British Columbia is The Best Place On Earth — unless you happen to require any kind of support from the government.
That is what we heard Tuesday from B.C.’s finance minister. According to Mike de Jong, the supports outlined in this year’s budget “won’t eliminate the challenges those living with disabilities face, and it won’t suddenly make things easier, but we hope it will make life a little less hard.”
Well, at least he is honest.
The truth is, more children will die this year due to inadequate levels of care and support. This budget does nothing to help prevent that. We have all seen the reports from B.C.’s representative for children and youth, media stories, grieving families and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This budget ignores them all.
The truth is, this budget won’t make life any better, easier, or less hard for the vulnerable people in our communities. There is no real increase to the funding that helps women find a safe refuge when fleeing an abusive relationship, no real increase to improve services for children in care, no increase to supports for mental health.
The truth is that the “increase” to disability assistance rates is, at best, a cost-of-living increase on an amount that already sees many people with disabilities living in poverty.
The truth is that our government has chosen to keep the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s funding (in today’s dollars) below the level it was back in 2008. The truth is that a persistent and prolonged lack of funding has led to inadequate services that are making life harder and harder for a growing number of British Columbians.
Our social-care system is drastically underfunded. We see the results of this indifference every day and yet this budget proudly aims for the status quo — responding merely to caseload growth rather than striving to create the best for our families, friends and neighbours.
This budget is a disappointment. It is an insult to the people of British Columbia. It says loudly and clearly that we are willing to build the future economic stability of our province on the backs of vulnerable children and people with disabilities. This is not an economic outlook that any of us should be proud of.
Rick FitzZaland is the executive director of the Federation of Community Social Services of B.C.