Island anti-poverty coalition pushes government

Trevor Schwab
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Mary Boyd

The need for Islanders to push against government and the private sector to eradicate poverty on P.E.I., was the message a local coalition promoted on Friday.

The P.E.I. Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy, headed up by Mary Boyd, partnered with Christine Saulnier, director of the Nova Scotia Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, to share their findings on poverty and finance levels on P.E.I. with Valerie Docherty, P.E.I.’s minister of community services and seniors. After that, at 2:30 p.m., the group convened again at the Murphy Community Centre to share their opinions on how the prior meeting proceeded.

The minister seemed very open to the suggestions the coalition offered, Boyd said.

“It was timely, it was a good thing to remind the minister and the deputy minister that there is a process going on, but it is in no way complete and there is so much more that needs to be done.”

Simply put, the coalitions report states too many Islanders live in poverty and eradicating it would save the province a lot of money. The coalition says poverty on P.E.I. costs the provincial government about $100 million every year.

Forty million dollars of that is for health care alone, which translates to seven per cent of P.E.I.’s budget for health care, said Saulnier.

“We know that we need to take a different approach to health care, but we also need to take a look at government budgets,” she said. “As the budgets shrink in social assistance, we have narrowed the eligibility for people who can have access to income assistance.”

Sixty-three per cent of Islanders earn $30, 000 a year after taxes, said Saulnier.

“That’s very low, it was stunning to me actually … It is stunning to know how many people are making very little money in this province. This does involve looking at your tax system, but in some respects, there could be very little room for redistribution.”

One key idea is to push back the private sector, she said.

“I understand your minimum wage is going up again, Nova Scotia’s is going up again by 15 cents, which gets us just over $10 … And with just this 15 cent increase, the business community is out and saying ‘oh no, this can’t happen.’”

 There is also a major difference in how the government and the coalition measure their studies. The coalition uses a market basket system, which divides a society’s wealth into five parts and compares the earnings of the highest and lowest ends. The government uses another way which may not be entirely reflective of society, Saulnier and Boyd said.

Organizations: Friday.The P.E.I. Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy, Nova Scotia Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Murphy Community Centre

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • UPWESTER
    January 31, 2012 - 11:17

    ta b l e 1 Estimated Economic Costs of Poverty in Prince Edward Island, 2009 Costs to Society at Large Costs to Government Health Care Costs $40 million Crime Costs $11.5 million $2.4 million Productivity Loss $108–$211 million $19–$37 million Adjustment For Government Transfers Replaced By Market Income $7.2–$14 million Totals $120–$222 million $70–93 million Total estimated cost of poverty to PEI $190–$315 million - These figures are taken directly from CCPA's web site These figures are so flawed as to not be of any use at all.How can you have a difference of $190-315 Million. That's about an 80% differential. - I know incomes are low on PEI, but don't compound it by these made up figures. What Ms Saulinier is saying that the poor cost $42 Million in health care because of poor nutrition. Sixty-three per cent of Islanders earn $30, 000 a year after taxes, said Saulnier - Actually, 63% earn $30,000.or less.The breakdown of incomes are as follows: Under &10,000 =16%,$10,000-19,000 =23%, $20,000-29,000 =24%,$30,000-39,000 =18%,$40,000-49,000=9%,50,000-59,000=5%,60,000 and over=5%. All figures provided by CCPA - Anyone wishing to peruse these figures further may do so by googling CCPA

  • Joseph Kenneth Malone
    January 31, 2012 - 06:22

    Canadians must learn to live within their means. There is no money tree in the backyard. As an Islander living on reasonably modest income, I do not feel particularily deprived. As a matter of fact I am constantly surprised by the number of things that I can do without.

  • Tobias
    January 30, 2012 - 09:10

    Vote NDP. Elect Thomas Mulcair as PM. Elect Joe Byrne as MP. Drop the self abuse of allegiance to the two old parties. Reject both the Tory destroyers and the Liberal duds. Help the poor and save the middle class. Vote NDP!!!!

  • Step one
    January 30, 2012 - 08:01

    Education and literacy....is step one in eradicating poverty.

  • Sean
    January 29, 2012 - 19:48

    The simple truth is that there IS money on PEI. The problem is that the people who have any money want to keep it for themselves. The don't want to pay a fair wage, they want to keep their people starving, which in turn leads to poor growth in the province because new business doesn't want to come to a place where no one has any money to spend. QUIT BEING SO CHEAP!!

  • Thomas G LeClair
    January 29, 2012 - 10:23

    Good for you Mary, many are in the dark in relation to this issue and that seems to be just fine with some. Opening the eyes of all Islanders to this issue may bring some wisdom to the ones in charge so that they may realize that it would be easy for them to reach out and help the many who need help. It's too bad you feel the need to relate to such people that it may be beneficial to our economy to assist people in need, the fact that they are Islanders and are in need should be enough. Unfortunately in a world where greed is the forefront of our existence concessions need to be made, sad really. I know that many Islanders would give to help those in need you see this on many ocassions when people are in dire straits,Islanders always rise to help the underdog, maybe a little more intelligent media coverage would help to make people more aware and these types of things could be remedied. How about it CBC and The Guardian make this issue more than just one story. Blessed be the meek for they will inherit the earth!

    • Keep the issue alive
      January 30, 2012 - 11:52

      I agree with Thomas LeClair, we need to keep this issue alive and make it impossible to ignore. Too many people on PEI live for starvation wages and are penalized for being poor. Give people a chance in this province by giving them a fair wage and better and affordable education options. Provide cheap electric power from our wind to heat our homes and reduce greenhouse gas. More assistance in making our homes more energy efficient. Real incentives for alternative transportation, like ride-share credits or investment in affordable , reliable, public transportation. The benefits are myriad to the province. Lets just do it and stop talking about it! It is our tax money after all, lets use it for the benefit of all of us.

  • Simon
    January 29, 2012 - 09:48

    Harper's attack on the seniors' pensions has woken me up about how many more of us could end up in poverty. I am an old PC thinking NDP next time. I am getting very uncomfortable how much my kids are struggling and fear they will do less well than my wife and I. I want to see the big issues being debated and the weakness of consumers is a huge concern not just for low income people. Harper is becoming too ideological and it is starting to show too much.