REGINA - Today, Official Opposition Social Services Critic Meara Conway responded to the Provincial Auditor’s Report on the Saskatchewan Income Support Program (SIS).
“Clients, landlords, social workers, anti-poverty advocates, municipalities and now the Provincial Auditor have all identified that this program is failing and leading to more evictions and homelessness,” said Conway. “How many more people have to come forward before this government acknowledges they screwed up, scraps this failed program and replaces it with something that works?”
Saskatchewan people report the highest levels of financial insecurity in Canada, and the Provincial Auditor’s Report highlights that over 5,200 SIS clients now have unpaid SaskEnergy and SaskPower bills amounting to almost $4.2 million as of February 2023. Of the over 255,000 calls to its SIS phoneline, 64% went unanswered. These issues have been compounded by the Sask. Party’s failure to analyze the data about SIS client evictions and unpaid utility bills, and develop real strategies to address them.
The Sask. Party government was warned years in advance that the Saskatchewan Income Support program would lead to utility arrears, higher eviction rates and greater homelessness. Social service workers, landlords, housing and anti-poverty advocates all warned the government of this inevitability for years but — in what has become a pattern of behaviour for this government — they ignored the advice and warnings from those working on the frontline.
“If something isn’t working, and everyone tells you it's not working — and you have the numbers that show it’s not working — you get to work and you fix the problem. Instead, we have a government that is content to sit on its hands and simply parrot the slogan growth that works for everyone,” said Conway. “You need to listen to the people actually doing the work. Scrap this failed program, provide livable support, bring back the direct payment for rent and utilities, and create a team made up of anti-poverty advocates, landlords, social workers, and government employees to develop a real housing strategy that doesn’t leave our most vulnerable out in the cold.”