British Columbia

Province's 'incredibly disappointing' disability rate increase panned by disability advocate

Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell said she was pleased with the increase and said support for persons with disabilities goes beyond disability rates.

'We continue to make those improvements and lead the country,' minister says

The B.C. government's increase of an extra $50 a month for persons with disabilities — announced on the Friday before the provincial budget is announced — is being criticized by advocates as being too little. (Shutterstock)

A disability advocate says the province's announcement of increased disability rates is welcome but doesn't represent a major step forward

The province announced on Friday that 107,000 people designated as persons with disabilities will receive an extra $50 per month starting in April.

The province says once the increase takes effect, a single person receiving the benefit will receive $1,033 per month, up from $983. The province says the increase amounts to $199 million over three years.

Inclusion B.C. executive director Faith Bodnar questions how much an extra $1.61 per day, approximately, will improve the lives of people with disabilities.

"The increase in and of itself is incredibly disappointing," she said. "I'm hopeful and waiting to what will be in the budget because I can't believe this would be the only thing that's happening this year to address what are incredibly low PWD rates in B.C."

Bodnar says between those low rates and B.C.'s high cost of living, poverty is a reality for many people with disabilities. She was hoping the government would announce an increase closer to $100 per month, and index future increases to inflation to provide stability.

She wants the government to develop a plan to get the rates up to somewhere between $1,600 and $1,800 per month by 2024.

Minister says support goes beyond rates

Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell said she was pleased with the increase and said the idea of rate increases tied to inflation was being studied.

She says the province's support for people with disabilities is also reflected in housing and health care subsidies, no Medical Services Plan payments and free prescription medicine.

"I'm very proud of where the province is going and we continue to make those improvements and lead the country," Stilwell said, noting B.C. has the fourth-highest person with disability rates in Canada.

NDP critic Michelle Mungall says the increase is simply the government "giving back what they took away" when they made changes to a bus pass program that previously cost persons with disabilities only $45 annually.

"[Christy Clark] increased bus pass fees by $52, and now she's giving back $50," she said. "That's not good enough."

Mungall also criticized the government for not having a poverty reduction plan and only increasing the rates in the face of an election.

With files from Richard Zussman