Dollars over data
It’s come to be expected that we won’t hear from our country’s political figures during these dog days of summer. That is, unless you count their appearances at fun events like Halifax’s Pride parade, or at exotic locales like a farm in South Rustico and tours of Stanley Bridge harbour.
That’s how federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau spent his time in P.E.I. on Wednesday: petting cows and taking boat tours instead of making any concrete commitments on issues like, say, finance.
It may seem repetitious, but the fact remains that this Island still needs federal funding to get a basic income guarantee pilot project off the ground.
So far, as we’ve chronicled in past issues, the Trudeau government has only been willing to offer up data, not dollars, for a program that is one step toward helping countless Islanders crawl out of poverty.
Data is a great first step, but P.E.I. needs commitments now —unfortunately, poverty doesn’t take a summer vacation.
Morneau was asked Wednesday whether any such commitment or money would be coming for a basic income guarantee.
The Finance minister’s reply was that the federal government’s goal is to help people “strive to be successful.”
“We’re not going to commit to what we might do from an experiment until we actually understand better what that has actually done so we will always remain open, but at this stage focused on activities we can take to have a really immediate impact.”
That’s a lot of words to say “sorry, no help for you.”
Morneau’s dismissal of the idea is particularly disappointing because other jurisdictions are trying projects of their own. The Ontario government is trying out basic income guarantee pilots in three of its areas: Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.
The Finance minister argues that if P.E.I. wants to initiate its own pilot, the feds will watch that too.
And the Island government has repeatedly expressed interest in such a program, but is adamant that it needs the federal support to make it happen. Ironically, our province may not be wealthy enough to support a program that will benefit our most impoverished.
Groups have held several public consultations across the Island to discuss the idea and brainstorm ideas. It’s disheartening for these folks, too, that the Canadian government can all but wipe out that hope in a single politi-speak sentence.
Poverty is an issue that’s not going away unless we stop sweeping it under the rug and start thinking about innovative ways to eradicate it. Politicians like Morneau shouldn’t pay lip service to a commitment to do so if they only intend to stay on permanent vacation from that reality.