Union leaders question Community Living spending

Leaders of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union are calling for a public inquiry into spending practices at Community Living BC.

James Cavalluzzo, the union's chairman for community social services, said a pair of recent internal audits into the crown agency haven't done enough to solve problems with how it spends money and delivers services.

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"They've done a lot of internal reviews, which are patting themselves on the back largely," Cavalluzzo said in advance of a Community Living BC board meeting in Prince George on Wednesday. "We think an external review, a public inquiry, needs to take a look at the agency, how it's drifted from its mandate and how it's not meeting the needs of British Columbians."

The agency, which funds programs across the province for adults with developmental disabilities and their families, including AiMHi in Prince George, was put under the microscope by a pair of reviews. The first was by an internal auditor and focused on financial matters and the second by a group of deputy ministers that included a 12-step plan to address concerns about how dollars were being spent and how patients were being served.

Community Living CEO Doug Woollard said the organization has already implemented some of those recommendations and is working on others. He doesn't think an outside examination is required.

"It was a very comprehensive review. It was very frank and candid about the some of the problems," Woollard said.

The union is concerned about the length of wait lists for services and Cavalluzzo said more money from the province is required. Stephanie Cadieux, minister of social development, did announce $40 million in additional funding in January after the deputy ministers released their report, but Cavalluzzo said that money did not go far enough.

The union is also in the midst of conducting a strike vote and results are expected to be announced on Friday. Although the workers don't work directly for Community Living, they do work for many of the agencies funded by Community Living.

There are about 10,000 community living workers represented by the union province-wide, including about 500 in Prince George.

The collective agreement with the Community Social Services Employers' Association expired in March and Cavalluzzo said issues range from salaries and benefits to recruitment and retention of employees.

Cavalluzzo said Community Living should come out in support of front-line workers, but Woollard said it would be inappropriate to comment while negotiations are ongoing.

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