Painful Truth: The blender-dentures game

The blender-dentures game

L ooking back on it, the B.C. Liberals probably regret the way they handled the announcements of funding increases for people on disability assistance.

They are taking flak – and rightly so – for the miserly increases. Scrooge would be proud of the way that even the top tier gets just $77 a month extra – from $906 to $983 a month.

In the interests of fairness, the Liberals decided to claw back much of that already modest boost, cutting it to $25 a month for those with a bus pass, or $11 a month for those with a special transportation allowance.

“There!” said some ministerial assistant who takes home six figures a year. “Now they’re all equal at last!”

I hope this scandal batters the Liberals until they relent and release some more cash for those on social assistance, or maybe boost funding for Handy Dart.

But it won’t be the last time this happens. There is a significant faction within the B.C. Liberals that lacks empathy for the poor.

Always has, always will.

Let’s go back to 2002, so I can remind everyone of the blender-dentures fiasco.

Then new premier Gordon Campbell was cutting waste and clawing back social program spending to balance the books.

That summer, the Libs announced a cap of $500 a year on dental procedures for those on social assistance.

The problem with that is that a full set of dentures, under the government’s own spending rules, cost between $611 and $975.

The obvious thing to do would be to make an exception for dentures or other major procedures.

But the government’s response was this: We’ll give you a $30 coupon for a blender. Get one denture (upper or lower) this year, and in 365 days you can get the other half, and then you can start chewing your food again.

When their utter contempt for the poor hit the news, they did a 180-degree turn so fast it likely gave some junior bureaucrats whiplash. Just a misunderstanding. Never meant to do that. Not our policy.

Of course, it was their policy, for weeks before it came to public attention.

The truth is, a lot of people hold the poor in contempt. They lack the ability to imagine their life going so badly that they’d ever need to go on social assistance. They think anyone who is on assistance must be there because of their own poor choices – never mind factors like disability, job loss, or simple bad luck.

I can imagine myself being on social assistance. I can imagine joblessness, poverty, losing what I’ve worked for over the years.

I find it harder to imagine a government that would refuse to help to save a few bucks. But that’s the face of government we see all too often.

Read Matthew Claxton’s Painful Truth at

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