BY SUSAN HARTLEY
Re: Almost $100 million pours into P.E.I. (Guardian, opinion page, Feb. 17, 2018)
Pouring money into P.E.I. in the form of a child benefit is, as Mary Boyd has stated, an encouraging sign, however Bobby Morrissey’s conclusion that it ensures a healthy and happy childhood for young Islanders is an interesting, and possibly exaggerated, claim. His statement certainly goes to the heart of what every parent wants for their children; however, it is naive to think that money alone will ensure health and happiness.
For most families living in poverty, the Canada Child Benefit only brings them closer to a livable income and gives them slightly more choice in how they spend that money. It is not enough to ensure adequate housing, food security, access to technology, transportation needs, or secure and regular employment - basic needs more easily available to those in middle and higher income brackets.
As well, it does not ‘ensure’ that a child’s educational and health needs are met in a province that struggles to provide timely and appropriate educational and mental health supports, and whose efforts to reduce poverty is ranked the worst in the country.
It has been shown that children’s happiness is related to success in social relationships and education and to the happiness and health of their parents, most notably their mothers. And yes, more money can help to relieve stress on low wage earners, single parents living in poverty, and parents of exceptional needs children. However, it does not ‘ensure’ that parents can access the social, health and educational and employment supports that they need to experience wellness and success for themselves and their children.
Mr. Morrissey’s other claim, that this money promotes “the Island economy,” is also interesting in that one suspects this should not be one of the primary reasons for bringing families living in poverty closer to a livable income level. It is well documented that the social costs of not eliminating, or at least significantly reducing, poverty, far outweigh any possible benefits to the Island economy that the child benefit may bring.
Frankly, I find Mr. Morrissey’s comments reflect a politician who is unaware of the daily struggle of too many Islanders. Pouring money into P.E.I. is not enough.
Some statistics about poverty on P.E.I.:
In 2015, the number of people living in low income was 22,700;
The total cost of poverty for the Government of P.E.I. is between $240 and $320 million per year;
Food insecurity dropped 1.6 per cent in 2014 to 15.1 per cent of households. However, the province still has one of the worst
records of children facing food insecurity;
As of January 2018, the unemployment rate was 10.6 per cent, the third highest of all provinces and territories, and almost double the national average of 5.9 per cent.
- Susan Hartley, Georgetown Royalty, is health and wellness critic, Green Party of P.E.I.