NDP wants movement on an anti-poverty strategy now

The NDP says recommendations made Monday by an anti-poverty working group look promising – and it wants the government to start taking action now.

The Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction made its final recommendations in a report to the government Monday. Initially, their report was due out in May 2015, and the government has not provided a timeline to respond or move from recommendations to actions.

“Too often, this government announces that a report has been received, then puts the report on a shelf to collect dust and doesn’t take meaningful action on the recommendations,” said NDP Social Services critic David Forbes. “What we need now is action.”

Forbes said several of the advisory group’s recommendations could be put in motion immediately with a timeline laid out for action on others.

“In many cases, the Sask. Party is moving us further away from these recommendations,” said Forbes. “For example, we know the provincial government is selling off 300 affordable housing units, and cancelled the entire Affordable Housing program, leaving only the Social Housing program to handle all needs. That’s backwards. A stable home address is a foundation. Without that, you can’t get a job – in fact, you can’t even get a phone number to put down on a job application.”

Forbes also pointed to education as being moved in the wrong direction.

“Recommendations like creating more pre-Kindergarten programs, helping students prepare for post-secondary training and then making further education and training more affordable are very important. Yet, we see this government cut school division budgets. We see the supports in classrooms that help students finish Grade 12, like educational assistants, being stretched too thin. We see post-secondary education getting much more expensive. Neither today’s students nor tomorrow’s Saskatchewan economy can afford those decisions.”

Moving Saskatchewan in the wrong direction, programs to support families and employees transitioning into the workforce were cut in the 2015-16 budget. The Transition Employment Allowance was cut by $384,000. The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement was cut by $1 million. The Child Care Parent Subsidies budget was cut by $590,000. The Rental Housing Supplements budget was cut $1.7 million. Client support within Social Services was cut $2.3 million and the Sask. Party government cut the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation budget by $5.5 million, a whopping 78 per cent reduction.