KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – You regular readers of the Nova Scotia Advocate may remember this recent story about the petition Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc will present after Province House resumes business later this week.
The petition calls for an end to certain 100% clawbacks from social assistance.
I want to let the readers know that I had the pleasure recently of going door to door in Halifax Chebucto with Gary Burrill, MLA and leader of the Nova Scotia NDP.
It was a great day out and there was lots of support at the doors.
Also I got to have a conversation with Gary Burrill talking about his reasons why he supports the position.
This is what happens. Some people on social assistance have jobs, and while you work you are entitled to keep a portion of the money you earn.
However, if you lose your job and for a period of time you receive employment insurance (EI) benefits, then those benefits get clawed back at 100 percent.
The same 100 percent clawback happens when you receive income through self employment, and also when you receive disability payments by the Canada Pension Plan. Those payments too are clawed back one hundred percent.
Gary Burrill and I talked about how he recognizes the real facts about income assistance. His basic principle why he supports the position is that people have to live and people needs enough money to live on.
Gary says, “it is all about living life with dignity.” Gary Burrell is a strong believer in this.
During my conversation with Gary, one thing he brought to my attention is the fact that his constituency office has gotten phone calls about people earning self employment income and it getting clawed back from income assistance at 100%. Gary believes there should be no harm in people engaging in different projects to make some extra money.
You and your employer pay into Employment Insurance, so when any person loses their job, we should be entitled to receive EI without any harm done. I as the writer agree with Gary 100%.
Gary noted that there is no food bank in his constituency. When people ask he points them to the neighboring district of Halifax Needham, the district of NDP MLA Lisa Roberts.
One thing Gary Burrill believes however is that if everyone had enough money to live then food banks would not be needed.
One thing Gary Burrill also talked about during my conversation with him is how when he was a United Church minister he learned over the years that people who live financially better off lives often get better and or quicker help from the mental health system.
Gary talked about how as a minister he used to counsel people as part of his work. Gary said, “when you preach at a church in a rural community people often look upon their their local minister as their only available counsellor.”
Then he went on to say “the nearest professional help could be an hour drive away.”
Also, another point Gary made is that before becoming an MLA he has personally seen the effects that low income has on mental health. Gary and I both agreed that having a higher income to live on would reduce the amount of mental health issues our community has to deal with.
One thing Gary Burrill mentioned is that what his constituency office has in common with the offices of fellow NDP MLAs Lisa Roberts and Susan Leblanc that his office also gets calls about people’s rent and bills getting behind.
Gary’s dream is that “everyone will someday have enough money to pay rent, keep bills up to date, and to buy healthy food at a grocery store.”
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