Dol­lars over data

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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