Feds' new anti-poverty strategy 'a bit unusual' says P.E.I. group
'It was a disappointment to not see any new funding or new initiatives'
The new anti-poverty strategy announced Tuesday by Canada's Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos is "a bit unusual," says a P.E.I. group that is involved in the issue.
The strategy plans to pull more than two million people above the poverty line, reducing the rate of poverty by 50 per cent by 2030 — all without any new spending or policy promises. Instead, Duclos pointed to a list of already-announced federal programs worth $22 billion.
"We certainly welcome the federal government being more strategic about how it combats poverty with existing programs across the country," said Jillian Kilfoil, the executive director of Women's Network PEI, which is part of the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income.
"It's definitely a bit unusual, and we would welcome increased investments."
No basic income guarantee
"A lot of people engaged in anti-poverty work are keen to see the federal government roll out a pilot around basic income guarantee," Kilfoil said.
With Tuesday's announcement, that goal now looks more distant than ever.
"It was a disappointment to not see any new funding or new initiatives," Kilfoil said. "We don't see any movement to pilot something, although that could be an excellent role that the federal government could play."
More than a year ago, all three parties in the P.E.I. Legislature unanimously supported a motion urging the province to partner with the federal government to develop a basic income pilot project for P.E.I., but the federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development did not provide funding.
In June the province confirmed it has no plans for a basic income pilot project, and the government is developing its own poverty reduction strategy.
The reality of poverty
The federal government also promised to introduce legislation to entrench the official poverty line into law — the line will measure the cost of a modest standard of living. It is something Kilfoil applauds.
"I think reviewing the line as it relates to inflation is really important and something that hasn't been done," she said. "Wages aren't necessarily increasing and so as the cost of living increases, our indexes for how we measure these things need to be reframed and rethought."
Often people don't officially fall under the poverty line but still cannot live without constant financial stress, she said.
The government also announced a new council on poverty to advise the minister and report to Parliament on the government's progress. Kilfoil said she'd like to see people on the council "who have a lived experience of poverty ... they are experts in that reality."