Pensioner pleads for help to ride bus

Program delays hurt Victorians in need

Pensioner Ron Kinch is upset that a federal subsidy program for a bus pass takes so long to process.

Program delays hurt Victorians in need

All Ron Kinch really wants to do is ride the bus. Yet the 65-year-old disabled man can’t afford the monthly pass offered by BC Transit. Never fear, the federal government has a subsidy program that can take care of that — but with a wait that could reach one to two years. Now, Kinch is caught in a time loop along with other unsuspecting Victoria pensioners.

“The upsetting thing is, we’re seeing this more and more with older members of our community,” says Kelly Newhook, executive director of Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS). “When everything’s accounted for, there isn’t always enough money left for the bus, but for some people that can mean the difference between getting out in the world and being cut off from it.”

Kinch, a low-income Victorian, was receiving the designated amount for federal disability assistance, which also allowed him a subsidized bus pass. As with all Canadians, when he turned 65, Kinch’s previous assistance was rolled into general Old Age Security (OAS) and a Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), regardless of his disabilities.

He now qualifies for the federal Bus Pass Program — at a fee of $45 a calendar year, as opposed to the BC Transit senior pass of $52 per month. But while Kinch has qualified for the pass since his birthday last September, he won’t start receiving his subsidized pass until this July due to a processing error and “staffing delays” wherein the government would not be able to prove Kinch’s income qualifications until his July GIS statement.

Meanwhile, Kinch is left to get around town on foot, which proves difficult due to his mobility issues, or spend money on transit passes that he can’t afford.

“Sometimes, I explain my situation to the bus drivers and some will let me hop on board, but it’s an exhausting story and often seems like too much trouble to bother,” says Kinch. “I’m into month nine, with more months to go of insane excuses before Ottawa confirms my poverty to the minister of social development so that a bus pass can be issued.”

TAPS does offer a handful of free day bus passes to those in need on a first-come, first-serve basis, but Newhook says there is always more demand than the group can keep up with. As complicated as Kinch’s case sounds, Victoria MP Denise Savoie says his situation is more common than many would think.

“A lot of people do apply for the Bus Pass Program when they are 64 because of the wait times,” says Savoie. “You can only do so much when the federal government says ‘no’ and, unfortunately, there is a gap there in the time it takes them to say ‘yes’.”

In the time that Kinch has spent waiting for the subsidized pass, more bad luck has hit the pensioner. In part because of the money he spent on regular passes, along with mounting bills as he adjusts to his new income-assistance amount, he was unable to pay April rent for his subsidized apartment until nearly the end of the month and is now being evicted from his unit.

“Victoria’s disabled population is the most vulnerable, and we’re the ones who are being overlooked and cast aside the most,” says Kinch. “I’ve been a Canadian citizen my whole life, I’ve given back to my country.”

Jim Franklin, president of Action Committee Of People With Disabilities, says he has met many people with disabilities who have fallen through holes in the social safety net due to inadequate or conflicting income assistance.

“For [some], life has meant using up their life savings and selling their assets, just so that they may acquire the health-care goods and services they need, just to function day to day,” Franklin says. “Once these people have gone through their savings and sold all their assets … many people rely on credit cards, putting themselves deeper into debt. For those without credit, they borrow from their friends and family; making the person with a disability feel like a burden. I have had people in my office declaring that they would rather be dead than be put in such a situation.”

Just as with TAPS limited free bus passes, Franklin says the committee can only do so much to help — what really needs to happen is a call to government from everyone in Kinch’s situation.

“What can I and the Action Committee of People with Disabilities do about this issue? By ourselves, nothing. But there is power in numbers,” Franklin says. “I know there are many more people who are in [this kind of] financial bind … Together, we can petition the government to make changes in legislation.” M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Jen Hodge conducts an online concert during the pandemic after returning to B.C. from New York City. Photo courtesy Claudia Nobauer
Canada Recovery Benefit won’t replace the magic of live performance, musicians say

Cash will help, but its the audience connection that most performers miss — and crave

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

Acclaimed Vancouver Island potter’s story raising money for developing artists

Premier John Horgan and Rob Douglas, BC NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, meet with Cowichan First Nation elders, as they demonstrate spearfishing along the river. (Submitted)
Horgan acknowledges A&E sector hit hard by COVID-19, but showing signs of recovery

Hollywood North doing better than Hollywood South, Horgan says

The iconic and well-loved live music venue Logan’s is permanently closing its doors due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Google Maps)
Victoria pub Logan’s permanently closing its doors

Live music venue unable to weather COVID-19 storm

A group gathers for a guided story walk at the Comox Valley Art Gallery plaza. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox Valley arts-based project takes honest look at overdose crisis

Walking tour aimed and raising awareness and sparking change

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo releases his new single, Christine, on Oct. 30. (Photo courtesy Andrew Dodd)
Island bluesman David Gogo evokes return to good times with new single

Upcoming release ‘Christine’ among a dozen new songs written during pandemic

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann will play the same piano at the Port Theatre on Nov. 1. (Photo courtesy Best Days Ever Photography)
Piano duo perform on one piano in Nanaimo return to live performance

Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann present first live, in-person concert since March

Leaking Time by Oak Bay resident Ilka Bauer is the winning entry of the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Ilka Bauer Image)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

Can you spot all 12 Days of Christmas displays at the Butchart Gardens? Jen Blyth photo.
The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens

Some events cancelled due to COVID-10 but 12 Days of Christmas will brighten the season

Gatineau artist Michèle Provost visits the Malaspina Galleries during her artist residency on Gabriola Island. (Photo supplied)
Gatineau artist the first to take part in new Gabriola Island artist residency

Michèle Provost to create art book reflecting on the positives of aging

Most Read