What’s Needed This Session – Part 2

Joe Byrne outlines NDP-PEI priorities as the Legislature meets

  We noted that the NDP-PEI has two serious issues in mind for this fall sitting of the Legislature.  I spoke earlier about the truly awful potato-harvest situation.  Now we turn to another sad story — poverty and housing.

  The MacLauchlan Liberals have attempted to address poverty and affordable housing with tweaks.  They are not enough.  We’re glad to see some government awareness, but the promises don’t actually mean serious steps to eliminate poverty.  Just as Government boasted about a surplus of $75 million, they gave a boost to a single Social Assistance recipient’s allowance for food — of $19 a month.  So will $209 buy enough groceries and personal essentials to last a month?  Here in Canada’s Food Island?  Hardly.

  Our society undertakes to pay the bills for a person living in poverty … but it pays through a loss of hope, of productivity, of good mental and physical health.  It is unacceptable that PEI cannot find the resources to make sure that every islander can afford a decent life.

  We have been talking about the housing crisis for well over a year now.  The MacLauchlan Government keeps making announcements.  Promises and plans sound good, but they don’t mean bedrooms and kitchens for people struggling on low income.  The Liberals’ strategy of subsidizing spaces in mostly existing private-sector buildings is worn out: it hasn’t produced decent places for people to move into.  We need shovels in the ground … and we believe that this happens when the public sector gets engaged — when the provincial government, with municipalities and not-for-profit agencies, build and manage good quality, mixed tenancy multi-unit facilities which fit into civic infrastructure such as public transit.  It is good to hear the Government media hype about 100 new units in Charlottetown and 75 others to come in other locations.  But why was this an announcement on November 8th rather than a report of work actually begun last spring?  A tired technique: another pre-election touting of intention.

Here on PEI, Joe has worked on numerous social programs in rural communities. He has done field work on issues faced by university and college students, has been Director of Youth Ministry, and has also coordinated pastoral planning for the diocese. He remains active in the Latin American Mission Program, and is President of the Cooper Institute, a grass-roots collective for community development. He also counts among his volunteer and community work Charlottetown Abbies soccer, church Youth and Music ministries, Voluntary Resource Council, Peace Vigil Group, Atlantic Council for International Cooperation, Canada World Youth, and Katimavik hosting. He keeps up his interaction with young people as a part-time instructor for the Abegweit Driving School. All of this, he does in addition to his work in the NDP. His vast array of church and community experiences have helped him cultivate his skills in communication, organization, and consensus building, and also brought him the joy of forming hundreds of friendships.

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