“It’s good to see the Province taking a couple of steps in the right direction … but I have to say: when are we going to take a real run at poverty?” That’s Joe Byrne’s reaction to today’s (2 November) announcement by a quartet of MacLauchlan Government ministers concerning Social Assistance rates and several other initiatives.
The NDP Leader stressed that Island New Democrats do not want to reject or demean genuine attempts to improve the lives of low-income households, and cautioned about the need to examine the actual details of the plans. But Joe Byrne has questions and observations on the pieces of the Government’s plan.
• Does a 10% adjustment in Social Assistance food allowances come anywhere close to enabling recipients to buy at Health Canada’s standard, the Nutritious Food Basket?
• How effective is a 6% raise in the Social Assistance shelter allowance when there is virtually no affordable housing available, and much of what exists at a cheap enough price offers almost slum-like conditions?
• Will the ‘child social inclusion allowance’ be any more effective than Stephen Harper’s tax deduction for enrolling kids in such activities?
• How will the promised ‘secure income program’ work? How different will it be from ‘Employment Assistance’ programs of past decades?
• How truly significant is the touted $68 million over 5 years: is $13-½ million a year really impressive when seen against the $75 million surplus from tax revenues which Government just predicted for this year?
While commending the MacLauchlan Liberals for trying to do something for disadvantaged Islanders, Joe Byrne affirmed his party’s social-justice heritage and its belief in more fundamental change. “New Democrats stand for income security,” he said, “for Assistance rates that match the true costs of living essentials; for a realistic minimum wage of $15; and for development of a Basic Income Guarantee. Our commitment is to eliminate poverty.”