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  • Volume Eight, Number Seven: October 2003

    Liberal Social Policy Creating More Despair, says Study

    CPP News Service

    It comes as no surprise to anyone who is suffers from a disability and can’t work, but a new study shows that if you’re poor and live in BC, you’re worse off than anywhere else in Canada.

    The report, released earlier this month by the University of Victoria, shows that thanks to the policies of the BC Liberal regime, people who are already in economic dire straits are faring much worse.

    Cuts to welfare rates, removing the status from hundreds of people with disabilities, cuts in assistance programs for special needs children and family support, elimination of welfare-sponsored job training and placement and a host of other austere measures have worsened already strict conditions for hundreds of thousands of BC residents.

    Furthermore, as of April 1, 2004, BC will become the first province in Canada to cut off people who have been on social assistance for at least two years, leaving them with no income at all.

    "As of April 1st, 2004, the current situation of increased hunger, homelessness and desperation will increase dramatically," says the report’s author Lynne Marks, a historian at UVic, who compiled the report based on numerous surveys, interviews with community service workers and witness accounts of the worsening conditions caused by the government’s policies. “(These) cuts have people rooting through garbage for food, or turning to crime or substance abuse.”

    She is angry that the Liberal government, which repeatedly assured voters in the last provincial election that such cuts would not happen, has firmly adopted a policy of “leading the way in being heartless,” in order enrich its elite corporate backers with tax breaks and handouts.

    And she isn’t alone. The government’s policies have attracted both the attention and condemnation of several United Nations agencies, including the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization, as well as denunciation from almost every political quarter of the province, except for the BC Business Council.

    But despite these surveys and reports, BC Liberal Human Resources Minister Murray Coell insists people are actually better off as a result of these measures. He says the new policy that limits access to social assistance to two years out of every five, and cuts people off completely at the two-year time limit, is forcing people to find work, which he calls “the best form of social assistance.”

    He adds his government is adopting these measures to promote what he calls a “culture of self-sufficiency.”

    Despite skyrocketing unemployment and increasing business closures, which many economists and public interest activists also attribute to the government’s policies, Coell is certain that most people who are being removed from assistance are able to fend for themselves and no longer need help. 

    "The fact they are not coming back on social assistance tells us they are still self-sufficient," Coell told reporters in a previous interview.

    But the study found that the government’s tracking systems, which monitor the situations of people who have voluntarily left social assistance programs or have been removed, don’t present an accurate picture of what is happening, since huge number of people cannot be reached.

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