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  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What’s next for BC? July 4, 2017
    Five weeks ago the CCPA-BC began a letter to our supporters with this statement: “What an interesting and exciting moment in BC politics! For a bunch of policy nerds like us at the CCPA, it doesn’t get much better than this.” At the time, we were writing about the just-announced agreement between the BC NDP […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Missed Opportunity for PEI Poverty Strategy

The government of Prince Edward Island has introduced a Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty, found online at PEI CSS.

This Action Plan follows community consultations, including face-to-face meetings and written submissions by community groups.

The government of PEI seems to take very seriously a Social Determinants of Health approach to poverty reduction, and so has exempted departments of health, education, and social services and seniors from broad government ‘belt-tightening’ designed to bring the provincial budget back to balance. In fact, these departments will see minimal new investments of $4 million over three years.

Given that Christine Saulnier and I estimated that poverty costs the PEI government just under $100 million per year in 2009 (The Cost of Poverty in PEI), any new investments in poverty elimination are welcome.

Also welcome is the recognition that spending needs to be focused on investments, such as affordable housing, weatherizing and repairs to existing housing, adult literacy, and early childhood education.

Most notably missing from Wednesday’s announcement is a set of clear goals, and a mechanism for evaluating progress towards those goals.

For example, the backgrounder on housing talks about the number of affordable housing units added since 2007, but does not indicate the level of current needs.

The PEI government’s 2011 report indicated that in 2006 there were 3, 640 tenant households in need of core housing (they spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs, their housing required significant repairs, or they were living in crowded quarters).

Since then, 340 affordable housing units have been added, meeting less than a tenth of the need. Even the increases in rent supplements and additional spending on affordable housing introduced in the Social Action plan will fall far short of the existing need for housing in PEI.

It is also unclear what the impact of HST will have on low income Islanders. In recognition of fixed incomes and the regressive nature of HST, home heating oil and children’s clothing are exempt, and low income Islanders will receive a rebate similar to the GST rebate. Still, it’s tough to know how much government spending on poverty reduction measures will be wiped out by the higher sales tax.

For a serious poverty reduction and elimination ‘Action Plan’, governments must honestly assess need, set clear goals, and transparently monitor progress towards those goals. If there is no method to evaluate progress and success, then there is also no method to enforce poverty reduction and elimination, and there is the risk that it becomes a purely cosmetic exercise.

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