Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Nova Scotia NDP promises to raise income assistance rates by $90 per month

NDP Leader Gary Burrill says his party would raise income assistance rates by $90 a month if they form the next Nova Scotia government.

Party released costed details for its election platform on Monday

Terry Madden (left), talks with NDP Dartmouth North candidate Susan Leblanc and NDP Leader Gary Burrill during an event on Monday. (CBC)

NDP Leader Gary Burrill says his party would raise income assistance rates by $90 a month if they form the next Nova Scotia government.

Burrill released costing for the first year of his party's campaign promises during a news conference on Monday.

He said the increase in income assistance rates would help the most vulnerable members of the province while other measures, such as permanent rent control and $15 per hour minimum wage, take effect.

The spring budget passed by the Liberals prior to the election included a $100 per month increase in assistance payments. Burrill said his $27.5-million commitment would be on top of that.

The party's plan would see it spend $247 million in the first year on pledges that include more money for arts and culture ($23 million), stimulus for Cape Breton ($50 million), free before- and after-school childcare ($15.6 million) and improved standards of care at long-term care homes ($40 million).

The central issue

But for the NDP, no issue during this campaign has been more front and centre than housing.

On Monday, Burrill highlighted the story of someone on a fixed income who has experienced rent increases that push the means of their ability to stay in their home.

"I adopted my cats out," said Terry Madden as he explained to Burrill how he coped with his last rent increase. "I shop in the flyer."

Along with the promise for permanent rent control, the NDP would also build 1,000 new units of affordable housing during the four years of a mandate.

Cost of capital promises

Burrill said that's where the party's focus is because that's what people are talking to him about.

"I'm campaigning in a lot of different constituencies," he said.

"In every week of this campaign, the number of conversations that turn to affordable housing and rent control is more than the week before. This is an absolute alive, deep, worrying concern to people all across the province."

Susan Leblanc, the NDP candidate for Dartmouth North, said a great concern for her about the housing situation is that if people are priced out of their apartments by rent increases or renovations, there are few — if any — options for them to tap into.

Along with the program spending promises, the NDP also put a cost on its capital promises. The 1,000 affordable housing units would cost up to $158.4 million, while the promise of a single room for anyone who wants one in long-term care would cost $386 million. Home retrofits and deep retrofitting of public housing would initially cost $63 million.

Those capital costs would be spread over the life of the projects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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