News

BC Bus Pass changes draw criticism

By Eric MacKenzie

The subsidized BC Bus Pass price is going from $45 per year to $52 per month, and critics say that effectively negates the $77 monthly increase to disability benefits included in Tuesday's provincial budget.
FILE PHOTO

The subsidized BC Bus Pass price is going from $45 per year to $52 per month, and critics say that effectively negates the $77 monthly increase to disability benefits included in Tuesday's provincial budget. FILE PHOTO

The BC Bus Pass program has been altered, not cancelled, as some users of the $45-per-year transit pass had originally feared when the provincial budget was delivered on Tuesday.

But at least one advocate for disabled people – who make up a large portion of the program’s users -- says the new approach is “exceptionally complicated” and underscores how the coming increase in Persons with Disability benefits are marginal.

As of Sept. 1, individuals with PWD designations will begin receiving up to $77 more per month in assistance. The BC Bus Pass will continue to have a $45 annual fee, but there will be a $52 monthly fee added to it as well.

A release from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation stated that “around half” of B.C. residents with a PWD designation had access to the subsidized pass, or to a $66-per-month special transportation subsidy.

“The rest, particularly those living in smaller communities, receive no transportation support at all,” said the release.

“There is an inequity in the current system, and this change will bring fairness to the ministry’s transportation supports.”

Faith Bodnar, executive director for Inclusion BC, said that the increase in assistance is minimal for BC Bus Pass users when the new transit cost is factored in – a difference of $25 monthly.

“Government maintains that people are still further ahead at $25 a month (more, and by) the numbers, yes they are,” said Bodnar. “But I think it was a real problem to mix the transportation allowance and subsidies with the increase in PWD benefits given the low rates we have in BC, and they’re deplorably low.

“I think it would have been better to give everybody the $77 irrespective of the kind of transportation subsidy or allowance they had, and looked at a better and more fair system to compensate people for the real costs of the added transportation that they have as a result of having a disability.”

The increase to PWD assistance – bringing the amount to $983 per month -- was the first in B.C. nearly a decade and critics like Bodnar suggest it’s not enough to account for cost-of-living increases.