The provincial government is calling its newly announced poverty reduction strategy 'a start' in tackling the issue of poverty, but if it is a start, it's a modest one. It offers no firm objectives or deadlines to meet them. It provides some new funding to those in need, but overall, the strategy merely expresses government's acknowledgement that the problem exists - hardly a cause for anti-poverty groups to applaud.
They must have been disappointed when Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty unveiled the strategy. Ms. Docherty did refer to government's general wish-list: reducing the numbers on social assistance, increasing employment and encouraging youth to pursue post-secondary education. But few details were offered to show how the province could follow through on these gestures. There is new spending for supplements for housing, rent and home-heating fuel, and while these obviously will be appreciated by those who get them, supplements in the past, such as the home-heating fuel assistance, have been exhausted before the need has been met. As well, these measures are a far cry from getting at the root causes of why people become poor.
Other features of the strategy seem to be repackaged existing programs or previously announced spending, such as announced increases to minimum wage, changes to generic medication costs, and past increases to social assistance.
So what do anti-poverty advocates have to say about it? Leo Cheverie, a member of the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income, said following the unveiling of the strategy that it lacks the specific targets typically featured in poverty reduction plans in other provinces.
That's telling. Without clear targets, who's to judge down the road whether government has successfully implemented its poverty reduction strategy?
In announcing the plan, Ms. Docherty said she knew not everyone would be pleased with it, but pointed out that as government's first-ever such strategy, it's a "start."
She's right. But that's all it is. Far more needs to be done to address the causes of poverty and find lasting solutions to it.
Rescuing Cape Bear
The word that a volunteer community group has stepped forward to rescue Cape Bear Lighthouse, one of P.E.I.'s most storied structures, is good news. In the nick of time, a volunteer group has formed to adopt the Cape Bear treasure, the first Canadian lighthouse to receive the distress call from the Titanic in 1912.
So what does this mean? According to Martina MacDonald, general manager of Active Communities Inc., "it means the Cape Bear Lighthouse will stay in the hands of a community rather than become the property of a private owner."
It's too early to say yet, but many Island lighthouses won't be so lucky, now that the deadline set by Fisheries and Oceans Canada for adopting the lighthouses declared surplus has passed. When Ottawa announced last year that it was shedding responsibility for about 480 active lighthouses and nearly 490 inactive lighthouses, it encouraged communities and private groups interested in taking them over to announce their interest by the end of May this year.
The community group that has assumed charge of Cape Bear lighthouse, built in 1881, no doubt has its work cut out for it. Nevertheless, it deserves the appreciation of all Islanders for its commitment to preserving this site.