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October 17, 2011

CLBC's Cuts Debated as Woodlands Demolished

News stories that allow people to see real examples of the government's hardheartedness in dealing with some of its most vulnerable citizens have contributed first to the firing of former Social Development Minister Harry Bloy and, as announced late on Friday, Community Living BC's chief executive officer. Community living is the name given to services provided to people who are developmentally disabled, some who can be a threat to themselves or the community, requiring 24/7 care and others who simply need assistance to cope.

Community Living BC was formally established July 1, 2005, following a process that began in the fall of 2001. Its website provides a brief history of the agency but it neglects to mention the controversy that surrounds it. Sean Holman's PublicEyeOnline documented some of the controversy, and Moms on the Move (MOMS), an advocacy group, has documented much more.

Services to developmentally disabled British Columbians have been subject to budget cuts and reorganizational chaos since the Liberals took power in 2001 but the abstraction of what might be happening to several thousand people doesn't provide nearly as gripping a news story as hearing from parents in crisis over what is happening to their child.

Premier Clark and Minister of Social Development Stephanie Cadieux hid behind privacy concerns when challenged in the legislature during the first question period following Friday’s firing, each using the word four times during their replies. The NDP's Shane Simpson expressed why parents are abandoning their privacy when he introduced a question saying: "The minister talks about people's privacy. These are people who are in these situations who don't necessarily want to speak, but they have no choice. They are anxious. They are desperate. The government is ignoring them, and CLBC is ignoring their needs, so they're speaking out."

Clark and Cadieux don’t have to violate anyone's privacy in order to discuss problems that have plagued Community Living since 2001. In its September 15, 2011 presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services Moms on the Move said:

"Government claims unprecedented spending to support children & youth with special needs, adults with developmental disabilities and families. Yet since we started MOMS, families around BC have reported an erosion of supports, growing waitlists, reduced standards and no accountability."

In the legislature on October 17th, Clark repeated the mantra MOMS has been hearing for a decade when she said: "You know, it is B.C. Liberal policies that have meant that the budget for CLBC has been increased every single year since…. And it is B.C. Liberal policies that mean that clients receive — on average across the province — about $50,000 each in support across government." For Clark to portray clients of CLBC as if they were personally "receiving" an average of $50,000 per year shows that either she doesn't understand who the clients are or she thinks she can fool the public. Since Clark was the minister responsible for taking the Community Living Authority Act through the legislature in 2004, it is hard to believe that she is ignorant about the clients, many of whom suffer from disabilities that once led to institutionalization in Woodlands where abuse was rampant. Ironically, the Woodlands Centre Block is slated for demolition at 1:00 PM on October 18th, an hour before debate on services for those who are developmentally disabled resumes in the legislature's question period. If Clark attends the event, she might be reminded of how BC once treated some of its vulnerable citizens and vow to do much better than misrepresenting how government is treating those citizens today.