Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia income assistance remains frozen for 2nd year

People living on income assistance protested Thursday as the government refused to increase the monthly amount, despite rises in the costs of living.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard says 'nothing' available to increase monthly rate

Protester Judy Deal makes her case at a Halifax protest on Thursday. 2:33

People living on income assistance protested Thursday as the government refused to increase the monthly amount, despite rises in the costs of living. 

"We need to live with dignity, not shame," said Judy Deal. "I don't care who you are or what you are: we all wipe our asses with the same toilet paper."

And that toilet paper keeps getting more expensive, she said, as inflation increases the costs of the basics beyond what the monthly allowance can cover. 

Deal said she's on disability benefits because she can't work.

"I've Crohn's, colitis, cancer — died twice, came back, amen," she said. "They have to work with us, not against us."

She and the other people at the Halifax protest struggle to cover all non-rent bills with $255 a month. 

Wayne MacNaughton doubts anyone could live on that amount. "We have to do that and we've had to do that consistently for over two years now because the current government hasn't seen fit to increase that rate at all."

MacNaughton and the others at the rally point out that the cost of living continues to rise. While food prices, power rates and other bills go up, their income remains the same.

Province offers 'nothing' in terms of increases

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said the income assistance program is being reviewed, but likely won't increase next year either. 

"In terms of money at this point in time: nothing," she said. "We are working on benefit reform to make sure we look at the longer term. We know that incremental changes, $2 here and $5 there, does not make a substantial difference in the lives of people."

Bernard said the benefit reform is still 18 to 24 months away.

The freeze is forcing some people to make tough decisions with their money.

"It's difficult to live this way and we need help, we need support," said Cassandra Cary. "Right now my social worker is on vacation, and so is her supervisor. There's nobody there for me to talk to. I'm tired of living this way and I hope you are all too."

Social worker Michelle Towill joined the protest. 

"A lot of these people can't work because of their disabilities and it's shameful the way we're treating people with disabilities in our country," she said. "They're not getting enough to live on."

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