On November 12, 2010 in its Speech from the Throne, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced its intent to address poverty, stating that “My government recognizes the need to put priority on addressing the needs of those Islanders facing the greatest challenges” and that “Early in the new year, my government will release a Poverty Reduction discussion paper that will begin the process, in consultation with Islanders, of examining further options to improve the well-being of Islanders who are vulnerable and in need.”
In May 2012 the provincial government released the Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty. Although the direct cost of poverty for the Government of Prince Edward Island (PEI) has been calculated at almost $100 million per year (with additional indirect costs of $220 million), the government has not made additional commitments to ending poverty in the province since the expiry of its poverty plan in 2015.
- Support people to move out of poverty by strengthening their educational and economic opportunities and their participation in the labour force.
- Protect and enhance the standard of living and quality of life for those unable to participate in the labour force.
- The provincial government has been prompt with its progress reports, released one report annually since the introduction of the strategy in 2012. Information gathered in the first progress report was instrumental in adding a third goal to the strategy: to provide fair and equitable opportunities for Islanders to participate in and contribute to the cultural, economic and social environment of Prince Edward Island.
- Increases to the Department of Education spending
- The Catastrophic Drug Program ensures that low-income families do not exceed 3% of their annual income for prescription medications.
The lack of action by the PEI government to renew the province’s poverty reduction strategy has also been met with significant critique by civil society organizations. In the November 2015 report, Lingering Too Long. But Why?, the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice and the PEI Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy encourage the provincial government to recommit to a poverty strategy. The groups note some successes from strategies in Newfoundland and Québec and point to the government’s failure to revitalize the expired strategy despite the commitment of the House of Commons to end child poverty in 1989, as well as Canada’s human rights obligations. As stated in the report, “The rights of the child cannot continue to be violated by governments…Peoples’ needs especially the needs of the most vulnerable should come first. But how can they when poverty is largely a forgotten issue, barely on the radar of the PEI government when budget choices and priorities are made? There is little determined effort to tackle the problem or recognize what it does to people”.
The MacKillop Centre has called on the provincial government to create a strategy which: has clear legislated targets and timelines measured by multiple concrete methods; deals with multiple dimensions and causes of poverty including improved wages, social programs and greater assistance to people with disabilities; a focus on marginalized groups; and province wide consultation with those most affected by the strategy.