Our view: What ‘more choices’ really means

It was announced in a press release optimistically headlined, “More support, more choices for people with disabilities.”

That has to be good news, right? How can anyone argue with more support and more choices? Unless, of course, the “choices” aren’t really choices at all.

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Here’s the deal: The B.C. government announced, with understandable fanfare, that the province will be investing $170 million over the next three years so about 100,000 people on disability assistance in B.C. will get a rate increase of up to $77 a month starting this September.

Which is all well and good – unless you’re one of the people currently receiving a subsidized B.C. bus pass worth some $52 a month. Now you’ll pay out of pocket for that bus pass, meaning that your so-called $77 increase just got cut to $25.

But, hey, people with disabilities will now have more choices.

You know, choices like: Should I pay for my own bus pass, or should I eat? Should I pay for my own bus pass, or should I make sure the landlord gets the rent money this month?

Should I ignore the bills I need to pay to survive, or should I forgo the bus pass and forget being able to get out of my house, do my own shopping, run my own errands, connect with my friends – you know, that “having a life” kind of stuff.

Great choices, aren’t they?

Yes, we will acknowledge that there is a tiny kernel of logic at the core of the government’s decisiom. Taking away the buss pass subsidy and simply increasing rates across the board makes the system more fair for those who live in communities where there aren’t public transit options – since those people don’t benefit from the current system of subsidized passes.

But here’s a crazy idea: Why not do both?

Instead of forcing urban residents to accept less, how about just giving more across the board? Why not keep the bus pass subsidy intact and raise the rates too?

After all, people with disabilities who live in urban areas – especially Metro Vancouver – face extra challenges with the skyrocketing cost of living in those areas. Giving them an “extra” $52 in the form of a bus pass is just a practical acknowledgment of that fact.

Plus, it would prove that this government actually has a heart.

Just a thought.

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