Posted on Feb 6, 2020

Cruel move sees Jason Kenney and the UCP cut transportation funding for Albertans struggling with serious medical conditions

Without warning, Jason Kenney and the UCP have cut off transportation funding for Albertans dealing with serious medical conditions.

Income Support payments received last month were cut by $97 per adult, due to the unannounced change to the transportation supplement provided as part of the Barriers to Full Employment (BFE) program. The cut is equivalent to the cost of a monthly bus pass.

BFE clients rely on the transportation supplement to get to the hospital for treatment, to attend therapy sessions and other critical needs. It’s believed there are roughly 22,000 BFE clients provincewide.

“It is despicable for this UCP Government to take money away from Albertans who are working and struggling to make ends meet, just to pay for Jason Kenney’s $4.7-billion corporate handout,” said Marie Renaud, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Community and Social Services. “Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney has made these changes without any consultation, any notice or explanation.

“But we know the real reason is this Government is scrambling to pay for their failed $4.7-billion corporate giveaway and is leaving our most vulnerable Albertans footing the bill.”

The cuts come days after the government also changed the payment schedule for AISH and Income Support without warning, pushing payments from the last week of the month to the first day of the following one. These two erratic policy changes put thousands of families at risk of not being able to find accessible transit, pay rent, or buy groceries.

The schedule change also pushes one provincial AISH and IS payment, worth roughly $189 million, into the next fiscal year, concealing some of the damage of Premier Kenney’s corporate giveaway.

"All of the people in this program woke up missing the money they rely on for transportation every month,” said Milo Gallant, who relies on the money to get to treatments for scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, and PTSD.

“We couldn't budget or prepare for it, we were never warned about the decrease or given an explanation,” Gallant added. “It's isolating and frightening when the provincial government is showing no empathy for a vulnerable and valuable community."

Jennifer Campen, a single mother who suffers from Crohn’s disease, also saw her transportation supplement cut.

“Albertans on Barriers to Employment often have many medical appointments,” she said. “We are already struggling and are now suffering more due to this sudden unexpected loss of medical transportation funding.”

“Getting to medical appointments has enough challenges so, in having these funds, they help cover the cost for gas, vehicle maintenance and insurance, parking and not to forget, bus and taxi fare. These funds are vital to helping keep healthcare costs down. We want to get better or at least a chance to live the best we can. Getting to treatment, having earlier care - these help keep us out of the hospital with more serious conditions. I know firsthand how this helps me and many others manage and cope, with some - often times - disabling symptoms. The last thing we need to lose is our ability to access healthcare."

Monique Murphy, whose son suffers from severe epilepsy and whose husband lives with a number of mental health issues, says the UCP cut $127 from her family’s monthly income.

“I don’t understand why the UCP would make the people most in need of stability and consistency stress about payment date changes cuts to medical transportation,” Murphy said. “Public transportation is not speedy or cheap for those with disabilities. That was the purpose of the medical transportation benefit. How can they expect people with disabilities to afford a taxi every time they need to visit their therapist or go to the hospital?”

The cuts to BFE come as the Government is also proposing to fire thousands of frontline health-care workers and severely limit available medical services throughout the province.

“This is shameful, it’s wrong, and it could have been avoided by not shipping billions to big corporations,” Renaud said. “Jason Kenney and the UCP must immediately reverse this cut to the transportation supplement. If not, this government is cruel, plain and simple.”