Letter: provincial budget comes up short

A pen and a paper with the words letter to the editor on it

This article was originally published int the Sept. 30 edition of the Cape Breton Post. 

Ahead of the budget in Tuesday’s (Sept.26) Chronicle Herald, single mom Catherine Stevens made a direct plea to Stephen McNeil’s government—“I just want enough food for myself and my child.”

She is likely deeply disappointed with the budget announcement. We are too.

We’ve been really encouraged in recent months by our discussions with senior staff at the Department of Community Services – encouraged by their passion and commitment to be bold in transforming the Employment Support and Income Assistance program. Given that our province has the highest level of food insecurity out of all the provinces and that it continues to track in the wrong direction, we were expecting some big announcements in the recent budget around poverty reduction, noting that 2 of the government’s 5 priorities are healthy people and communities, and support for an aging population. $2 million with an unspecified allocation doesn’t reflect either the urgency or the reality. We’re in crisis and it desperately needs political leadership and support at the provincial level.

It’s frustrating and disheartening to hear government say that this budget reflects the values and priorities that they’ve heard from Nova Scotians. Because if that’s true, then shame on all of us for not making hunger and poverty a bigger priority.

Are there some things in the budget that will help? Absolutely, and we’d be wrong to not acknowledge initiatives like reduced taxes, and investing in affordable housing. But does it go far enough to address the depth of poverty that exists in our province? Not even close. People look to the provincial budget for hope and reassurance. Almost certainly, the thousands of Nova Scotians who rely on the agencies we support were looking for it. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone living with hunger and poverty in our province who found hope and reassurance in today’s budget.

After the formal budget address, Minister Casey said that instead of carrying on the tradition of buying new shoes to mark the occasion of a budget announcement, she bought shoes for a family who can’t afford to buy them. It was a gesture that no doubt came from a good place, but it speaks volumes for everything that’s wrong in this budget. The very fact that a mom in our province can’t afford to buy shoes—and food—for her children should stress the critical need for significant change.

Nick Jennery, Executive Director
Feed Nova Scotia