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Kendall Worth asks: Was the Liberal government good or bad for people living in poverty?

Kendall Worth is a poverty activist and a frequent contributor to the Nova Scotia Advocate.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Well, the Liberal government here in Nova Scotia is calling an election, and they are doing so before the Social Assistance transformation is completed. We still don’t even know what that transformation entails.

We may not know what is in the transformation, but we do know that while this current Liberal Government was in power it has shown they do not care about people living in poverty and on social assistance.

Author and activist Kendall Worth (left) at a recent anti-poverty rally at Province House. Photo Robert Devet

In a nutshell:

  • We have seen the income assistance rates frozen for two years.
  • In the third year we received a $20.00 increase, which hardly made a dent.
  • We have never seen the amount increase in the Poverty Reduction tax credit or the Affordable Living Tax Credit.
  • People on income assistance continue to lose their special needs like bus passes, telephones, and special diets.
  • We have seen a social assistance transformation that went as slow as cold molasses.

The Liberals have shown their true colours in that they do not care about poverty during their time in office.   

The social assistance transformation, also called the Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) transformation has been underway ever since the Liberal government gained power and Joanne Bernard was minister of Community Services.

beMany people who are living in poverty and receiving ESIA benefits are scared to come forward and join advocacy groups like the Benefit Reform Action Group (BRAG). They know that there is a transformation taking place, but they are not paying attention to the reality of this ESIA transformation.  

Unlike members of the Benefits Reform Action Group, Community Society to End Poverty, and the Community Advocates Network, these people have not been in touch with the bureaucrats of the Department of Community Services.

The poverty activists in these groups know that Community Services is keeping the work of their transformation a mystery.

Research shows that in other jurisdictions where the welfare system has been reformed, transformation turned out not to be a good thing. In some places around the world the welfare system has been privatized.  

This idea of privatizing the system could be one of many of mystery examples that Joanne Bernard could have up her sleeve for the future of the ESIA program here in Nova Scotia.  The reality is we do not know what is in store as the end result of this transformation.

This current Liberal Government had made a lot of broken promises to people in Nova Scotia, and showed they do not care about those of us living in poverty. As matter of fact we have seen the ESIA system get worse since this Liberal government got into power.

If the government  cared then they would not have frozen the rates for two years, and if the transformation was going to be good thing, they would have moved it along. The third year, when we got that $20.00 increase, they would have given us an increase of more than that. After all that $20.00 hardly made a dent for most of us ESIA clients.

If this current Liberal Government did keep its promises then everyone who lost their special needs would have gotten them back by now. I also talked a bit about this in a recent article I wrote titled “Hey ho, Joanne Benard has got to go.”

Something they might be creating during this mystery ESIA transformation is a system of austerity. This will mean a system where clients have even more difficulties with the system then they have now. After all, this current Liberal government has already proven itself to be an austerity government.

When it comes to looking at welfare reform, what seems to get overlooked is who requires welfare. The ESIA transformation seems not to be giving much attention to persons with disabilities that need to be on the system because they cannot work. At least that is part of the vibe advocates are getting from this reform.  

These people cannot be employed in the regular job market. The vibe benefits reform action is getting when we meet with the ESIA bureaucrats is they are not paying too much attention to these people.

What needs to be understood by the government is that for this group of ESIA clients their situation is never going to change. Really they are keeping it a mystery whether or not they are even looking at this.

One thing is for sure, the liberal government has no interest in tackling the root causes of poverty. The government does not care about stereotypes and stigma that people who receive ESIA benefits are facing every day.  

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