Poverty reduction strategy a start, says Docherty

Ryan Ross
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Critics say government needs to be more proactive to address the causes of poverty

Valerie Docherty, minister of community services and seniors released during a news conference in Province House Wednesday the provice's social action plan to reduce poverty. The plan maps out how government will protect an support low income Islanders over the next three years.

There were no targets set when the government released its long awaited poverty reduction plan Wednesday.

Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty said the goal was to see a reduction in the number of people on social assistance along with increases in employment numbers and youth getting post-secondary educations.

"We've never looked at it from a number basis so we haven't identified it either by x number of people or a percentage," she said.

Docherty announced the government's social action plan to reduce poverty in a speech Wednesday where she laid out existing programs with only a few new initiatives as part of the strategy.

But those initiatives include some bigger ticket items that will see the government try to balance spending on social programs while it struggles to get its finances in order.

Among the new spending initiatives was an increase of 60 rent supplements to give more Islanders access to affordable rental units at a cost of $800,000.

The government will also spend $100,000 over the next two years to help Habitat for Humanity build affordable homes.

As part of the plan, the government will spend $360,000 over the next three years to support the Salvation Army's home heating program.

There were also allocations to help seniors stay in their home with $1 million over two years for the seniors home care renovations program and $200,000 over two years for the seniors' home repair program.

To help address the importance of education, the plan calls for two more early years centres to open next year.

Docherty said all of the new initiatives are a start when it comes to reducing poverty.

"Is it the actual 100 per cent fulfillment of what needs to happen to eradicate it? No, but it's a great start," she said.

The rate of Islanders who live with low incomes varies depending on which measure is used, although P.E.I. still falls below the national average in either case.

Under the market basket measure, which looks at the income needed for necessities like food, clothing and shelter, the rate was 8.8 per cent in 2009 as opposed to the national average of 10.6 per cent.

With the low income cut-off measure, which looks at the income level where a family spends at least 20 per cent more of their income on food, clothing and shelter than the average family, the provincial rate was 4.8 per cent in 2009.

"Is it the actual 100 per cent fulfillment of what needs to happen to eradicate it? No, but it's a great start," Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty

The national average was 9.6 per cent.

Leo Cheverie, a representative with the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income, said other provinces have also developed poverty reduction strategies, but usually included specific targets.

"This seemed to be more a reiteration of existing programs and policies, to some extent," he said.

Some of those existing policies included in the strategy were already announced increases to minimum wage, changes to generic medication costs and lower electricity rates through the P.E.I. Energy Accord.

The plan also talked about past increases to social assistance.

Cheverie said the government needs to be proactive to address the causes of poverty and move the province forward.

"I just don't see any of that in the plan that I saw today," he said.

Docherty said she knew the plan wouldn't please everybody.

"Considering it is the government's first ever strategy it is a starting point and we do have to start somewhere," she said.

Money was an issue in developing the strategy, but the biggest things needed to reduce poverty are education and finding good jobs, she said.

"Those are the two things because if we can get people much better educated they're more qualified, they're even more interested in striving for higher paying jobs and that's what we want."

In addressing employment, the strategy referred to coordinating efforts among three departments to give Islanders access to employment supports and expanding those services next year.

To help improve education, the strategy referred to past initiatives related to post-secondary education and early childhood development.

It also mentioned the possibility of making child care subsidies accessible to more people, although there wasn't a firm commitment on it.

Docherty said the strategy addressed education and employment at the "high level" by using funding programs already in place to get people working.

"Something that we can ensure gets them trained and employable," she said.






Organizations: Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army

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Recent comments

  • Alma McDonald
    June 02, 2012 - 11:23

    Same b.s. on this issue too, - let's join in the HST rally on Thursday, which is going to put us even further in the poor house , it is Thursday June 7th, at 7 p.m. in front of the Legislature building on Richmond and Great George St., ---bring the kids, it is a nice summer evening--- bring your elderas and your neighbors, let's make it a real nice get together, and let Mr. Ghiz know we are in solidarity against the HST, the Bonshaw highway and all the other dreadful things the Gov. in doing to us, - the higher fees for services, the deposit on every little container of juice we give our kids-- this Government is against the poor, - they have absolutely no compassion

  • Billy
    June 01, 2012 - 06:51

    Seems to be a poverty encouragement program. If we keep giving those with less, they will not go to work.

  • single mom
    May 31, 2012 - 16:52

    Valerie Docherty claims her Department did this wonderful thing by giving welfare clients back the money they clawed back as income from the Child Tax Benefit, which had been deducted from their cheque. But with the very same breath, the same Department took away the Healthy Child Allowance benefit from client's cheque, silently, so in reality the client did not gain any additional monies from this big thing that Valerie Docherty was so proud of in the house the other day.Forgot to mention that part didn't you Valerie!!

  • andre' in cornwall
    May 31, 2012 - 16:00

    Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty said the goal was to see a reduction in the number of people on social assistance along with increases in employment numbers and youth getting post-secondary educations. The goal was to see a reduction in the number of people on social assistance and what happens to government staff; why do you think staff giving out too those that pass to get social assistance discourages, getting off social assistance? Along with increases in employment numbers; yet, social assistance staff and director denied me the chance of getting off social assistance twice that I can prove with game full employment if able to do work, still the staff/director would not allow! Youth getting post-secondary educations; with my six that where taken out of home and placed next door to Grandmothers House, were encouraged too sign out, no longer to be staff/director (department’s) responsibility at age 16...regardless of the Act… 29. (1) In this Part (a) “dependant” means a person to whom another has an obligation to provide support under this Part; 31. (1) Every parent has an obligation, to the extent the parent is capable of doing so, to provide support, for his or her child who is unmarried and is under the age of eighteen years or,

  • Wonderella
    May 31, 2012 - 15:24

    I am not overly smart when it comes to politics, and I am wondering if the politicians ask the people they are working for if they have good workable ideas. For example, has the minister even lived in poverty? If not, then has she talked to the working poor who are trying to maintain a life without going deep into debt, or as one person said, giving medicine to a child or eating? I wonder if those people might have good ideas on eradicating poverty. This province has clean air, clean water, and almost any vegetable you could imagine grows well here. Has the minister ever given thought to funding a few gardens where those with the ability can work and grow their own food, for example. How about showing good faith by cutting her expenses that are charged to the taxpayer. I am grateful that I am not hungry and have a roof over my head. I am grateful that I am able to help others who are unable to help themselves, but I can't be grateful for the 'donations' I make to the government every April and with every purchase I make, because the ministers and the premier are way out of touch with the people of PEI. I say subsidize daycare for working poor. Don't tax anything for children (clothing, hockey or other sport, dentists, etc. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and a province is only as strong as the poorest amongst us.

  • al fredd
    May 31, 2012 - 14:35

    just an other indication that thuis government has no clue what it means to govern, - no clue what strategy or policy or anything means, --- this is not a strategy , but just a bunch of items to throw money at, -- have they no clue ablut long term planning, do they not hire deputy ministersw that have a ckue, or is this an other sign of srurrounding yourself with cornies rather than intelligent, thoughtful people. Sad state of affairs, but that is what you get when you send a boy on a man's errand.

  • Seeing the forest through the trees
    May 31, 2012 - 12:12

    The failure of the government to set any meaningful goals means more of the same failed strategies. Poverty has not been reduced on the Island, nor will it be until there is a willingness to do more than simply throw money in the general direction of the problem. "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" Only when the government begins to set, communicate and report on tangible and measurable targets will people begin to believe that they are doing more than writing a cheque and setting themselves up for a photo op. Disappointing, but not wholly unexpected.

  • Uncle Wally
    May 31, 2012 - 07:30

    How does Ms. Docherty know if it is, or is not, "100 per cent fulfillment of what needs to happen" if she's, "never looked at it from a percentage"? If you don't know specifically what's needed, how do you know what percentage of those needs are being met? One thing for sure, there is a specific plan to spend over 16 million tax-dollars on pavement in the riding of the Community Services Minister even though most of the constituents know it's not needed.. Yeah, Islanders have to believe it. This "plan" wouldn't please everybody. Good grief.

  • prescription prices
    May 31, 2012 - 05:51

    Maybe help more low income families with prescription costs. If you are one dollar over the cut off for the family plan you pay the whole amount. We are working poor and pay 560 a mouth for medication for one child. How does the government think this works? It basically means medication or food for the others in the family.

  • Kenneth Rogers
    May 31, 2012 - 00:00

    That's great Valerie!! Like you said "it's a great start"...but the problem I have and I'm sure many Islanders have as well is why should we believe anything you say??? As far as I'm concerned...the Liberal government ran by Bobby Ghiz and his Chronies have ZERO credibility when it comes to doing whats right for Island taxpayers. They spent the Island into a huge hold and they won't even hold any accountability for doing it. They have broken a lot of promises, they have mishandled the PNP program, they are closing hospitals and businesses in rural PEI, they are trying to force us to accept the HST and make it harder for us to make ends meet, they are trying to change a highway that doesn't need to be changed because the Feds will give them money that they will more than likely mishandle again anyways!!! I'm sorry...but the Ghiz Liberals saying that they are going to help with the poverty problem while they are trying to force the extra taxes of HST on us, spending a bunch of money on changing a road that doesn't need it, buying hotels at 20 cents on the dollar and thinking about spending several millions on some 150th anniversary celebrations kind of contradicts this whole idea of helping the poverty problem!! You can't drive people deeper into poverty in one hand and then say you're trying to help in the other hand...it doesn't work like that.

  • John W.A. Curtis
    May 30, 2012 - 21:19

    The first step to reducing poverty is to raise the minimum wage to $11.00 an hour. This can be accomplished when the HST is implemented.

  • for me
    May 30, 2012 - 20:18

    For me, when there is no further need for food banks and charities having to help people pay for heat to keep warm, then the province will be starting on a roll. There are a LOT of people in need in this province whether the provincial government wants to admit it or address it or not.

  • michael le clair
    May 30, 2012 - 19:45

    Whatever this is, it certainly is not, a poverty reduction strategy! A shameful waste of time and money actually.