Woman with rare disease hopes B.C. election candidates consider disability payments

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Woman with rare disease hopes B.C. election candidates consider disability payments

A woman with a rare lung disease hopes candidates in B.C.'s provincial election will consider the difficulties associated with having a disability and the tough economic choices people like her have to make.

Margaret Tayti has a rare multi-organ disease whose symptoms include having a lung capacity of 30 per cent.

It's a problem she's reminded of whenever she tries to walk the streets of Prince George, B.C.

"My gait will try and settle in to the old six miles an hour," she said.

"Twenty steps later I turn blue and have to sit and gasp for five minutes." 

Hear Margeret Tayti describe her disease.

She uses a bus pass to get to medical appointments and the volunteer jobs she takes on despite her disease.

"I can't just sit at home and collect my so-called free money," she said.

"I have to feel like I'm giving back to the community that's supporting me."

People on disability assistance used to get a bus pass for $45 annually, but in 2016 the province starting charging $52 monthly, while at the same time increasing assistance payments by $77 a month.

The Liberals argued the change helps roughly 50,000 people on disability who live in communities without consistent transit.

However, critics say it puts people in a position of choosing between spending $52 on a bus pass or other vital services like food and shelter.

Nansi Long is coordinator of A.C.E., a resource and training centre in downtown Prince George.

She said since the changes were made, fewer clients are coming in.

"They chose to give up their bus pass ... to gain extra money," she said.

"So that has resulted in people just not accessing services."

Long said it points to a larger problem of disability payments not keeping up with the cost of living.

"It does say a lot that they would rather keep that fifty dollars for food or whatever else it is rather than having reliable transportation."

In an on-air debate for the Prince George-Valemount riding on CBC Daybreak North, Liberal candidate Shirley Bond acknowledged the critiques.

"It was an issue of trying to sort out how to be equitable across the province," she said. 

"There will be an increase in funding to people with disabilities.

"It's a real challenge and ... we're working hard to try to figure out how best to support families who are in the challenging circumstance that Margaret's in."

NDP candidate Natalie Fletcher agreed an equitable payment system is challenging, but said making bus passes more expensive is not a solution.

"Coughing up the $52 [for the bus pass] is a real challenge," she said.

Hear the full on-air debate.

"When we form government, we will put that bus pass program back."

Nan Kendy of the B.C. Green Party pointed to her party's commitment to providing a livable income to all British Columbians, which includes increasing disability payments.

"The Liberal Party's had 16 years to get this right," she said.

"The true measure of government is in the way they serve the most vulnerable, not the most wealthy."

While parties and candidates vie for votes, Tatie is focused on how to manage her budget.

"It's kind of weirdly bleak to budget for lip gloss ... every six months or so," she said.

She's thinking about giving up the bus in order to replace her 12-year-old shoes while trying to get around on a bike over the summer, despite her health concerns.

"It's a really daunting prospect and I'm not sure how it's going to work out."

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