BASS: Families First — when falling in love means less cash in hand
A young friend is celebrating a major milestone in her life this week.
She is having engagement photos taken.
And, yes, that means she is engaged, which was a milestone earlier this year.
I’ve known this young woman since she was a kid and, every time we bump into each other now, it’s just a delight to see such a happy person.
I’ve met her fiance and he’s also a really nice, happy guy who is as devoted to her as she is to him.
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
It’s simple. They both live with disabilities, exist on disability income and, when they marry, will see their incomes drop by $200.
These two young people will never make the kind of incomes most of us make.
They will continue to face challenges most of us never encounter.
Add to that their disability incomes are subject to both means and asset tests, which means if they make money outside the pension, they could be subject to clawbacks.
If they have assets, that can also affect the amount they receive.
Knowing this, I decided to call the B.C. Liberal government to ask how the reality this couple faces fits into the Families First line Premier Christy Clark and her party keeps spouting.
First request went to Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger, mainly because I have always found his constituency staff to be great in getting back to me on anything.
That was true this time, with June Phillips responding within a day, ensuring she’d get someone to answer my questions quickly.
She sent another email a few days later to let me know she was still pursuing my request and would make sure someone would call within days.
I’ve always liked June.
Some days, I’ve wondered if the folks who kept voting for Krueger did it just to keep June on the ground here in Kamloops to provide real help when they ran into issues with the government.
She arranged for Stephanie Cadieux, the minister of social development in the Clark government, to call and discuss my very simple question (at least I thought it was simple): How does penalizing a disabled couple who wants to marry reflect putting family first?
Apparently, my question wasn’t all that simple.
There are rules, you see, that must be applied and the overriding theory in the income reduction, apparently, is that two people can live together cheaper than one.
In a perfect world, that’s true, I told her, but these young people don’t live in that world.
They live in a world where their job opportunities are limited. They’re not likely to ever own a house or even qualify for a mortgage.
They are already barely existing on the amount of money they are limited to each month.
Cadieux — who, by the way, said she was unaware the couple, once married, would receive hundreds less — said the problem comes from the legislation, which falls under the welfare side of government pensions and incomes and must be means- and asset-tested.
She gave me the line about them having lower expenses as a couple than as two single people.
There was a bunch of other government-speak that, in the end, meant simply, “That’s the way it is.”
To her credit, Cadieux did say she’d look into the situation, but then reminded me how hard it is to enact new legislation.
I thought about mentioning the HST bill that went through pretty darn quickly, but the conversation had been going nicely. No need to be needlessly antagonistic.
So, this couple is going ahead with plans to marry. They know it will mean less money.
They know they’ll never make the kind of money our MLAs and cabinet ministers make.
But, none of that matters to them.
They want to be a family.
They know how to really put family first.