Disability rates for British Columbians go up by $77 per month, starting September 1.

But not everyone will enjoy the full increase, which will see the typical monthly payment of $906 increase to $983 per month.

While announcing the rate increase, the provincial government scrapped their $45 annual bus pass administration fee. In the new system, users with disabilities can choose to purchase a monthly bus pass but they will have to pay $52 per month.

As a net effect, then, people who choose to use transit will have their $52 per month pass deducted from the $77 increase, leaving transit users with only a $25 per month rate increase.

Jane Dyson, executive director of the Disability Alliance of B.C., says while she's pleased with the increase, it is not sufficient and worse — it's misleading.

Jane Dyson

Executive Director of the Disability Alliance of B.C. Jane Dyson argues that an increase should reflect the cost of living in B.C. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

"People felt that they were being told one thing [getting a $77 increase], but actually they were getting a $25 increase."

Minister: system is more equitable now

Minister of Social Development Michelle Stilwell said the changes were made to make it more fair and equitable to people who don't use transit.

"Prior to the change, 45,000 people who were receiving disability assistance were not receiving the bus pass or any transportation supports at all ... It ensures that everyone has options on how they will get around their community."

She says that now people in rural communities with no public transit options and others who can't take public transportation because of their disabilities can choose to spend this increase to get around by other means, like car, taxi, etc.

"It is their decision on how they will choose to get around in their community."

Another increase needed

Dyson concedes the $77 increase is welcome news to rural users who had no use for the automatic monthly bus pass, and those who wanted more flexibility in buying a bus pass.

"The province has done some very positive changes in the last couple of years which has resulted in the benefit being more flexible."

But Dyson said another more substantial increase in disability rates is needed.

"We would like to see the rates being index-linked so we're not always in the position of rates falling way behind the cost of living." 

With files from The Early Edition


To hear the interview, click on the link labelled B.C. disability rates go up, but so do transit passes and Minister Michelle Stilwell on new disability assistance rates