February 19, 2016 1:09 pm
Updated: February 19, 2016 10:54 pm

Online petition seeks to bring back $45 yearly bus pass for people with disabilities

WATCH: Disabled British Columbians are angry the provincial government is making changes that will mean less money in their wallets. Jill Bennett reports.

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A non-profit organization is calling on the B.C. government to bring back the $45 yearly bus pass for people with disabilities.

On Tuesday, finance minster Mike de Jong announced people with disabilities will receive a $77 per month increase to their benefits as part of the new budget, but Inclusion BC executive director Faith Bodnar says there is a catch.

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The $77 per month increase was tied to the cost of a person’s transportation. It will replace the existing transportation subsidies and the bus passes will now be optional. So effective Sept.1, 2016, people receiving disability benefits will no longer be able to purchase an annual bus pass for a $45 annual fee. Instead, the cost of the bus pass will go up to $52 per month, including an annual $45 administration fee.

READ MORE: Four facts from the provincial budget you might not know about

Bodnar says that means people on disability who need a bus pass will be left with just $25 a month in their pockets.

“We think it’s not a well-conceived plan,” she says. “It was stated many times in the budget speech that we are one of the most prosperous provinces in the country, so we think it’s time to take a serious look at the disability rates and bringing people out of poverty.”

Bodnar says the B.C. disability benefit has increased by only $120 since 2001 and the rates of $906/month are among the lowest in the country in a province with a very high cost of living.

She says their concern is that people living on disability income will have to choose between eating or getting around, and they will ultimately choose to have food on their table.

“Transportation is a fundamental right and need,” says Bodnar. “People with disabilities tell us transportation is their number one priority and we need to seek to improve their quality of life rather than make them decide whether they eat or travel.”

In his speech on Tuesday, de Jong suggested the changes are meant to bring more freedom to people with disabilities to make their own choice about how to meet their own unique transportation needs.

It was a move that didn’t sit well with NDP leader John Horgan. “It’s a shell game. If you were getting the transportation supplement, you’re getting that clawed back,” he said.

Nearly 2,000 people have signed the online petition so far.

Inclusion BC is a provincial non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the participation of people with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life.

With files from Justin McElroy

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