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Council of Canadians says P.E.I. budget should address child poverty, water protection

Leo BroderickThe Council of Canadians has given its input into the upcoming Prince Edward Island provincial budget.

A government website notes, “The government of Prince Edward Island is working to balance the provincial budget in 2016-17. …To achieve this goal, difficult decisions will have to be made: How can we increase revenue and grow our economy? What government programs and services should be reduced or expanded? Should taxes be lowered, and what should be cut to make-up the resulting revenue shortfall?”

CBC reports, “The Council of Canadians told finance minister [Allen Roach] they are concerned about money going into the restructuring of education on P.E.I. Leo Broderick, vice-chair of the group, made its pre-budget presentation on Feb. 18 in Summerside. He said that education money should be put into reducing poverty instead.”

In 2012, 17.5 per cent of children on the Island were living in poverty compared to 13.8 per cent in 1989. As such, child poverty in the province has actually increased since 1989, the year an all-party House of Commons resolution was passed committing to end child poverty by the year 2000. Broderick says, “The entire emphasis is on increasing test scores and if we still have very poor children, very poor families, test scores will not improve in the province.”

The news article also quotes Broderick saying, “We also raised the issue of needing a substantial amount of money in the province to deal with the elimination of nitrates both in private wells and municipal water systems.”

In 2007, a joint federal and provincial study concluded that nitrate levels in P.E.I.’s drinking water would get worse if farming practices don’t change. That’s because the nitrates are coming from chemical fertilizers being spread on fields. In 2014, Earth Action spokesperson Sharon Labchuk stated that government data already showed virtually all drinking water is contaminated with nitrates and the number of contaminated wells will only grow.

And the Council of Canadians noted concerns about the minimum wage, the Harmonized Sales Tax and public service layoffs.

CBC reports, “Broderick said the council also asked that the minimum wage be increased to $15 an hour by 2017, and that there be no public service layoffs or cuts to employees’ benefits. He said the council also made the case that there should be no increase in the HST, calling it a regressive tax that hurts those who can’t afford it the most.”

Several Council of Canadians chapters have also called for an increase in the minimum wage in other provinces. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found that a high minimum wage does not increase unemployment (as some claim), but that it does benefit companies with increased employee retention and the broader economy with more individuals with greater purchasing power.

The P.E.I. budget will be delivered in April.

Photo: Council of Canadians vice-chair Leo Broderick.