PEI

Greens call on government to increase social assistance rates on P.E.I.

The Green caucus spent much of question period asking about social assistance rates, and sharing some of the challenges faced by people living in poverty as they try to meet their daily needs.

PCs agree more needs to be done to help those in poverty

Green MLA Hannah Bell questioned the PCs on social assistance rates during question period Tuesday. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

Green MLA Hannah Bell called on government Tuesday to increase social assistance rates on P.E.I. 

The Green caucus spent much of question period asking about social assistance rates, and sharing some of the challenges faced by people living in poverty as they try to meet their daily needs.

"Mr. Premier, how can you wait one day longer while we know that individuals on social assistance have no other option than to go hungry, or watch their children go hungry," said Bell. 

Premier Dennis King said he doesn't know "what the simple answer is," but agreed that it is an "important issue" — and that more needs to be done to help those living in poverty. 

'Periods are expensive'

Bell raised concerns not just about money allocated for food each month, but also for other basic personal needs. She asked how Islanders should budget $24 a month for personal hygiene — particularly women on their periods. 

"Periods are expensive," Bell said. "I've heard from young women living in poverty that they can't always afford menstrual pads or tampons. They resort to using other not as effective or hygienic means like fast-food napkins, and will skip school or work during their period."

Darlene Compton, minister responsible for the status of women, said she agrees that it's 'unacceptable' that women living in poverty can't always afford menstrual products. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

Darlene Compton, minister responsible for the status of women, agreed that the need to resort to those measures is "unacceptable," and that it is an issue she will work to address.

"I think we all realize that it's impossible to budget with that amount of money. We as a government want to ensure that every Islander lives with dignity, and has the means to do that," Compton said. 

Continuing push for basic income

Premier Dennis King said the province will continue to try to partner with the federal government to set up a basic income pilot project. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

In responding to questions from Bell, Compton and King, along with Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson, brought up government's continued efforts to partner with the federal government on a basic income pilot project. 

"We have to transform how we do this. If we're going to be serious about helping those who need help, those most vulnerable, we have to continue to explore things like a basic income guarantee," said King. 

Bell thanked the premier for his "thoughtful answer," and said she looks forward to continuing to work together on long-term solutions. But she said more needs to be done to help Islanders right away.

"In the interim, we still have the challenge of the more month than money." 

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