Fed up with government, anti-poverty group cancels meeting

Dave Stewart
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Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty

ALERT angry over province’s decision not to spend surplus on Islanders on social assistance

An anti-poverty group on P.E.I. says it isn’t interested in any more lip service from Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty.

ALERT, which was established in 1980 to lobby government on behalf of Islanders on social assistance, announced Tuesday that it has cancelled a meeting this week with Docherty.

“We are putting them on notice that until ALERT feels the minister and her government are working on concrete solutions that deal with the poverty people on social assistance continue to face we are not interested in any more lip-service meetings,’’ ALERT member Edith Perry said.

ALERT members are upset that the provincial government left $2.3 million unspent in social assistance and other support payments last year and cut its budget this year for social programs by close to $2 million.

It put Docherty on the hot seat at the P.E.I. legislature earlier this month.

“The fact that we have been meeting with government after government, minister after minister, for so many years only to have these kinds of decisions made makes us feel that we are not listened to,’’ said Kat Murphy, another member of ALERT.

Docherty told The Guardian on Tuesday that she was scheduled to meet with Perry and the group later this week in a meeting that had already been rescheduled twice before due to snowstorms.

“It would have been really good to have sat down with her to inform her of (our plan),’’ Docherty said following question period in the legislature.

The plan she refers to is a new five-year food cost program that will be rolled out later this year, tying future food rates to inflation. The minister has said the increase will be worth $850,000 this year.

Docherty explained that she would have explained the program to ALERT’s members, asked for feedback and explained that there are only so many dollars to go around.

“It’s unfortunate,’’ the minister said of ALERT’s decision to cancel the meeting.

Docherty said last week that government raised food rates in 2008-09, the first time they’ve been raised in a decade.

“We could have had those conversations and now we’re not (going to). I think that’s unfortunate.’’

Perry says government simply isn’t seeing the connection between diet, good health and income levels.

“Something has to be done now, not over the next several years,’’ the ALERT member said.

Over the years, ALERT has called for food costing and shelter rates be increased to reflect the cost of living increases and that the personal income tax exemption level be raised. They’ve also called for other changes to be made to the act and regulations that would significantly improve the lives and health of people on social assistance.

“Government’s responses have been that there is no money, yet here we are with a major surplus not spent to make poor people on social assistance eat better and the intention to spend even less this coming year.’’

Murphy said until they see “real movement’’ from the province ALERT will not be meeting with the minister in the immediate future.

Docherty said they simply can’t meet all of the needs and wants from every group.

“We appreciate getting their feedback (in meetings). Anybody who has an opportunity to lobby the government should always take advantage of it (but) that’s their choice,’’ Docherty said of the decision to cancel the meeting.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Fed, Community Services, The Guardian

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Recent comments

  • Bad decision on the part of ALERT
    April 30, 2014 - 12:31

    I understand the anger but it is always best to be at the table than not. This is especially true at this moment when the Minister is feeling the pressure. She may be looking for an opportunity to look good. You never know what you would have received.

  • oliver
    April 30, 2014 - 12:04

    Well, Mr. Jones, - your statistics are impressive, perhaps you could augment them with the cost of living, as it relates to all aspects of survival on PEI? Perhaps throw in some educational data with it. As to your reticence to reading the comments, you are no doubt aware of your right to refrain from doing so.

    • Bill Jones
      May 01, 2014 - 16:13

      Oliver- not sure i understand your point. Is PEI's cost of living higher than the rest of Canada? While components of PEIs costs may be higher due to geography/energy availability (electricity rates, home heating), others are considerably lower than most Canadian jurisdictions (housing, auto insurance) . And I believe PEI has the highest per capita rate of university education in Canada. And thanks for making my point for me via your snide finishing sentence. Its a false dichotomy of course as clearly the only option is not for me to avoid reading the comments, as it is quite possible people may agree to avoid personal attacks and engage instead in a civil, informed debate about policies and funding levels/affordability? Agree with the dominant theme of this thread, that people have a right to be angry, but that voicing it via personal attacks seldom helps them have their position carry the day.

  • bill jones
    April 30, 2014 - 10:44

    I really don't miss the way islanders make it personal when it comes to politics- like the facial expressions of the minister have any impact on the degree of poverty in PEI. And all the comments about 'kicking her to the curb' next time, due to her smirk… PEI is a high spender per capita on social programs in comparison with other provinces - see report from broadbent institute (a left wing think tank) https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/sites/default/files/documents/final_report-_j_mason-_wellness_outcomes_-_jul_28.pdf Sure poverty makes people angry, but articles like this that attack one individual personally, with ZERO contextual discussion of other indicators/causes/solutions to poverty is frustrating to read.

    • BeenThere
      April 30, 2014 - 12:20

      Two million unspent from Social Services program.... one million upspent from Mental Health and addiction budget. There is an addication epidemic on PEI. Many, many (do you really have to have specific numbers to get the context of this article) people are living in poverty on PEI. Many, many people have been turned down by Social Services. Addicts are ending up in jail which is costing the Island more money. Families are being destroyed by poverty and addication. Is that enough context for you? People have a right to complain about people whom they elected who have failed to do their job.

    • voter
      April 30, 2014 - 14:06

      thank you Valerie

  • Daniel McMaster
    April 30, 2014 - 09:56

    I've lived in PEI now for 6 years, I'm on disability and my CPP was already established before I've moved here from Ontario. I have a very dear friend here who is also on Social Services ( from PEI disability ) and she has to buy the majority of her groceries from the dollar stores which really breaks my heart. Then, to learn that there was such an enormous surplus of money left over from their budget makes me sick to my stomach. This woman is living in a glass bubble, she is totally out of touch with the people she is supposed to represent. There are hungry men, women and children living in PEI, and her excuse is: "everyone who met our criteria was serviced". Judging by the poverty stricken people here and this enormous surplus don't you think its time for you're "criteria" to be updated? I'm sure she goes to bed every night with a full stomach!!!

  • away
    April 30, 2014 - 09:32

    PEI sucks--- and we all know why

  • Disgusted
    April 30, 2014 - 08:14

    This is just another show of blatant disregard for the poorest in our society. This gov't genuinely doesn't give a damn about them! We can only hope that Islanders remember this when it comes time for an election. The Ghiz gov't thinks they will have no problem getting re-elected because the Federal Conservatives have screwed up so bad that no one would vote conservative in the next provincial election. Not so Robert Ghiz!!! Just watch PEI voters vote for the best person not party when it comes to provincialolitics and we are severely fed up with your arrogance and disregard !!!!! Can't wait for the next election!!!!!

  • Shirley
    April 30, 2014 - 07:53

    When this Gov. comes knocking on islanders doors come election time remember these smirking faces that think they are all high and mighty above everyone else and kick all their sorry ass's to the curve. "Had Enough"

  • don
    April 30, 2014 - 07:42

    i'm so glad you are getting the message that ghiz and his gang did not ever care for islanders other then a select group of islanders. but you all will be dumb enough to vote them back in next election. we need a true islander you did not want her before but her hands were tied now look at olive she is on fire. we need her to have her own party. as the want to be pc party has a yes boy for a fake leader the pc members needs to clean house in the back room. mrs crane we need you as leader of PEI.

  • Here's A Thought
    April 30, 2014 - 07:15

    Perhaps the ALERT group should try to "catch more flies with honey than vinegar". Reschedule the meeting, apologize, bring cookies, gift her, be nice, and above all be sincere. You all know that what you bring to the room is what will be in the room. Bring some cooperation and respect and see what happens. Be the loving group of people that you are when you're together at any gathering. If nothing else you will gain respect. You must be sincere though. She will never understand your world unless you can make her feel welcomed as a part of it, just as you can never understand hers unless you are welcomed into it. And she will never speak for you unless she understands and feels the importance. What you resist persists. And as I say that I find it hard not to spit nickles over that money that she didn't spend. We're all human.

    • Get Real
      April 30, 2014 - 09:44

      Valerie Dockery is well paid to "understand and feel the importance" of what people say. She was elected to represent the people in her riding. If she needs to be treated with kid-gloves, it demonstrates even more clearly that she is not the right person for the job. I am certain that she could afford to hire some sort of "image management" company who would tell her that the first thing she should change is her condescending and patronizing way she speaks to and about Islanders and yes, remove the smirk! Speaking in a soft whispery voice with a permanent smile stuck on her face as she says "Islanders are doing so well that they didn't need help" makes everyone sick. I don't blame ALERT for giving up.

  • paul
    April 30, 2014 - 06:36

    she does not want to loose her post AGAIN . She is just a yes girl for ghiz. THATS ALL.

  • Realist
    April 30, 2014 - 06:14

    ALERT finally got what most Islanders have known since they day this gov got voted in. They do not care about Islanders until election time. Valerie Dockery has a permanent smirk on her face... just like her boss. It must be part of their "uniform" as Currieand Brown have developed the same smirk... which really means "I control the money and I really do not care if Islanders are suffering as long as I am getting my own big paycheck and company car".

    • don
      April 30, 2014 - 07:45

      the permanent smirk on her face. is saying look at me suckers i can do what ever i want and you will vote me back in.

  • Yes-woman Minister
    April 30, 2014 - 05:56

    1) forget about meeting with her, Billy runs the province. Meet directly with him then she won't have to spend a week memorizing what she is supposed to regurgitate. 2) If this were any other province, the people would have marched on province house demanding an election due to all the scandals and controversy. Islanders get what they deserve. The Auditor General has already announced 3 issues that should have triggered an election. 3) we need a new part, the ABL Party. "Anything But Liberal" because putting the Tories in would make zero changes!

    • Really
      April 30, 2014 - 11:50

      "If this were any other province, the people would have marched on province house demanding an election due to all the scandals and controversy. Islanders get what they deserve." This made me choke with laughter. Really? Yes, our government is letting people down and has had issues. Time to go, for sure! But, we also have a federal government that is the worst in Canadian history for scandals and controversy. Please let us know when you are planning the march on Parliament Hill! We need you.

    • really
      April 30, 2014 - 15:30

      Like St Gail of Shea?

    • To first Really
      May 01, 2014 - 11:23

      Do tell; what scandals and what controversy?? Please enlighten us.

  • Craig
    April 30, 2014 - 05:46

    The lights are on but nobody is home with Docherty! There is no way that any person could say there is no islanders that could use some help. There are lots of homes on pei short on wood and oil for heat and kids going to school without breakfast!

  • voter
    April 30, 2014 - 04:50

    in this deranged way of thinking people like Docherty ,just like many politicians and their ilk, see absolutely nothing wrong with having to "LOBBY" government for basic needs Many politicians , their family and friends and business buddies even hire "LOBBYISTS" to suckhole the right ministers and departments--