featured Poverty

Joanne Bernard is gone. Now what?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I am still getting used to the idea that Joanne Bernard is now the former  Minister of Community Services, soundly beaten in Dartmouth North by NDP candidate Susan Leblanc. Her awful record on welfare issues played a large part in her defeat. So for poor people and their allies, what’s next in the fight for a life in dignity?

I am not shedding any tears for Bernard. Lives on welfare are hard lives, and Joanne Bernard the minister did next to nothing to change things for the better.  

Photo Wikipedia

Of course, whoever replaces Bernard will be Liberal politician as well, so expect a couple of superficial changes, and maybe even a bit of a honeymoon, but in the long run it will be the same old punitive austerity.

Even had another party won the election, departments have ways to execute their own agendas. Ministers come and go, while civil servants stick around.

It is no coincidence that the cruel cuts to bus passes and other special needs allowances began under the previous NDP regime. We complained about departmental secrecy under Bernard, but Community Services has never operated otherwise. Old habits die hard.

What is exciting about Bernard’s loss is that to some extent she lost because of her record as the minister of Community Services. There were other reasons as well, but the hard work of anti-poverty advocates, their rallies and campaigns, were a major factor. Not just during the election, but over the years. We haven’t seen that in Nova Scotia for a while. 

So as we gain momentum, we need to continue to push the envelope. People on welfare need to continue to speak out, which- never forget – takes a lot of courage. We need to support ACORN Nova Scotia, the Benefits Reform Action Group, the Community Advocates Network and whatever other organizations are out there.  Right now these groups are very much on their own, they could use some help.

We need to defeat the next Bernard, and the next one after that, until politicians get the message, take charge of Community Services, and make some real changes.

Meanwhile, it’s job security for the Nova Scotia Advocate.

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A pay wall is not an option since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of kindhearted monthly sustainers.



  1. Ms. Bernard forgot where she came from. She could have been a voice for the poor and challenged, but she chose not to do that, she chose the easy way and decided to not stand up for poor people, but rather aquiese to her political leader and Cabinet.

  2. Tom Goodyear, Ms Bernard came from a solid middle class background. In the beginning, she championed the cause of those like her, who needed a hand up at some point. The welfare system is much more challenging, on the whole. The Liberals gave people on assistance a 20 dollar a month raise .If you do the math, that is a lot of bucks . Is it all about how much a dept has to give out? Hope the NDP rep can figure it out.

  3. How could somebody that has been on Social Services and has been there and seen how hard it is to survive just walk away and not bother standing up for those that have ask for help . I have said several times Ms. Bernard should be ashamed of herself getting 2 degrees and being on social services but refused to help people who reached out to her shame on you Ms Bernard ..

  4. How could somebody that has been on Social Services and has been there and seen how hard it is to survive just walk away and not bother standing up for those that have ask for help shame on Ms.Bernard.

  5. As the former NDP Minister of Community Services I am wondering where your facts came from saying the NDP cut bus passes and special needs allowance? In fact we increased eye glasses and other special needs. We recognized the importance of bus passes. We reduced poverty overall in the province by 18%. We introduced the poverty reduction credit and affordable tax credit. Senior’s rebates was increased to $800, child tax credit was increased, we changed the income assistance rules allowing people to live together for one year without combining incomes, income assistance rates were increase by $75 and in 2012 we iniated the transformation of ESIA ( which Bernard claimed as her project and continually used it as an excuse for not increasing the rates until the election budget in 2015/2016 since the 2016/2017 budget was not passed). We also developed the first provincial housing strategy and a 10 year plan for person’s with disabilities to move into community options. The Liberals did nothing with these ready to go plans. This is not even a full list of positive changes made by the NDP so I have to wonder why always the lack of recognition for all this important work in one NDP mandate?

Comments are closed.