existing programs there are disincentives for people with disabilities who
may be able to work. For example, people with disabilities who receive the PPMB
benefit are not eligible for an annual bus pass while PWD recipients who return
to employment immediately lose their bus pass even when their income is very
low, which is often the case.

The structure and amount of the monthly earnings exemption ($500) for PWD
and PPMB recipients can also work as a disincentive to employment. For
example, people with episodic health conditions such as bi-polar disorder may be able to work more hours in some months than others, but will see any money
they earn over the $500 limit clawed back. An annual earnings exemption rate
such as that to which Canada Pension Plan Disability recipients are eligible
provides more flexibility.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
expand the bus pass program and work with the disability community to improve the earnings exemption rules for disability benefits recipients?

6. Cuts to Community Living BC (CLBC) funding
The budget for Community Living BC (CLBC) is frozen until 2013. This has
resulted in the agency cutting services to adults with developmental disabilities
including the closure of 25 group homes and moving those CLBC clients into
lower-cost options such as Home Share (adult foster care).

While Home Share can work well for some individuals, those who have lived in a
group setting for years, some directly from Woodlands, do not want to move
again. These service cuts to this most vulnerable of populations is devastating to
the community and CLBC clients and their families are not being consulted about
these changes.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government stop the closure of group homes and work with the disability community in a consultative process to meet the support needs of adults with developmental disabilities through improved funding levels?

7. Compensation for former residents of Woodlands School
Former residents of Woodlands School are now able to apply for compensation
for the sexual, physical and psychological abuse they experienced at the
institution thanks to a settlement agreement that was approved by the courts in
2010. Unfortunately under the terms of the agreement, individuals who were at
the institution before August 1st 1974 are ineligible to apply because it was not
possible to sue the province before that date. This means a significant number of
Woodlands survivors have been left out.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government set aside the law (Crown Proceedings Act) so that all Woodlands survivors can benefit from the long-awaited Settlement?

8. BC’s Building Code and accessible housing
BC’s Building Code lacks mandatory enforcement provisions which weakens its
effectiveness. As well, under the Code private housing developments such as
condominiums, rental units and co-ops are not required to ensure accessibility
other than in common property areas.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government work with the disability community to strengthen the rules governing compliance and enforcement and mandate that a proportion of accessible units be included in all housing developments?

9. Increase to BC’s minimum wage
BC Minimum wage has been at $8.00 an hour for more than 9 years and is now
the lowest in the country.

Q. If you are selected as leader of your Party, would your government
immediately increase the minimum wage to at least $10.00 an hour?

Thank you for taking the time to read our questions, and we look forward to your

Johanna Johnson, President
Jane Dyson, Executive Director

Responses received:
Nicholas Simons, February 15th