Not So Brave/Not So New World
Murray Coell has been quite vocal of late defending his government’s
decision to slash thousands of citizens living in poverty from the
welfare rolls. He cites that there are jobs aplenty for the taking if
only these people would just get off of their lazy behinds and show
some initiative. As usual with the BC Liberal regime, his claims don’t
match up with the facts.
First off we must remember that the honourable Murray Coell is a former
social worker, one that has been censured by his own professional
governing body, and because of this censure one who is likely never to
be able to practice again in this province. Minister Coell has forsaken
compassion and caring for the cold and heartless policies of his
neo-conservative corporate backers, and his policy decisions have been
based on ideology rather than sound social science research.
Secondly, the Liberals’ plan is apparently based on the United States
government’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program,
introduced in 1996 as a measure to end entitlements to cash benefits
for eligible low-income families. The major differences between the
liberal plan and that of the US are that BC is undergoing an economic
crisis (unlike the US economic boom when TANF was introduced). Our
unemployment levels are at the highest levels in decades, and
additionally the US model had incentives built in that were designed to
assist recipients to gain independence. Not so with the “made in BC
model” in which the provincial Liberals have stripped away all of the
incentives and introduced repressive new punishments.
Thirdly, the Liberals’ sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy created a
rapidly expanding fiscal black hole that is rapidly gaining mythic
proportions, as never before has BC been so massively in debt. The
answer to the liberal government has been to reduce any form of social
benefit, whether it is health care, public utilities, crown
corporations, or welfare benefits. Any money spent on anything other
than benefiting corporations and the tiny wealthy minority is seen as a
“subsidy.” The BC liberals have even gone as far as to redefine the
language of the government beaurocrats so that “social safety net” and
“equity hiring practices” have been removed from the government
Into this combination of factors now fall the most vulnerable citizens
of the province of BC, those who have the misfortune to be unemployed,
on welfare, and unable to find work. Minister Coell has made comments
in the media recently that any criticism of his program of cuts is
“fear mongering.” But the fears are genuine.
Any person who hits the 24 months in five years mark will be dropped
from the welfare rolls in April. This means that any eligibility for
assistance will cease, their medical coverage will end, emergency
dental service will be delivered by hospitals, and access to Ministry
of Human Resources training or employment programs will end. They will
be unable to pay rent or utilities, or purchase food. They will be
reduced to selling off what few possessions they may own and when those
dollars are gone, move into a shelter…if they can find one, that is.
Recipients with partners who are not at the same level of time limit
will have to make tough choices when they are forced to support a
second person on a dramatically reduced income. Those with children
will have an even tougher time as they lose incrementally increased
amounts of money from their support (although the ministry fails to see
that this will adversely affect the health of the children).
It has been said in various letters to the major media outlets that;
“this will get these people out looking for a job” and “its about time
the bums stop getting a free ride.”
These comments come from those who do not fully grasp the ramifications
of Coell’s program, nor whom his sanctions are to be applied to.
Employable people with skills and ability seldom remain on welfare for
as long as two years. The cuts instead will be used to move the most
needy from much needed support and relative safety onto the downtown
streets of the urban centres. Many of them will fall through the cracks
due to undiagnosed mental health, emotional or addiction issues that
are not recognized by ministry workers.
The majority of Canadians have long held themselves morally superior to
their American cousins due to the jointly shared compassion held for
the less fortunate. In the past we have looked with astonishment at the
growing numbers of the homeless in US cities and reveled in the good
fortune of having in place a functioning social safety net, albeit one
with flaws, but one that was there when it was needed. This is equally
true in the European Union. European governments are convinced that the
way to move individuals off of welfare and into sustainable employment
is with the use of “carrots” rather than “sticks.”
Collectively as citizens of BC we have tough choices to make about out
the future of our province. Canadians tend to possess a finely tuned
sense of what is morally and ethically right, and this has been
witnessed of late with the demise of a hard line right wing provincial
government in Ontario, and a leftward shift in the political landscape
at the provincial level.
We must work to ensure that this trend continues in BC and that the
provincial Liberals are ousted in 2004. After your brother, sister,
parent, child or even your self may be next in line for Murray Coell’s
tough love and a “dumpster condo.”
Thanks to our readers: best
wishes for the Holidays and the New Year
At this time of the year I would like to extend my thanks to our
readers, supporters, workers and writers. Unfortunately these are
the darkest times not just of the year, but of the past two decades.
Many people in our province will have experienced the pain and anguish
created by the arrogant right-wing Campbell Liberal
government. And it’s going to get a lot worse for a lot of
people. Many more will learn the bitter truth about the
government in the coming months.
It will fall to the survivors to force the government to change
their methods and act in a fair and just manner to all BC citizens, not
just the wealthy few.
So in these dark times I thank our readers and supporters and urge us
all to redouble our efforts in the New Year to right the injustices of
the provincial government. As in all things, light will come back into
our lives and that we will prevail. Justice will return with our
In Solidarity and Best Wishes for the Holidays and the New Year.