Monday, December 07, 2009

From HandyDART strike to outrageous Community Living BC legislative changes, provincial BC Liberal government abusing people with disabilities

- Ollie-G photo

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday December 8, 2009

"Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life."

- Actress Emma Thompson

This is a column that I should not have to write, but I do because people with disabilities in this province are being doubly abused by the B.C. provincial government.

First, HandyDART drivers who provide critical transportation for people with disabilities have been on strike since Oct. 26 because their new employer, American firm MVT Canadian Bus, demanded they give up their existing pension plan and make other major concessions.

That means the frustrated people who depend on HandyDART have been confined to home or to use expensive taxis on their very limited budgets, and while negotiations are scheduled for Thursday, no end is in sight.

Second, the B.C. Liberal government quietly passed legislation allowing it to fire all family members and disability advocates from the board of directors of Community Living B.C., the provincial body responsible for administrating programs for people with developmental disabilities.

In both cases, the province has completely abdicated its responsibilities to the disabled community, by inaction in one and regressive action in the other.

HandyDART: Why ruin a good thing?

TransLink is the government-owned and controlled body responsible for HandyDART, and it created the current mess by contracting out the service to the for-profit MVT without protecting the interests of drivers, who are long term employees with deep connections to their clients.

Now MVT is trying to take away the Municipal Pension Plan that almost all drivers either already had or were scheduled to join in April 2010 and replace it with a risky RRSP scheme.
No one in their right mind would give up a good pension plan for an RRSP, nor should they be forced to.

The obvious solution is simple. Stop contracting out critical transportation services for people with disabilities and make it part of the regular TransLink structure that already includes buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, roads and bridges.

And the province and TransLink should do that immediately and get service back to normal for people who do not deserve to lose HandyDART so a multinational corporation can increase its profit share on the backs of drivers.


The other issue is equally troubling.

The government suddenly amended sections of the Community Living Authority Act -- without consultation with or notice to individuals with development disabilities and their families -- so they are no longer guaranteed any seats on the board that administers their services.

The B.C. Association for Community Living, the non-profit group who represents them, is literally outraged.

"To say that it's not important to have people with disabilities or family members making decisions that affect their lives is to attack the core principles of community living," said BCACL president Rory Summers last month. "Government is removing power from the very people it is there to support."

has started an online petition to demand the legislative changes be reversed, and is asking the public to write Premier Gordon Campbell and Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman.

Picking on the disabled -- a new low for the B.C. Liberals.

Anti-HST update

Over 2,100 people have joined my Facebook protest group "Defeat the HST in Parliament" since it was created last week -- sign up to tell MPs you oppose passing the HST, which will likely come up for a final vote this week.



Anonymous said...

The HST debate is not up for vote provincially this week. The BC legislature next meets again in February. Parliament is where the Federal govt meets. HST is a BC Provincial matter. Sorry Bill but this Bill (HST) is here to stay.

Anonymous said...

And trickle-down continues apace.

Coquitlam city council has announced that a long-standing 'community living' program for people with disabilities is being shut down.

This valuable once-a-week program at the Poirier Rec Centre offered structured activities and community outings for homebound persons who otherwise would be unable to participate in such events.

Of course, many of the attendees rely on HandyDART to get there. Now, after six weeks of missing out on the activities, they will lose this valuable program altogether.

Carolyn said...

Thank you Bill for bringing this to the attention of the public.

Anonymous said...

Good article. As a person who uses Handidart, most of my energy has gone into figuring out how to get to medical appointments without being able to book Handidart which leaves no timeto publicize how untenable this strike is to people who need the service. Thank you Bill for speaking up for so many of us.

Danolouise said...

Nothing about us, without us!

Sign the petition telling the Premier to reverse his decision to remove the requirement that people with disabilities and family members sit on the CLBC Board:

DPL said...

Is there any agency involving average people that Gordo and team havn't pissed off yet? Does he care? Not in the least. Wait till he finds out the feds cut back on circus advertising by 10 millions so they could buy swine flu stuff, and now much of it won't be used. We sure get the governments some folks voted for. But it sure makes it tough for clients to juggle appontments for necessary medical appointments.And they are cut off social contacts which are also very important. A pox on Gordos team

Anonymous said...

Hit the little guy while he's down. This government does it all the time. Big business runs the B.C. Liberals.

Anonymous said...

Your fluff article conveniently overlooks the fact that greedy union scum is holding the disabled as a hostage in a shameless attempt to extort and fleece the poor taxpayer for their own selfless greed. They have no shame.

kootcoot said...

Anon A**hole at 7:17:

There certainly are "greedy scum" involved in many things around the province of British Columbia. But you fail to notice that the "greedy scum" are the government of Lord Gord and the "greedy scum" that own that government and insist it dance to their tune!

Bill Tieleman said...

TransLink has responded to my column above with a letter to the editor of 24 hours, as follows. My reply is after that.

(24 hours, Dec. 8) contains inaccuracies, which should be corrected. First, he repeats the misinformation TransLink is a
“government-owned body”. TransLink is an Authority governed by a
board of directors, chosen by the Mayors’ Council.

Second, HandyDART service has been a contracted service since it began nearly 30 years ago and the workers have never been employees of TransLink or BC Transit before it.

- Drew Snider, TransLink, Public Information Officer

Bill Tieleman replies:

Drew is a fine fellow doing his job but the reality is that the provincial government controls TransLink completely. For instance, read this excerpt from an April 26, 2007 government news release:


VANCOUVER – The Province is moving forward with legislation to reorganize the current TransLink governance and funding structure, based on recommendations by the TransLink Review Panel, announced Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon today.

And again November 6, 2009:


VICTORIA – A review of the business operations of TransLink and BC Ferry Services was released today by Transportation Minister Shirley Bond.

“We’ll take some time to thoroughly review the report, and will also discuss the report’s findings with the BC Ferries board as well as TransLink’s Mayors’ Council before making decisions on the recommendations,” Bond said.

What's clear is that the province calls the tune, changes unilaterally legislation governing TransLink operations and investigates TransLink whenever it wishes.

I stand by my column - TransLink is a creature of the province, and as such the BC Liberal government could and should intervene to make the changes needed to provide transit services to people with disabilities.

Lastly, I did not say HandyDART drivers were ever employees of TransLink or BC Transit previously - I said they should be.