Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hawes, Clark and an MLA's job

Randy Hawes and Christy Clark offered up two very different visions of what MLAs are supposed to be doing on Monday.

And our democracy, and society, would be a lot better if more politicians acted like Hawes.

In the morning, New Democrat Nicholas Simons introduced a motion calling on the government to halt the closing of group homes for people with mental handicaps. About 65 have been closed, almost 10 per cent, often forcing longtime residents into new, less supportive settings. Community Living B.C., the Crown corporation delivering services to people with developmental disabilities, is trying to cut costs.

The motion was a gesture. It will never be passed.

Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger, briefly the minister responsible for CLBC, spoke against it. The closures are good, he said, everything is fine. Nanaimo Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon offered the same general view.

A couple of New Democrats, as expected, supported the motion put forward by Simons.

And then Hawes spoke. He talked about the concerns his constituents had raised. A man in his 70s, with a wife slipping into Alzheimer's, had cared for their developmentally disabled son for 50 years. The father still wanted to care for his son, and his wife, and thought he could - if he get two more days a week of respite care. But CLBC couldn't provide it, so the man faced the "heartbreaking choice" of placing his son in care, which would cost the government much more, Hawes recounted.

A single mother, who had worked and raised and supported her mentally handicapped daughter who needed round-the-clock care, was told supports would be cut when the girl turned 19. The mom was told she would have to quit her job, go on welfare and try to provide the care her daughter needed.

Hawes said this just wasn't right. He said the former minister responsible, Harry Bloy, had told the legislature no clients were being forced out of group homes against their will.

That wasn't true, he said.

Simons's motion was simplistic, Hawes said.

But something has gone wrong, he continued. There should be a "top-tobottom examination of CLBC, which included the parents and the selfadvocates that originally set this up."

And while that's happening, Hawes said, the government should immediately provide services to those who need them.

"We need to give those families that today aren't seeing hope . We need to give them hope, and we need to give it to them now," he said.

About two hours later, CLBC was the topic in question period, the 30 minutes allocated for the opposition to raise issues with the government. The New Democrats, again, pressed Premier Clark for a review of CLBC and a moratorium on group home closures.

Clark said the government is spending quite a lot - about $50,000 per client a year, if you count welfare - on people with developmental disabilities.

But she rejected, again and again, calls for an independent review of CLBC - the "top-to-bottom examination" Hawes had urged.

And then Clark offered up something revealing.

New Democrat Carole James prefaced a question with a reference to the "heartbreaking stories from families about a lack of care for their children." She cited the case of a mentally handicapped woman forced from the group home she had lived in for 19 years.

Clark said the opposition is being negative.

"And you know what?" she said. "I don't necessarily begrudge them that. I used to sit as children and families critic. I know the game the member is playing."

I didn't realize Clark was playing a game back then, as I watched the debates. I thought the lives of children at risk were important enough that MLAs would be serious and honest.

Just like Hawes on the lack of support for people with developmental disabilities.

"In the over 10 years that I've been in this legislature, there's no issue that's caused me more loss of sleep or more concern for those most vulnerable people," he said. "We need to act now."

I'd rather have an MLA who loses sleep than one who thinks the legislature is a place to play political games.


RossK said...

Fair enough Paul, but we all know that this did not start with either Mr. Bloy or Ms. Clark.


I see the 'game' quite differently, especially given that Mr. Hawes has been a member of this government for its entire 10 years.

More specifically, how is Mr. Simmons' motion simplistic, exactly, compared to Mr. Hawes' (and now Mr. van Dongen's) call for a 'review'?


Or, put another way, which would actually halt the government's current egregious practice of throwing the adult disabled out of group homes they have been in for years?

And speaking of games, it was very nice of Ms. Clark to put a price on the heads of each one of our most vulnerable citizens (ie. which means that, according to Ms. Clark's number, each of them costs us approximately 0.0008% of what we must pay to refurbish BC Place per year)....I believe you have already 'reviewed' the longterm trends on those numbers Paul - perhaps you could send them to Madam Premier, Mr. Hawes and Mr. van Dongen?


DPL said...

speaking of Kevin Kreuger and anything he says in the house brings to mind the cartoon of Kevin standing somewhere as some strange noises were all around him. The caption says it was two folks playing racket ball in his head.Loyal to the end, so he collects a good wage for saying yes a lot

Scotty on Denman said...

It's a given that the next election will be very difficult for the BC Liberals to win the next election for a host of reasons, the HST lie merely one, albeit the one which ignited the others. Suffice to say that they've been trying to stuff the worms back into the can ever since.

Christy Clark was astute enough seizing the opportunity to become BC Liberal leader but apparently not enough to admit that the party was stunned and reeling on the ropes, that even a dog could have won as long as it wasn't a disgraced Campbellite, that her victory was essentially by default. Undaunted by a string of setbacks, from her narrow by-election win, rejection of the HST, reneging on her early election promise to being shooed out of the kitchen on the BC Hydro file, Christy has always maintained her majorette approach as if it was the thing that won her the leadership and therefore all that is required to march the BC Liberal parade to victory in 2013. The problem is that her approach is most inappropriate when it comes to the disturbing CLBC situation.

Victims of BC Liberal policy of shutting down group homes for developmentally challenged adults, their families and caregivers, have been lobbying, pleading, to have these inhuman cost-cutting measures reversed; the NDP Opposition have been
consistently raising the issue in the legislature; the CLBC board is in tumult; the Minister was demoted. The government may be preoccupied with stuffing worms back into the can, but they cannot claim they don't know what's happening. It's only worse when they insist everything's just fine, go enjoy the parade.

Until now the BC Liberal caucus, virtually none of whom supported Christy's leadership bid, have held their noses and endured her non-stop tub-thumping and grandstanding, as long as they have control of the files important to them. Now backbencher Randy Hawse's criticism of his own government about the CLBC debacle may have changed this strained relationship. At issue is real human suffering that crosses all class and partisan lines; it has the potential to go viral.. Christy's inconsiderate remarks about how the "game" is played was worse than careless.

We armchair pundits can speculate what the BC Liberals will do about their shallow majorette with eighteen months to go before the next election. We might even have our moments or Schadenfreude at their troubles. But we should also try, however hard it is, to put ourselves into the shoes, the wheelchairs and gurneys of those being forced to move out of their group homes, where they've spent their lives with other people like themselves, their friends, and try to imagine ourselves little children once again, unable to understand more than fear and sadness at being moved in with strangers, suddenly the only one, different from all the rest. Imagine, if we can, what that must feel like. For them every waking minute of every day. Then maybe we can understand why this might be the death knell of the BC Liberals.