Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

Posted by strattof on October 27, 2017

Over the past 18 months, the provincial government has announced many cuts to social programs and public services. These include:

  • Cuts to Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID), “an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities.”
  • Cuts to the High Calorie Special Needs Diet program
  • Cuts to the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement, a program that supplements the income of low income families with children
  • Cuts to the Transitional Employment Allowance
  • The elimination of funeral service coverage for poor people
  • The elimination of the grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance
  • The elimination of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company
  • The elimination of funding for public libraries in Regina and Saskatoon and more than half the funding for regional libraries 

The government also announced it was hiking income assistance over-payment recovery rates, the “overpayment” rarely the fault of the client.

Such cuts and hikes are an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

SUCCESSFUL RESISTANCE

Many people in Saskatchewan want to live in a more socially just society. We have been hard at work ever since the first cuts were announced. Together, we have achieved some victories.

Success stories include:

  • A reversal of the cuts to the SAID program for those currently on the program: The cuts still apply to all new applicants and to anyone who changes address.
  • A reversal of the cut of the grant for children’s school supplies
  • A partial reversal of the cut to funeral coverage: Now the government will pay $2,800, rather than $3,800.
  • A reinstatement of library funding for this year

As well, the provincial government announced just last week that it is reversing its planned 1% reduction to the corporate income tax rate—a corporate tax break that exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s claim that we all have to tighten our belts in the face of the provinces’ $1.2 billion deficit.

These are huge victories. We must celebrate them and use them to give added momentum to our struggle for social justice.

REVERSE ALL THE CUTS

A first step is to demand that the government reverse all the cuts. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those cuts so we can get a sense of the impact they are having on people.

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The government has cut the allowance for people on social assistance who are looking for work by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people. For example, a single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.

SASKATCHEWAN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY (STC)

  • 70% of STC riders were low-income.
  • Many First Nations used STC. In BC, the absence of a rural bus service resulted in the Highway of Tears.
  • 300 rural cancer patients used STC to get to their medical appointments.
  • Many newly-released prisoners relied on STC to return to their communities.

REVERSING THE CUTS IS NOT ENOUGH

Getting the government to reverse all the cuts is a good first step. But it will not be enough to end poverty in Saskatchewan.

Even before any of the cuts came into effect, many people in our province had to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries. Now, even more people are facing these harsh alternatives.

The facts of social misery and injustice are increasingly there for us all to see—if we are willing to look.

Here are two of those facts:

  • A single person on the SAID program living in Regina receives $1,064 a month as a general living allowance to cover rent, food, and all other expenses. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $981.
  • Officially, Regina has 458 homeless people. That’s the figure on the YWCA’s Registry of Homeless People in Regina. The actual figure is in the 1000s. A vastly disproportionate number of Regina’s homeless population is Indigenous, 75% according to a 2015 study.

ENDING POVERTY

This is our next project: Ending poverty in Saskatchewan. Here are a few suggestions on how we might do it—and pay for it.

  1. Increase income support payments so that everyone in the province has an income above the poverty line.
  2. Adopt a Living Wage policy. A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each needs to earn in order to meet the family’s basic requirements and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is $16.46 an hour.
  3. Expand quality affordable housing.
  4. Implement a Saskatchewan Poverty Elimination Act which recognizes in enforceable legislation the right of everyone to an adequate income, adequate housing, and fair wages for a decent living.
  5. Raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

  • Contact Premier Brad Wall and tell him you want his government to reverse all the cuts and then to start working on ending poverty in Saskatchewan: 306-787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca or Premier’s Office, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina,, S4S 0B3.
  • Send the same message to Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services: 306-787-3661 or minister@gov.sk.ca or Room 303, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, S4S 0B3                                                    

RING THOSE PHONES!

SEND THOSE EMAILS!

WRITE THOSE LETTERS!

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