Nova Scotia

Community Services minister attacks policy within her own department

The cabinet minister responsible for social assistance is taking her own department to task for its policy of not helping temporarily cash-strapped Nova Scotians who have jobs.

Joanne Bernard says not helping working people in cash crunch 'absolutely ludicrous'

Joanne Bernard, the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, is concerned about reports of sexual assault by taxi drivers in Halifax. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The cabinet minister responsible for social assistance is taking her own department to task for its policy of not helping temporarily cash-strapped Nova Scotians who have jobs.

Working people who need emergency funds to help pay for the essentials should get that help from the province, Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said Wednesday in the Nova Scotia legislature.

Current policy in her own department disqualifies anyone with a job from getting that kind of short-term aid.

'Absolutely ridiculous!'

"Income assistance in this province will only help you if you quit your job and you go on income assistance," said Bernard.

"That is absolutely ludicrous that we can not help people in the short term when they are going through financial bumps in their life. And that we insist they lose their employment in order to get help from the province. It's absolutely ridiculous!"

It's a policy Bernard said might change as part of her reform of social assistance in the province.

The minister made the comments during debate on an NDP resolution aimed at drawing attention to the fact poor people and families often cannot afford to eat properly.

Policy disconnect

Bernard used the example of a woman who approached her during the last provincial election campaign.

According to Bernard, the woman was a flag person on a construction site that was temporarily shut down. The layoff meant the woman got behind on her daycare payments. 

Bernard says when the woman paid the daycare bill, she didn't have enough for rent. She approached the Department of Community Services for temporary help, only to learn it was only available to people who had no other means of support.

Bernard said this was one example of the discussions ongoing within her department to redesign a system that makes sense.

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