Gov’t leaving its options open

NDP MLA Mike Sather (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge).

NDP MLA Mike Sather (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge).

Editor, The News:

Re: Sheltered work program saved (The News, Sept. 21).

I am pleased that the provincial government has extended the Community Living B.C. programs at Ridge Meadows Recycling and Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows Community Services.

It is unfortunate, however, that the government has specified that these programs will be extended for one year.

This leaves the clients of these programs, their families, caregivers and support staff not knowing what will happen next fall. The government is clearly leaving its options open.

Given the quality, proven efficacy and community support for the supported employment program at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot and the supported volunteer program at Community Services, this is disturbing.

There is little doubt that the provincial government is trying to cut costs on the backs of individuals with special needs and their support network.  This is unforgiveable.

Social Development Minister Harry Bloy is calling on CLBC to apologize for this fiasco. The minister is responsible for his ministry, which includes CLBC. He should have been aware of plans for such significant program cuts.  If he wasn’t aware of the planned cuts, it calls into question his ability to manage his ministry. Either way, it’s minister Bloy who should be offering the apology.

Disturbing allegations about the supported employment program at Ridge Meadows Recycling remain. CLBC maintained that the society was “not in compliance with Employment Standards.” CLBC even claimed that the society had been informed as long as 15 years ago that it was out of compliance. CLBC’s  rationale was that, since some caregivers drop the person they are responsible for off at the recycling depot in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day, at 4 p.m., the society should be paying them for a full day.  Not that CLBC would fund them for a full day, in any case.

The reality is that this is a modified work program to serve the particular needs of these workers and they are paid for every hour they work.

This employment standards allegation is a red herring. When CLBC informed the recycling society that it was terminating the program, no mention was made of noncompliance with employment standards.  I believe these planned cuts were part of the Christy Clark government’s ham-fisted attempt to pay for the disastrous and expensive HST campaign that they waged on British Columbians.

It’s clear that the Liberal government in Victoria has little respect for the supported employment and volunteer programs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. I believe it would prefer to see our recycling centre run by a private company.

As one CLBC official said to me: ‘Most of these programs [non-profit recycling] were gotten rid of years ago.’

I believe Ms. Clark is putting the interests of private business above those of people with special needs, despite the fact that our communities strongly support these programs. I guess her vision of “families first” doesn’t include these folks.  That’s sad.

Michael Sather, MLA

Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows