N.S. anti-poverty plan focuses on housing, retraining
The Nova Scotia government is promising to spend millions of dollars on new housing and retraining as part of a multi-year strategy to reduce poverty.
Community Services Minister Chris d'Entremont said the idea is to help low-income Nova Scotians by giving them proper shelter and a chance to get a job.
Under the $155-million plan, people on income assistance only get a modest increase to offset the cost of living.
"Housing is the most important necessity for somebody who's living in poverty," said d'Entremont, in Kentville for the launch of the anti-poverty strategy.
"We can get a heck of a lot more done with $9 million in housing then, let's say, increasing the IA [income assistance] rates by $25. Twenty-five dollars a month won't give you a whole lot."
About $88 million is to train workers with less than a Grade 12 education, while $59 million is for affordable housing and the development of a provincial housing strategy.
There's also more money for more child-care subsidies and an expansion of the child benefit and low-income pharmacare program for children.
Stephanie Hunter, one of the advisers on the project, calls the action plan a good first step. However, she said, there's work to do on assistance rates.
"Is it enough? No. And I think everybody would say that. I think it's a start. I think it's a commitment. Does it have to go up more? Certainly it does," Hunter said.
Claredon Robicheau, another adviser, helped to establish a wheelchair-accessible transportation service in Clare. There's a commitment to that kind of service in the government's plan, but no money allocated to it.
"It better be in the next provincial budget — and that's going to be the bottom line on the transportation issue," Robicheau said.
Both Hunter and Robicheau hope the government follows through on its strategy.
D'Entremont said he would have liked to do more, but the government is doing what it can afford to do right now.
With files from The Canadian Press