Author: Shelley Petit
Right from the start, under the congratulations section, we noticed a large group sorely missing: para-athletes.
Christel Robichaud beat her own National record in the f56 Javelin and shot put with throws of 12.32 m and 6.70 m respectively.
What may seem like a simple oversight to many, for people with disabilities, who face systemic ableism from this government daily, its just another example of how little worth we seem to offer in their minds. Once again, I will remind all parties that we are the single largest demographic in this province; and we will do everything and anything to ensure all 116 000 plus vote!
The introduction claims the people of NB are optimistic. With the exception of the privilege few, I would argue differently. Our members are anything but. The less than 30% of applicants who actually qualify for the Disability Support benefit of $866/ month are struggling as are the rest who are placed on regular disability benefits. It should not be easier to get CPP-Disability nor the Federal Disability Tax Benefit than NB’s disability plan. Shame on this province.
Then they claim, well there’s more than just the monthly payment – there’s a health card, a rent subsidy and more. Yes, but the bulk of these are not attainable. If you woke up tomorrow with a disability as several NB residents will, can you survive? If you are no longer able to work and require a rent subsidy it will be a “bit of a wait”. The province provides 25-30 new subsidies per year and with over 10 000 names on the list, you will be waiting a little over 300 years- but hey, it’s a benefit!
The same goes for the health card, referred to as the ‘white card’. If you are on CPP-D, if you can start working part time, etc they will take your card away. The govt and Social Development love to say, you can purchase insurance from work. One of our members who recently hit 6 months in a position at NBCC applied for a health plan provided through the government. Due to her pre-existing condition, they wanted $1200 per month! Very affordable, wouldn’t you say? But hey, again, it’s a benefit!
Once again none of this was addressed in the throne speech.
The speech goes on to brag about a billion-dollar surplus- but the Premier seems to forget to whom that money belongs. It belongs to all NB residents, it is not the property of the Premier, of the finance minister nor of the PC caucus. They also claim a lot of revenue comes from unprecedented population growth. Yes, we have grown- but not in a good way. We had a housing shortage prior to such growth, whether the Premier wants to acknowledge it. We had food insecurity that has become worse. They brag about increases to minimum wage, but we still have one of the lowest in Canada. And the amount is nowhere near what is required to live. In the 3 largest cities it takes between $21 and $23/per hour just to hit the poverty line- the poverty line. So many in NB are now living in legislated poverty- Shame on the govt.
It also seems that the government has yet to understand where the bulk of mental heath and addictions come from. When you must fight with everything you have everyday, just to stay alive it hurts you physically and mentally. Some fall into great anger, others depression. And if you end up homeless, the fear, depression and the requirement to forget turn people towards drugs. If you help feed, house and treat people with dignity, as well as offer proper mental health services, these numbers would decrease significantly.
The following are the supposed priorities of this government:
- Energizing the Private Sector
- Vibrant and Sustainable Communities
- Dependable Public Health Care
- Building a Better Education System
I guess they forget the bullet on Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities. That must just be an error, right? You cannot energize the private sector if we do not have accessible transit to get to work. There is no workforce left, and we are the solution to the workplace crisis, but first we need to be able to get there and then we need to be able to get into the building. And until there is greater accessibility, we will not have vibrant and sustainable communities- especially in rural areas as they have next to no accessibility.
Dependable health care- for whom? This push toward private care eliminates many with disabilities. Once again, our government forgot that not everyone has a reliable vehicle to get them to Bathurst for cataract surgery, for example. And if you use a wheelchair, public transit is often not an option either. These private clinics are step one to full private care and persons with disabilities and seniors without a big pot of gold to steal from, are once again left out of the equation.
When they discuss a better education system- does this mean they will finally abolish the use of restraints on children with disabilities? No parent ever wants to learn that their child was tied down to a chair or locked into a room all by themselves at school because the teacher, EA, or educational staff didn’t know what to do. Does this also mean kids with a label such as autism will no longer be given a tablet to play video games all day, or allowed to paint all day instead of learning? Does this mean life skills will be re-instituted to ensure some of the most basic skills are shared? Does this mean educational staff will finally be properly trained on all disabilities, with a commitment to mandatory refresh training yearly, along with specialized training for any rare conditions entering their school ?
And environment- Well, first and foremost- stop spraying glyphosate! Eliminate PFOFS, PFAFS and VOC use in all government buildings. These are all well documented endocrine disruptors tied to Parkinsons, ADD, ADHD, Obesity, Autism, several cancers, MCS, TILT, and more.
NB Housing- Sadly, there’s nothing positive to say here, except that we are positive the plan is bad. The speech still talks about the 3 year phase in of rents. The courts have already ruled that Illegal. And the mystery rent bank that will charge interest, making us the only province to do so, is still an idea. That should have been ready to go the day after it was announced. This is an idea they hoped they wouldn’t have to move forward on because of an election. Their feet must be held to the fire- and the rent bank must be 0% interest and ready to go next week!
The speech also discusses seniors on fixed income and increasing the seniors benefit amount. What about PWD on fixed income- because the provincial government keeps throwing good money after bad into so-called employment agencies in NB to help us get jobs. When the only thing created to date by Avenue NB is a non-accessible website, I think it is pretty clear how many jobs wont be made available to us. It is well past the time for this government, and any that follow, eliminate the Disability Industrial Complex. It violates ‘nothing about us without us’, it doesn’t help pwd and it enrichens able bodied folks who just don’t get. Take that money and invest it in us – invest it in accessible housing, transit and workplaces- and then step back and watch NB truly grow and prosper!