Edith Perry, left, spokeswoman for ALERT and Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty.
ALERT makes wrong decision cancelling meeting this week with Minister Docherty
The decision by a P.E.I. anti-poverty group to cancel a meeting with Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty is self-defeating and only makes the situation worse for those in need. One can understand the frustration among members of ALERT, a lobby group working on behalf of Islanders on social assistance. And one can understand the first reaction might be to cancel a meeting this week with Ms. Docherty.
The group is still angry that Ms. Docherty’s department left $2.3 million in social assistance and other support payments unspent last year because “the demand wasn’t there.” Adding to the outrage, the department then cut its budget this year for social programs by close to $2 million.
But the mandate for ALERT is clear: it lobbies government on behalf of Islanders on social assistance. How can it do that by canceling a meeting with the minister responsible? How can it push forward its case for the need to increase spending for social programs? How can it best provide the minister with proof that the need isn’t decreasing — it’s increasing and that a terrible mistake has been made?
ALERT made an error in judgment. Those in need are not having their voice heard by the group it depends on. ALERT argues it held numerous meetings over the years, apparently all for naught.
Ms. Docherty is on the hot seat in the legislature because the Opposition is pushing forward its attacks on the social assistance file. It sees a wrong, demands answers and challenges the minister, the department and the government to explain itself and be held accountable.
The Opposition is outraged. But it doesn’t boycott question period to make its point. No, it uses the opportunity to demand action for increases in social assistance.
The minister obviously knows there were errors made, she wants to make amends and explain what government’s plans are to make things right. ALERT should bury its fangs and talk to the minister face to face. That is the best way to help those in need and to ensure such incidents are not repeated. ALERT needs to be part of the solution.
The minister has a new five-year food program tying future rates to inflation. Is this a coincidence or was it because of Opposition criticism in the house and public expressions of outrage in the press?
Youth centre must succeed
There are special times when the right thing to do is very obvious and a common will emerges to make it happen. Such an event occurred this week in Montague at a public meeting to launch a youth centre in the town. Tearful teens, supported by family and friends, appealed to Montague Town Council for support in opening a youth centre. They hope to avoid another tragedy where three area youths died in a Charlottetown fire and another was injured.
People crowded into the meeting to offer support as volunteers and push council to move immediately to create a place where local teens can skateboard, hang out with friends and be safe. The situation was termed a crisis. Three teens shouldn’t have to die because there was nowhere to go and nothing to do in Montague. Now all sides have come together to do something about it. Council has pledged support; perhaps a temporary arrangement at the Wellness Centre until a permanent facility can be built or renovated.
Montague recently had a youth club called Generation X but it closed after a few years due to finances and volunteer issues. Let this be a lesson learned.
Area youths are to be applauded for taking the initiative, and adults and council for supporting this project.