Bill aimed at eliminating poverty on P.E.I. passes second reading
'More than anything else it sets a legislative commitment to do that'
A bill that sets targets aimed at eradicating poverty on P.E.I. took another step forward today after passing second reading in the legislature.
The bill, which was tabled by Opposition critic for social development and housing Hannah Bell would establish a framework and set targets to help government tackle poverty-related issues with the goal of eliminating poverty entirely.
"More than anything else it sets a legislative commitment to do that," Bell said.
"By putting a framework in place that has clear targets, measures, definitions and accountability for the minister responsible then what that does is requires government to actually take and report on actions specifically against those targets, that's a really important thing."
Bell said the first hard targets the bill would set would be to reduce child food insecurity, ensuring children have enough to eat as well as chronic homelessness.
"Initially we want to see a 50 per cent reduction in both of those spaces with the eventual goal of eliminating them completely," Bell said.
The bill would also see the creation of a poverty elimination council, which would be responsible for advising policies aimed at addressing poverty-related issues and social inclusion. The council would also be tasked with helping to create annual reports on how the poverty elimination strategy is progressing.
Minister says targets are aggressive but doable
Bell said the Poverty Strategy and Elimination Act also aims to fill in some of the gaps in the province's existing poverty reduction action plan.
Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers said the bill passing second reading marks a good day in Island politics, and thanked Bell for bringing it forward.
"This puts it in legislation, I give kudos to the member from Charlottetown-Belvedere for bringing it forward," Trivers said.
"We worked together with her closely, the department worked together and came up with something that I think everyone is going to work toward," Trivers said.
He said once the bill becomes law, the first step will be establishing a poverty elimination council, but the big question the department will need to address is how it will meet the poverty elimination targets.
He said government has made progress under its existing poverty reduction plan — specifically with programs like the school food initiative for Island students and investments in food allowances for social assistance recipients — but there still is a long way to go.
"Can our existing poverty reduction plan get us there? I would say probably not, I think we have to rethink what we're doing," Trivers said.
Trivers said his department has reviewed the targets and while they are aggressive, he believes they are achievable.
"Can we do it, yes. It's going to be difficult and we have to be aggressive but we're going to make it happen. We have to, especially when it comes to eliminating poverty."
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With files from Kerry Campbell