The BC Liberals and a Disability Jobs Plan that does not deliver

By Daniel Tseghay

BC NDP MLA Melanie Mark addresses protestors in Vancouver on September 1, when the changes to disability rates went into effect. Photo: Carlito Pablo, The Georgia Straight

On October 3rd, the BC Liberals announced a Job Creation Plan that they claim would benefit people with disabilities. The project, in alliance with the Rick Hansen Foundation, WorkBC Employment Services Centres, and the Victoria Disability Resource Centre, would temporarily employ 14 people as “access assistants.”

“Participants will complete about 90 on-site accessibility surveys of medium- and large-sized buildings and community locations in Victoria and the Lower Mainland,” reads the press release. “Through this work, participants will have an opportunity to apply inclusive design principles and gain skills in the professional field of accessibility through training, field experience and user testing.”

Paul Gilbert, an organizer with the BC Disability Caucus, however finds this project uninspiring. The fact that it applies to only 14 people in a province of 4.6 million people is one problem.  But, more than that, it provides training in an industry people with disabilities may not want to work in long-term.

“Given that we have a building code that requires accessibility, and they did intense auditing on businesses in the 80s, they’ve just taken an old program and re-used it,” Gilbert said in an interview with Rankandfile.ca. “And these people will develop skills that aren’t useful anywhere and somehow that will help them become attached to the labour market.”

Gilbert worked as a vocation rehab consultant for nearly two decades and has seen such projects before, calling them “just cosmetics.”

“They’re not approaching the fact that people are marginalized by employers because of prejudice,” he says. “If someone can tell you have a disability from your application, only 2 per cent will call you for an interview.”

Providing workshops and counseling in the narrow field of accessibility auditing won’t address that deeper problem, according to Gilbert.

This indifference to the struggles of people with disabilities within the labour market is in the context of a labour force participation rate which hasn’t increased in decades across Canada. The rate for a single person with disabilities is $375 for rent a month in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, and $608 for other expenses.

This amount still leaves 100,000 people in the province living at half the poverty line. Exemplifying the kind of math the BC government engages in to appear like they’re making strides is what happened last month. As of September 1st, the disability rate went up by $77 a month while they simultaneously clawed back the yearly transit pass which cost people with disabilities only $45 a year. Now they will pay $52 a month, or $624 a year.

People with disabilities will now find it even harder to travel to work, engage with their community, and complete errands. “The disabled have been on the fringe of society for a long time,” says Gilbert. “And the government doesn’t seem to care.”

This Job Creation Plan is just one more instance of this government’s indifference.

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4 thoughts on “The BC Liberals and a Disability Jobs Plan that does not deliver

  1. Think you got the former cost of the bus pass wrong. It wasn’t $45 a month. Good article that us disabled people know all too well. The Liberals are delusional but very good at throwing out bread crumbs while they gorge on the publics money like it was their own personal bank account.

  2. Thank you for the interview and for writing this article Daniel. You’ve truly helped to raise a number of issues that are almost never raised outside of academic journals.

    1. Thanks for producing this informative piece! When I went to Christy Clark’s rally yesterday afternoon in Kelowna – which was smaller than the Green Party’s on Saturday – and appeared to have more nonagenerians than people under 40, I heard the Premier’s first comment being “The people of Kelowna have nothing to complain about”.

      I have one thing that has been on my list since March 18, 2017. I sent the Premier and the Ministry of Finance a request to confirm or deny whether they were in possession of a piece of evidence that would give the lie to a report sent from the Ministry of Finance on March 17, 2017, suggesting that my dad should be happy with the fine risk based insurance products that he had been placed in by a noted investment company – when he had contracted for GICs. So far, neither office have replied. What this indicates is that the government of BC is satisfied with extremely sloppy standards in the investigation of investment fraud grievances.

      When the Premier claims that she is all about jobs – she neglects that if she stands aside and allows deception to have free reign in the investment sales business, she is enabling the erosion of confidence in the future of investment-worthiness of this province. It also shows that the province is willing to allow grant-sponge outfits like the Seniors First BC scam [nee BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support BCCEAS] to continue to engage in a pantomime of accepting funding from 1] BC Law Foundation, 2] Department of Health and 3] Community Gaming….but that won’t lift a finger to ensure the coverage of the most elderly British Columbians by real rule of law.

      We need to get a real common front on authentic policy that will enable all people to have their quality of life protected. We need a genuine alliance with Idle No More and all those seeking to have every person protected by all laws – without the insult of expecting people to finance enormous legal battles – when they can demonstrate criminal code abuses. The goal of restoration of the duties of justice ministries to uphold public trust is a goal of this legal resource network https://www.loomio.org/g/Mj68lTfQ

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