As I’ve settled back into the routine of my community office, I’ve been struck by what feels like an increasing need for additional supports for seniors, people with disabilities, and vulnerable families and children.
The level of need definitely seems greater now than when I was first elected in 2005. I recently hosted two seniors’ care forums in Quesnel and Williams Lake where the BC Ombudsperson spoke to her reports and recommendations about seniors’ issues.
The seniors at these meetings confirmed that they feel they have less government support now than in the past. Meanwhile, as the cost of living goes up, seniors’ fixed incomes don’t stretch as far as they used to, undermining their ability to be more self-sufficient.
I also met with a multiple sclerosis self-help group this past week, and people informed me about their struggles to get the help they need to stay in their own homes and to afford the diets and supplements that will help manage their disease. Simple changes, like having to buy steri-swabs because some drug companies stopped including them with their injectable drug treatments, have caused major financial headaches for some people.
In a resource-rich province like ours, why aren’t we able to provide more support for our most vulnerable citizens? More to the point, we are a resource-rich province in a resource-constrained world, so why have we been in a budget deficit for 16 of the past 21 years? Something’s desperately wrong with how we price our natural resources and who’s benefiting from them.
This week the premier surprised British Columbians with some long overdue changes to the income assistance system. The changes restore some of the cuts and clawbacks that Gordon Campbell initiated during his first term in office. The real welfare system that needs changing, however, is the corporate one.
The tax cuts and subsidies created and supported by successive governments prevent us from raising income assistance and disability rates and increasing supports to the most vulnerable people in our society.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.