LETTER: Review needed of support programs

I believe the BC legislature needs to ask the auditor general to undertake a review of all income support and benefit programs.

As an alternative to the recent piecemeal critique offered by our current MLA concerning the bus pass program, I believe that the BC legislature needs to ask the auditor general to undertake a comprehensive review of all income support and benefit programs. What’s it costing to administer the plethora of programs through a variety of ministries, and to send out cheques in dribs and drabs versus creating a single income support program under one ministry under one department?

In contrast the federal government has a single income support program, the guaranteed income supplement, that is added onto a monthly Old Age Security cheque, after a review of a senior’s, and his or her spouse’s, total income from all sources. Known as Mincome, the Manitoba and federal governments ran a joint livable income program from 1974 to 1979 in Dauphin, Man. with a 2009 study of the program finding that more teenagers graduated from high school, hospital visits dropped by 8.5 per cent, and workplace accidents were reduced, as was domestic abuse, psychiatric hospitalization and mental illness consultations.

Currently, a senior on GIS is eligible to apply for a BC bus pass, but someone on a federal Canada Pension Plan disability pension is not, which underscores the incomprehensible maze of rules and paperwork that has to be kept track of and stored, as compared to the simplicity of GIS that relies on the annual filing of an income tax return to determine if and at what rate of payment a person is eligible to receive.

I grew up in a very conservative household under a prime minister, Winston Churchill, who stated that we needed to build a social safety net below which no would fall. Today, however, there are so many holes in that net that we are spending millions and millions of dollars each year on crisis interventions. We need to set hard targets for poverty reduction, especially child poverty which is as high as 1:4 in Kootenay communities.

Critiquing social programs one by one simply will not get us to where we need to go as a province, and when I was a member of the Union of BC Municipalities Healthy Communities committee, we kept insisting that the Ministry of Children and Family Development establish a comprehensive strategy that included implementing pilot projects around the province.

Andy Shadrack, Kaslo

 

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