BC Green Party - Submissions to the 2021 Interim Policy Committee: Increasing Equity for People With Disabilities (PWDs)
Title: BC Should Increase Equity for People with Disabilities

Relates to the themes: Health, Safety, Standard of Living

Relates to the Green values: Respect for Diversity, Social Justice

To guide all decisions made by BC Greens MLAs and to present bills in the legislature to end income clawbacks for people receiving (provincial) disability income assistance and to increase the disability income assistance rate.

Desired Outcomes:
1) For people with disabilities to be considered as People first, allowing them their full benefit as a cushion to earn income. Many people with disabilities have variable function and may not be able to earn income with consistency. The income clawbacks should end. - Equity.

2) For people with disabilities to be enabled to choose the living situation which best meets their health needs. Many people with disabilities will choose to earn income which does not need to be declared, in order to not have any benefit clawbacks. - Safety.

3) When people earn such little money and they may never have the function to earn any income, they often stay in abusive living situations (whether with roommates, partners, or parents/caregivers) as they cannot afford to live alone or are in line to live in a supportive living residence. - Vitality.

Policy Statements:
BC Greens Believe Income Clawbacks Should End for those receiving Disability Income Assistance
BC Greens Believe People with Disabilities Should Receive Enough Money to Live with Vitality and Dignity

When one applies to receive disability income assistance, there are two levels of government which one can apply for benefits.

The federal amount is called CPP-Disability. The amount one can receive is directly proportional to how much money had been paid into CPP over one's lifespan. While this is not fair, this is not what the Policy Proposal seeks to address. The federal amount varies from $510.85 (not having worked at all) to $1413.66 (high income earner and receiving benefit closer to age 60).

The provincial amount, which not everyone applies for, can be considered a "top-up", to attempt to account for any shortfall from CPP-Disability.

According to the rate table, if someone receives the BC provincial disability income benefit, lives alone, in a bachelor suite apartment (one room), they can receive $983.42. This is not in addition to the CPP amount, the BC Government pays the difference so that the maximum received with the federal and provincial benefits combined is $983.42.

In cases where the CPP-Disability Amount is greater than the benefit calculated provincially, then that may be the maximum payment ($1413.66) and the provincial application for benefits may not proceed.

When people without disabilities were granted CERB, due to being laid off during the work and economic slowdown related to COVID-19, they were granted $2000/month. This signalled to many people with disabilities that their personhood was defined only by their ability to earn income.

While some people may choose to receive an Annual Earnings Exemption to account for income fluctuations, if their income exceeds the annual amount, then their benefit must be paid back dollar for dollar. (see section in Income Treatment and Exemptions - AEE limit). The maximum received per month is $1250.00 (for a single person with no dependents). Meaning that if their annual income exceeds $15,000 they are required to pay back all overages.

Rent in most places throughout BC exceeds $1000/month. Many people with disabilities do not want to live in rural areas, due to reduced transportation and specialist options.

Vancouver median rent October 2020: $1436
Vernon median rent October 2020: $975
Victoria median rent October 2020: $1230
Kamloops median rent October 2020: $1000
(all amounts were from same source with the CMHC website)

The cost of living for a person with a disability tends to be higher, due to medications, equipment, transportation, nutrition, exercise adaptations, etc. Disability Income Assistance in BC is considered below the poverty line.

If the disability income assistance rate was set to $2000/month, many more people would be able to choose safer living situations. Consider that the most vulnerable may never have enough function to earn any form of income.






BC Finance Committee - Submission on Forestry Reform

Recently, local North Okanagan climate advocates became aware that the BC Government was allowing proposals for the 2022-23 budget. We followed instructions on what to include in our submission to the provincial government’s Finance Committee, which is how this document was created.

The climate crisis is tangible in the Okanagan; we lived it through months of hazardous smoke alerts, being on evacuation alert, evacuation order, and some of us lost our homes this summer. The tourism industry tanked, and many of the berries that wildlife feed upon were not available. Agriculture suffered as the heat dome dried out crops or land that went up in flames.

What prompted us to take action by creating our submission to the Finance Committee, is that we know that our forests are no longer carbon sinks, they are emitters of carbon dioxide — so much so that our forests now outpace Canada’s oil sands emissions. Forestry management needs changing immediately, if we have any shot at slowing down the acceleration of climate change and reducing forest fires. People who are from the Okanagan and who gave rise to the next generation here are now, for the first time in their lives, considering relocating, because the landscape is too toxic for their bodies to withstand. The Okanagan, and British Columbia are starting to become inhabitable.

The provincial government has had a long history of approving industrial contracts engaging in resource extraction before the correct process is followed; in obtaining permits, and in meaningful engagement with Indigenous Peoples. The professional reliance model instated by the BC Liberal government in 2001 made it difficult for policing of corporate forestry practice more susceptible to financial influence, as the oversight and extraction bodies synonymous. Fairy Creek, now observed to be the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, as well as the Wet’suwet’en blockade of the Coastal Gaslink natural gas pipeline, are evidence that our politicians have been shaking hands and signing documents first, and then asking for permission, second. Meaningful engagement does not mean asking for permission; meaningful engagement means inviting Indigenous forestry organizations to the discussion table at the same time the industrial contracts are being negotiated. If true reconciliation is to occur, then the Indigenous people who live on the land, are the ones to dictate the timeline for meaningful engagement with the colonial government, not the other way around. This is not only the opinion of the author, 20 First Nations wrote to the office of the Premier, John Horgan, on September 8th calling the forest consultation process “disrespectful, compressed, and expedited”.

The forestry industry in BC has changed over the years between 2000 and 2015, with many jobs being lost to technology and automation. Transitioning to smaller scale forestry would add more jobs into the industry, as well as champion forest health and environmental stewardship.

Our submission to the Finance Committee urges the BC provincial government to reform forestry immediately, by ending all old-growth logging, and by phasing out all clear cut logging. We need the citizens of British Columbia to stand with our trees, because we only have one planet.

All Blood Is Equal Campaign - Response to the Editor
2020-Jun-26 - I wrote a rebuttal to a newspaper article. My rebuttal was not published.

In response to "Editorial: Good reason to have wait time in blood donation" - published in the Times Colonist as an Editorial on 2020-Jun-26. I wrote this response to the editor:

The Times Colonist recently published an editorial critiquing MLA Randall Garrison for saying that the current blood collection guidelines are discriminatory towards gay and bisexual men. The author of the article said Garrison's response was biased towards the health of those in our LGBT+ community, and that his response was not science-based, and that the waiting time of three months was meant to protect the blood supply from HIV.

What the author failed to acknowledge is that in order for this policy to be science-based as they claimed it was, then why aren’t all people who engage in sex with men being subject to the same policy? The policy is discriminatory because it’s making a value judgment and assumption in how gay men live. 

Further, the current wording direct from the Canadian Blood Services website states specifically “men are eligible to give blood if it has been more than three months since their last sexual contact with a man.”  This does not say with a new man, this says with any man.This means that all gay men are automatically told that they have to put their intimacy on hold for 3 months every time they want to give blood. Not only in this biased against gay men, but it would be humiliating for anyone to defend the same lifestyle lived by many straight people every day and not queried as to how many different partners they had recently. A straight woman is not considered a risk, despite potentially making high risk choices. The policy infers that by virtue of a man being gay, that he must be throwing caution to the wind in taking care of his sexual health. 

The reason why discussion of this topic makes people uncomfortable is because no one likes admitting that gay men are still being forced to subscribe to different standards of conduct than the rest of society. By this policy’s existence, it is making many moral assumptions on how people live their lives.

To learn more about valuable organizations working to end this discriminatory practice, check out the All Blood is Equal campaign.