Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rice tackles Disability issues and Red Tape reduction themes in late Monday Legislature Session

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice brought Monday's legislature session to a close, allotted the early evening portion of Monday's proceedings for her presentation on issues related to disability concerns, particularly as they affect residents of the North Coast.

Speaking shortly after 6 PM, Ms. Rice provided her thoughts on the discussion related to the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Amendment Act, tying it together to the province's Red Tape reduction plans. Noting for the Legislature that while she's not too fond of the Red Tape Reduction Day Act and the amount of energy and resources the Legislature is spending on that theme, she does support the cause of reducing the amount of paper work required by those with disabilities to access the services they need.

During the course of her thirteen minute overview for the Legislature, while Ms. Rice did seem to focus a fair bit on the Red Tape preoccupations of the Provincial Government, at one point being gently guided back to the main theme of the discussion by the Speaker, she did provide some interesting observations for those members still in the Legislature chamber late in the day to consider.

Noting of the reduced hours of operation in Prince Rupert for the Social Development and Social Innovation office.

In the local Prince Rupert office, it's only open for half a day or less than that. It's open for three hours, which makes it really difficult for people who would need to see someone in the morning. That would be an example of red tape that I think we could reduce and assist people with disabilities, and those that are on other forms of social assistance.

She also pointed out that residents of the North are also instructed to use an 800 phone number, something she says results in a less personalized experience for northern residents who may be dealing with service providers who don't understand the issues found across the various rural and isolated communities of the province.

People are expected to use a central line. They're calling a 1-800 number, often waiting hours and hours to talk to a real person. For those of us that live in the north, that is a person that they would talk to, or we would talk to, in Victoria or elsewhere in the province that has no idea of our local conditions or of the local people and their particular characteristics and barriers that they pose.

To further expand on her theme, Ms. Rice also noted that the reliance on technology has its struggles, pointing out that at times the ability to access the information through the facilities of the Prince Rupert office can be challenging.

There seems to be no way of personalizing the service that we offer these people. In fact, we're depersonalizing it. We're making it less personal. We're expecting people to apply on line for benefits. We have many people that have barriers to using that technology. So that's a piece of red tape that we've actually incorporated, making it harder for people to apply for social assistance. 

We're not actually reducing the red tape. In fact, the computers at the SDSI office in Prince Rupert have had an out-of-order sign on them for months. Not only are we encouraging people to use technology, we don't even make it available to them. How are we reducing red tape in this situation — for helping people apply for benefits?

She followed those points up with the accounts of one constituent who through a letter to the MLA provided some background on the frustrations that residents of the region are finding with the system as it exists at the moment.

To bring her presentation to a conclusion, the North Coast MLA asked why the provincial Government has not reviewed the Auditor General Report from 2014, which she notes featured page after page of recommendations, many which she believes should be addressed. Rather than focusing on spending resources on talking about reducing red tape for red tape that was created by the Government side of the House.

A full review of her contribution to the Monday session can be found from the Draft Minutes of Monday afternoon's session. The review starts at the 6:10 PM point and continues until 6:23.

The video of her comments can be found from the Chamber Video for Monday afternoon.

For more background on developments from the Legislature see our archive page here.

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