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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Liberal compassion in British Columbia

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is concerned about the plight of the province's poor, and is promising to up the shelter allowance for people on social assistance.
I have to wonder where his compassion was when he brought in such draconian measures as subjecting the province's disabled to an intense requalification process in 2002, or placed limits on how long people in need could actually receive assistance, and made it nearly impossible for the poorest of the poor to get any assistance at all.
Where was his compassion, and the media's attention, when he removed crisis grants for persons on long term disability, or, most recently, introduced a system wherein people on disability no longer have individual case workers. If Campbell is so concerned about the province's disabled, why has he removed the last vestige of human contact disabled people have with their economic caregivers?
Just before the last election we heard over and over again how the Campbell government raised the monthly disability stipend by $70. In fact, the announcement was made, and reported on, no less than three times, which led some residents of the province to believe he'd raised the rate three times. We did not hear, from the government or the media, how this raise was actually one legislated by the previous government, but rolled back when Campbell first was elected!
We're also not hearing, from Campbell or the media, how they compensated for the $70 increase by cutting things like crisis grants and case workers.
Here's a reality check on the the Campbell government's concern for the province's most vulnerable citizens: If a person on wefare or disability is robbed or somehow loses their monthly monies, they're out of luck. If a person on welfare or disability has a family member die, and they want to attend the funeral, they get no assistance from the ministry. If a person on disability is invited on a family vacation, or to attend an ailing family member in another province, and leaves the province for more than 28 days, despite maintaining their residence, they lose their benefits (which of itself is probably a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). If a person on disability cannot afford to pay their rent and eat, they get no help from the ministry. If a person on welfare has a problem and needs to speak with a worker, they are no longer able to contact one directly (they must now go through the front-end clerks, most of whom are not adequately trained to deal with issues such as mental illness, and operate, with good reason, in something of a seige mentality towards ministry clients).
Mr. Campbell's apparent, and rather uncharacteristic, compassion has its roots, not in human kindness, but in political expediency. Obviously his spin doctors have finally been able to make the link between the poverty problem and Campbell's popularity.
With the current surpluses, the Campbell government could easily raise welfare rates, drop some of the more draconian rules, hire more workers, and invest a lot of money into affordable housing without so much as a press release about it until the deed is done. Instead he chooses to make big promises and a show about what a socially responsible government he leads, sort of like the Pharisee who demonstrates his godliness by praying in public, while carrying on the same dirty deeds when no one is looking, and the media just laps it up.
There is another word for Campbell's recent show of concern. Let me look it up in my Oxford: hypocricy - false claim to virtue, insincerity.


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