SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - The issue of poverty is near and dear to Cassandra MacLean, who has experienced it herself at various points on her life.
She recalled a time, years ago, when all she had to eat in her house was a single green pepper someone had given her.
It’s hard to talk about, she said, because there is still a stigma attached to not having enough and having to ask for help.
MacLean was one of about 45 people who attended a recent public session giving input into P.E.I.’s new Poverty Reduction Action Plan.
It was the final input session of several that had been held across the Island.
“I hope that real change comes out of it. I would love it if people, if groups, if the government would actually start to look at the bigger picture.”
Topics covered included the impacts poverty can have on the community and the individuals who experience it. Attendees also discussed possible solutions.
The Poverty Reduction Advisory Council, which is gathering data and writing the new action plan, also shared some of its preliminary findings, based on the feedback it has received. Islanders have told the council they want the action plan to focus on, in the following order: housing; employment and wages; food security; social services and supports; health services.
Roxanne Carter Thompson, chairwoman of the advisory council, said the input process has been full of engaged people, passionate about the goal of eliminating poverty.
“There are some issues we have in our community, but I believe we can help find the solution,” said Carter Thompson.
But, while most of those who spoke at the meeting were happy that this conversation was taking place, they were skeptical that government will actually follow through and do anything with the action plan once it’s completed.
“I hope that real change comes out of it,” said MacLean. “I would love it if people, if groups, if the government would actually start to look at the bigger picture,” she said.
The Poverty Reduction Advisory Council hopes to deliver its action plan to the provincial government by the fall.
Want to wade into the debate? Write a letter to the editor and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include a name, address and daytime telephone number where the author can be contacted. Letters should be no more than 250 words.