Year End Review: By the Numbers

December 29, 2016


Year end: the season for reviews and retrospective evaluations. And as 2016 slides off the stage, we’re hearing lots of disturbing numbers by which the performance of the McNeil Liberals may be judged.

HungerCount 2016, released by Feed Nova Scotia, shows that food bank use is up by 21% in the province in the last 12 months–the largest single provincial increase in the country. Over 30% of those affected, HungerCount reports, are children.

Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based social justice group, points out that 15% of the people of Nova Scotia live in poverty, the highest rate in Canada east of Manitoba.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that there are 37,450 children living in poverty in Nova Scotia, or 22.5% of the children in the province. Child poverty now exceeds 30% in Yarmouth, Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney, Sydney Mines and Eskasoni. Food bank use is up 49% from the year before in Halifax itself.

What these figures indicate is a sickening disgrace and scandal, to which the only response of the McNeil Liberals has been repeated self-congratulation concerning marginal improvements to the Income Assistance program introduced in this spring’s budget. The spectacle of the Liberal caucus’s serial standing ovations for Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard every time our Party brings up this subject, makes a person feel ashamed even to be with them in the same legislative House.

In 2016, our 6 MLAs brought forward more concrete, achievable proposals for addressing poverty in Nova Scotia than the 34 McNeil Liberals have suggested in the course of the last three years. Legislation to increase income assistance to a level that would allow people to get their food at a grocery store rather than a food bank. Legislation for a minimum wage of $15. Legislation extending the provisions of the Human Rights Code to make adequate food, health care and shelter enforceable human rights in Nova Scotia. Legislation providing for a study of the implementation of Guaranteed Annual Income in Nova Scotia. Legislation mandating that the same provisions under which Joanne Bernard was able to attend university while years ago receiving social assistance, should be made available to people receiving social assistance now.

2017 will be a year of great choice for the people of Nova Scotia: between the McNeil Liberals, for whom hunger is an acceptable price to pay for a balanced budget, and the NDP vision of the doors that can be opened through investment in our people’s opportunities, health and incomes.

Yours in this great struggle,