Nanaimo man asks B.C. to end clawback

NANAIMO – A Nanaimo father is imploring the B.C. government to curb clawbacks from parental leave benefits for people with disabilities.

A Nanaimo father is imploring the B.C. government to curb clawbacks from parental leave benefits for people with disabilities.

Tim Kerfoot, wheelchair bound since suffering a brain injury in 2001, is a Wal-Mart employee and was on leave after his wife Sarah gave birth to their son in April.

Due to deductions, however, Kerfoot has been forced to go back to work.

At a Thursday press conference with Michelle Mungall, B.C. NDP spokeswoman on social development, Kerfoot said his parental benefits have been taken back dollar for dollar.

Kerfoot was collecting monthly employment insurance parental leave benefits from the federal government. He has to declare it to the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, which Mungall said, deducts that amount, “dollar for dollar, cent for cent” from disability cheques he receives every month.

“Many people with disabilities in our province also rely on government support, and that’s fair. We’ve fought for those rights in our country … unfortunately, if you are somebody with a disability who receives disability from the provincial government, they say your rights don’t apply,” said Mungall.

Kerfoot said he has been paying into employment insurance benefits for more than five years. He doesn’t collect disability cheques because he wants to, he does so because he’s disabled.

“It’s the right of every Canadian paying EI deductions to collect that … whether I’m disabled or not. I’m working and therefore believe that’s what the intention of employment insurance is – to insure a person’s provisions whether or not they’re working,” he said.

In an e-mail, Michelle Stilwell, minister of social development and social innovation, said she understands how challenging it is for low-income families.

She said B.C. is home to “some of the most comprehensive supports for low-income individuals and their families in all of Canada,” including housing and Medical Services Plan subsidies,  free dental and optical care for children and discounted bus passes.