There's still much work to be done

Submitted by Gayle Collicutt

The cruel and inhumane policy of deducting child support from single parents reliant on Income Assistance comes to an end in August 2018. It's a victory for single parents and their children, but there is more to be done.

Canvassing public housing communities with the clawback petition, hearing the issues outside of the child support clawback was alarming and confusing. This is a first world country and we have people living 30 to 60% below the poverty line. Housing is neglected. The most common complaint I heard from tenants of Nova Scotia Housing is the black mould. You could feel it in the air in some units. Deferred maintenance at Housing Nova Scotia is well over one hundred million dollars.

We are the only province who does not have an advocate for children. We have the ombudsman, but the main focus seems to be for children in the care of the Community Services minister. Who is the voice for the children in poverty in loving homes? Even with loving proactive parents, many reliant on Department of Community Services are terrified to speak out. They fear they will see even more cuts to their ESIA cheques.

We need an advocate for our vulnerable children; an ally to parents struggling to pay the bills, who are under constant duress. Some go hungry just to ensure their children do not go without.

How can children learn, grow and reach their full potential when we enforce policies that exacerbate income inequality and food insecurity, both having negative effects on their physical, emotional and psychological health? Our children need and deserve unconditional investment. There are communities with 40% or more of their children living in poverty. If we don’t invest now, our future as a province is bleak. With a child poverty rate of 22% in Nova Scotia, if we don’t address this crisis now, we will have fewer graduates, less skilled people in the workforce, and more generations of families reliant on DCS.  

As a province and country, we keep investing in band-aid programs or short-term solutions that seem to spend more on administration costs than on the needs of those living below the poverty line.

The rates for ESIA recipients need to be raised before 2019-20. Shelter rates have sat stagnant since 1995. The personal allowance for food and utilities is $275, and there has been no raise to that allowance since 2016, even with rising food, shelter and utility costs.  

Leaving people with little to no buying power or without the means to survive has negative effects on the economy. Our economy cannot grow to its full potential by keeping so many people below the poverty line.

According to the RBC economic forecast, Nova Scotia is projected to have the worst economy of the Maritime provinces this year. I wonder if Nova Scotia having the highest child poverty in Atlantic Canada, and the province with highest food insecurity is having a negative impact on our economy.

In 2008, poverty cost the public and private sectors an estimated $2 billion. That is a little under 20% of the 2018-19 NS budget. How is this acceptable to any government?  Any party? When you review the books for Department of Community Services and the numerous NGOs that were founded to address poverty, along with charity via the churches, it is unreal what we are spending to combat poverty, yet somehow it keeps getting worse.

We need investment in people and implement policies that give people a hand up, instead of policies that perpetuate the $2 billion poverty economy in Nova Scotia.


Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate living in Nova Scotia. If you have a perspective you'd like to share on our blog, please get in touch: