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Mary Boyd says Islanders cannot ignore the costs of poverty anymore
Islanders can't afford to ignore the costs of poverty any more, says the author of a report on eliminating poverty.
Angela MacEwen, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said people can't continue to look at the symptoms of poverty without looking at the root causes.
"Just to be clear, we don't want to blame those living in poverty for these costs," she said.
MacEwen appeared via video conference Wednesday at the Murphy Community Centre in Charlottetown where she presented a report she co-authored about the cost of poverty in P.E.I. to about 40 people.
The report used several methods to determine poverty levels, including the market basket measure, which estimated 12,000 people in P.E.I. were living in poverty in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.
The market basket measure takes into account out-of-pocket childcare expenses, medical expenses and the cost of transportation in rural areas in determining poverty levels.
Using data from 2009, which was the most recent available, the report's authors said poverty costs the provincial government up to $93 million per year, including $40 million in health care spending they attributed to poverty.
That also included an estimated $2.4 million as a cost of crime, which the authors determined was because four per cent of crime is a result of poverty.
In total, the report said poverty costs P.E.I. between $190 million to $315 million per year, including lost productivity.
The report recommended the government set goals and put in place mechanisms to measure progress towards eliminating poverty.
Some of the examples in the report included increased incomes, ways to improve housing for renters and accessible, affordable childcare.
MacEwen said poverty doesn't just cost government, including $11.5 million that crime costs the public.
Although it may not seem like a big number, it's important to think about as the federal government implements a tough on crime bill, she said, and added there is a link between literacy and crime.
"If we invested in literacy programs and early childhood education we could prevent crime rather than being tough on crime," she said.
MacEwen also said a job is not a guarantee of avoiding poverty because about 13 per cent of working Islanders live below the poverty threshold.
"The working poor are squeezed," she said.
Charlottetown-Victoria Park MLA Richard Brown was at the presentation where he listened to concerns aimed at the government and answered a few questions from the public.
Included in his answers were some things the Liberals implemented during their time in office, which he said were part of poverty reduction, including the introduction of kindergarten in schools.
"Is there more to do? Yes, there's more to do," he said.