This is the third of several posts with questions I posed at the beginning of the current legislative session, and answers if any are available. Today education, disability buspasses, and a short one at the end about SiteC. Mostly, it’s about policy toward the disabled and those on income assistance..
What the BC Liberal government has become known for is having grand showy consultations when they think that will play to their advantage, (booze..) and no consultation when they think what they are going to do anyway may be unpopular. That theme runs through all of these questions..
6) Is it still Education Minister Mike Bernier’s position that “coding” can be taught universally in K-12 schools without an investment in computers?
Answer: Yes, apparently. Mike Bernier has not retracted the statement.
Remember last year when the Province announced it was going to direct schools to apportion greater resources to trades training? This applied to K-12 and also to Universities and Colleges, which were instructed that they risked funding being cut off unless they dedicated a percentage of public funding to the Premier’s Grand LNG Plan.
Now the flavor of the month since LNG has gone belly up, is coding, and tech.
And just like trades, the Province thinks School Boards can fund the whims of the Premier’s Communications Department without any more help from the government. No consultation. No funding. Just re-engineer the education system we told you to re-engineer last year, only in a different direction. Nice.
7) Income Assistance and Disability Rates have been frozen for nearly ten years. Is this the Premier’s idea of a hand up?
Well, when it comes to those on income assistance, they better acquire either a job or a disability and fast… The $630 or so they are required to starve on won’t go up. I understand the right wing wants to dis-incentivize desperate situations, and they are doing very well doing that. Income Assistance is truly a “last resort”.
The disabled do a little better. We know what the firestorm has been about. Without consultation (according to the Disability Alliance and other advocacy groups) , the Province decided to boost disability income by $77 per month. But of course, if you happened to be in a large cohort where transportation is a necessity , most of that is clawed back. No need to detail it further. It’s been all over the press.
What hasn’t been adequately explored is that the 100K people who collect disability income in BC are a widely disparate group. One size doesn’t fit all. For some, access to a transportation subsidy is an optional thing. Those folks are mobile…they can walk, ride a bike, navigate without assistance etc. For others, mental and physical capacity may make subsidized transportation as much a need as an electric wheelchair.
So focusing on the word need… If those who need transport are getting a $25 net increase, or $11 in a smaller number of cases, while those who don’t are having the full $77 added… that is discriminatory to those who most need our help.
It isn’t “more fair” as Martyn Brown on the CBC Political Panel Feb 26th tried to say. It isn’t “more fair” as Les Leyne in a T-C Op/Ed tried to say.
It’s less fair. The full $77 subsidy still falls far, far, behind inflation of costs over the last nine years. It’s been pointed out that the disabled in Alberta do better by their (formerly right wing) government to the tune of about $600 a month.
Think about it… Alberta gives those who can’t work $500-$600 every month more than we do. The $983 those who don’t need transport will now be required to live on is still cruelly low. Okay, some can work some of the time. Many can’t. As pointed out already, this isn’t a homogeneous group of people. Some have trust assets and family who can afford to help. Some do not.
In short, we can’t fix every inequity, and I’m not saying we can. But we can do better than to short change those with the greatest need. Better policy, (which advocates might have been able to make clear if they had been asked), might have been to make the bus passes a needs based program.
That would have required a reversal of the mystifying falsehood that this policy is about choice.
Question 8: Site C… Why are we doing this?
Please, please go visit Laila Yuile’s blog , “No Strings Attached”. The work she has been doing is amazing. Site C is the most expensive infrastructure project ever. It’s going to flood masses of arable land. It’s arguably a massive infringement on Treaty 8 First Nations rights.
Or check out Norm’s latest here
Your government is proceeding with Site C without an evaluation by the BC Utilities Commission , the organization the recently deceased Premier WR Bennett set up to make sure big projects by Hydro were in the public interest. Did you catch the painful howler from the Premier at Bennett’s funeral “We’re going to finish what WR Bennett started”? … Nonsense. Bennett would have sent it to BCUC to prevent a bad decision by legacy hungry (or party donation hungry) politicians. This was pointed out strongly by Rafe Mair and others and I agree.
Les Leyne today made fun in the T-C of the NDP message box: “Should go to BCUC for review” and I get why he did. He was doing a piece about message boxes and political parties, and he made the NDP the target, as he often does. But in this case, the message box message is simply the truth.
Site C, it’s been argued, is to power half a million homes, or the next week it’s to fuel the LNG boom that will put a trillion $ in provincial coffers and eliminate the PST. And it’s now being dangled to power Alberta’s shift from coal power….Except Alberta is building a massive natural gas generation facility that will make Site C pretty much redundant. The energy may not be that much cleaner, but it will be cheaper for the Albertans.. Or they may do even better and go massively solar , as we should as soon as we possibly can.
The point is we have no idea why we are building Site C, adding billions to public debt in the process, knowing we will sell the power at a loss for at least the first ten years of its operation.
If you made it this far…stay tuned for the next post “Questions about Scandals ” , which I hope to have up tomorrow.