Tackling poverty is the right thing to do from both an ethical and economic perspective. People in poverty are not only those who are utterly destitute, but those who are treading water, paycheque to paycheque.
Recent data show that over 50,000 Islanders live at or below the official measure of poverty (Market Basket Measure). We also know that one in five Island children are not getting enough to eat. When poverty is the experience of a third of our entire population, it has to be a priority for government.
We cannot afford to ignore poverty
Economic downturns, like the COVID-19 pandemic, have shined light on the precarious financial conditions of Islanders and just how vulnerable people can become in an instant. It is more cost-effective to prevent poverty than to accept it and live with it. In fact, we cannot afford to ignore it.
When we reduce poverty, we reduce long-term reliance on social support programs, while ensuring they are available for people in need. Addressing poverty builds stronger communities and allows all Islanders to experience security and dignity. Eliminating the cycle of poverty will change the future for Islanders with better education and health outcomes. By choosing to work towards the elimination of poverty, we are ensuring that no Islander is left behind.
Establishing a framework to tackle poverty
I am proposing legislation that establishes a framework by which government must tackle poverty in PEI, and establishes clear, aggressive targets to do so.
The proposed Poverty Strategy and Elimination Act would:
- set progressive, tangible goals toward ending poverty, food insecurity, and chronic homelessness;
- officially establish the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as PEI’s measure of poverty;
- establish the framework for the poverty reduction council;
- create ministerial responsibility for poverty;
- identify performance indicators and annual reporting requirements, and the associated data required to support;
- Require government to develop a strategy with accountability.
This legislation empowers government to take action to achieve the proposed targets. It allows for all-of-government programs and activities to develop creative solutions, and work with other partners, including the federal government and community organizations.
Download a copy of the proposed legislation and report of the Special Committee on Poverty in PEI here:
- Poverty Strategy and Elimination Act – Consultation Draft
- Final Report – Special Committee on Poverty in PEI
I invite interested parties to send their thoughts, comments, and questions to the Official Opposition by emailing [email protected] or by calling the office at (902) 620-3977.
Please be sure to submit comments before February 12, 2021.
Join Hannah Bell LIVE on Wednesday, February 3rd to discuss this bill! See www.greenparty.pe.ca/outside_the_rails_with_hannah_bell.
Hannah Bell is the MLA for Charlottetown-Belvedere and Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing