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Will Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates continue income assistance post-COVID-19?

We sent your election questions to MLA candidates. Here's what we heard.
October 17, 2020

Will Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates continue the same level of disability and income support after the pandemic? That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or parties.

Leading up to the election, we are publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is: Disability/income assistance is higher currently due to the pandemic. Will you continue this level of support after the pandemic?

As of Oct. 17, The Discourse received answers from two of the four candidates via email. BC Liberal Party candidate RJ Senko will not be responding to questions due to his full schedule, according to a spokesperson from the BC Liberal team. The Discourse reached out to Independent candidate Desta McPherson over Facebook – since no other contact information could be found – but has not heard back yet. This story will be updated if additional responses come in.

I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.

Mitzi Dean, BC New Democratic Party

As soon as we came into office, John Horgan took swift action to increase disability and income assistance by $100 per month, followed by an additional rate increase of $50 in 2019. Annual earnings exemptions for a single person receiving disability assistance will increase by $3,000 per year to $15,000 starting in January.

We brought in policy updates that removed barriers and made it easier for people to get help when they needed it most – a move away from the mean-spirited policies under the BC Liberals. In response to the additional pressures brought on by the pandemic, we created a crisis supplement of $300 per month for people receiving disability and income assistance, as well as low-income seniors. 

The COVID-19 crisis supplement has been benefitting low-income people and those living with a disability since April and is continuing through the end of the year. The basic income panel will be reporting on their findings and recommendations in December, at which point we will be in a better position to determine how best to continue to support those who need it while we work to reduce poverty across the province. 

We have extended the COVID-19 crisis supplement through to the end of December. This program has a significant cost, and is also an important part of how we are supporting people who are living in poverty through the pandemic. As we continue to work to reduce poverty long-term, we need to evaluate what options are available, and what is the most effective way to help the people who need it.

Andy MacKinnon, BC Green Party

We certainly won’t automatically drop it back to where it used to be. As with the approach to any Green Party position paper, we’ll examine the costs and benefits of maintaining the additional assistance in a post-COVID world (assuming there is any such thing!).

Further reading:

  • The BC New Democratic Party platform is broken down into “commitments,” one of which is affordability and security. The full platform can be found on the BC NDP website.
  • On Oct. 13, the BC Liberal Party released its platform, which can be found here.
  • Affordability and Equity is one of the first points in the BC Green Party platform, which can be dowloaded in full online. In light of the BC Green Party platform announcement on Oct. 14, Global News  reports that the party has pledged spending for schools, child care, income security and affordable housing if elected.
  • A story from the North Shore News looks at what disability advocates want from the provincial government and where parties stand on the issue.