A coalition of community organizations are demanding that the new premier rescind the $5 million “investment” that Stephen McNeil announced for Sandpiper Ventures on February 5, 2021, and invest that money towards increasing capacity at women’s shelters and improving the affordability of childcare in the province.
Solidarity Kjipuktuk/Halifax, CUPE local 4745 (representing early childhood educators), Wellness Within, Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA), Second Story Women’s Centre (Lunenburg), Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia, St James United Church’s Social Justice Committee, and the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition are angered that the Liberal government is handing over millions to a business run by some of the wealthiest people in Nova Scotia.
Sandpiper Ventures‘ partners include Amy Risley, partner of billionaire John Risley; Karen Hutt, executive VP at Emera; and Sarah Young, managing partner responsible for Atlantic Canada at NATIONAL Public Relations, a Liberal-connected PR firm.
McNeil framed his announcement as being a form of targeted help toward women, who have seen disproportionate economic losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This $5 million corporate giveaway does very little to advance women’s economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Wyanne Sandler, chair of the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition. “Women have suffered disproportionately during this pandemic. They’ve been on the front lines as essential workers, they’ve been more likely to leave or to be pressured out of their jobs to do child care, and numerous studies have found rates of domestic violence have increased. On top of that we have the ongoing issue of deep and systemic poverty in this province, with among the highest rates of child poverty and the lowest rates of social assistance of anywhere in the country. Handing out millions to well-connected investors like those who run Sandpiper does nothing to address that.”
Government handouts for a venture capital fund is the last thing the vast majority of Nova Scotians need, and there are many other public investments which would have a much more significant impact on women in particular. For example, research shows the multiple, diverse economic and social benefits that public investment in child care has for caregivers, who are mainly women.
A $5-million gift to Sandpiper Ventures, on the other hand, is pure trickle-down economics—the idea that providing public benefits to the wealthy will “trickle down” to all classes of society. This theory has been thoroughly debunked.
Nova Scotia’s new premier Iain Rankin has tried to cultivate an image of being a progressive “agent of generational change” within the Liberal Party.
“If Iain Rankin is truly a progressive, one of the first things he can do is take back this public money and use it to invest in things that will really make a difference in the lives of most women in the province,” said Katrin MacPhee of Solidarity Kjipuktuk/Halifax.
“Services that predominantly help women are chronically underfunded, including services for domestic and sexual assault survivors, reproductive rights, and child care. Just this month some workers in the child care sector have started a campaign for wage parity with their peers in pre-primary.
“If the government wants to help women, it should rescind this $5 million corporate giveaway—and all corporate giveaways, for that matter—and invest that money towards increased capacity at women’s shelters and improving the affordability of childcare in the province,” said MacPhee.