KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This Saturday a group of anti-poverty activists is holding a rally and march in North Dartmouth, the constituency of Joanne Bernard, the current minister of Community Services. They hope to raise awareness of the many difficulties people on income assistance face under the current welfare system.
The Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG) believes that Bernard has lost touch with her North Dartmouth constituents, many of whom rely on income assistance, says Tim Blades, one of the BRAG organizers of the event. Bernard is Blades’ MLA, but it’s a safe bet he won’t be voting for her.
“Bernard froze the rates, and then when we got this $20 increase she called it historic,” says Blades. “Yes, it may have been historic, but that in itself is a very sad statement.”
No welfare rate increases were mentioned in this year’s budget. This means recipients will actually lose from $12 to $18 or more per month in buying power to inflation, depending on their circumstances. This may not sound like much, but it means a lot when literally every penny counts.
Meanwhile advocates continue to hear from more and more people who suffered cuts to their special diets and bus passes.
Lots of people on income assistance are reluctant to make waves, fearing retribution by an all powerful department of Community Services.
Blades, who at times writes for the Nova Scotia Advocate, shrugs. “We have a democratic right to speak out. I used to be fearful myself. I remember we published my first article anonymously, but now I use my full name. There is no reason to worry.”
The march starts this Saturday May 27 at noon, at the grassy area closest the Crosswalk, on the Nantucket Road side of the Bridge Terminal. In total, the walk will be about 25 – 30 minutes for someone walking alone, at a normal pace. Because protesters are walking in a larger group, it will likely take about 45 minutes and a little longer for anyone with mobility issues. There are no hills on the route.
Here is the Facebook event.
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