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Poverty needs more focus in Sask. election

By Frank Flegel

03/23/2016

REGINA — A group of anti-poverty activists and supporters listed a series of questions they want the public to ask of their candidates for the April 4 Saskatchewan election. They feel poverty is not getting the attention it deserves from candidates and want the public to bring their issues to the campaign.

The Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, Poverty Free Saskatchewan and Regina Education and Action on Child Hunger (REACH) attended a March 16 news conference to discuss poverty issues and present 10 questions they want asked of candidates for all parties.

The 10 questions all start with the phrase, “What are your party’s plans for,” then go into specifics: legislation to ensure provincial anti-poverty strategy upholds social and economic rights; Saskatchewan’s commitment to protect under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; increasing benefits under the Saskatchewan Assistant Plan; the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability and ensure an adequate income for all; increase wage and other exemptions under those plans; move the minimum wage to an actual livable wage; expand quality affordable and social housing; expand subsidized child care spaces; support a food security strategy; implement sustainable food procurement policies and ensure healthy and culturally appropriate food is served in all provincial facilities; equity of opportunity and remuneration for women, indigenous people, visible minorities and the disabled; and address wealth and income inequality.

The group complained that little has changed in support programs over the years, and even during the province’s boom years the poor were still suffering inadequate supports.

Spokesperson for the group, Peter Gilmore of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, said the province and Canada are violating the human rights section of the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Gilmore said the questions they put forward are not just social policy concerns, they are basic human rights according to the covenant.

“You have to have a plan that has a monitoring agent, it has to have enforcement that holds government in check. The reality is that we don’t have that and I don’t believe that we can count on political goodwill. Regardless of the political climate, regardless of the public mood, we need to have protections for the most vulnerable.”

He quoted figures from the Green Party platform that moving everyone in the province to above the poverty cut-off line would be less than $700 million a year, while the poverty cost campaign says $3.8 billion a year is spent on the costs of poverty.

“I would suggest that making sure that everybody is moved out of poverty is less costly in the long term and the more practical solution.”

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