Question Period, 26 November 2015
Full transcript available here.

Child poverty

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week all members of this House received dolls from a delegation of the United Church women in order that we would have a constant visible reminder of child poverty on Prince Edward Island. On Tuesday we learned that rates of child poverty on Prince Edward Island are continuing their upward trend that has been present for decades, increasing by 6% last year, and this has happened despite modest growth in our provincial economy overall and repeated promises to deal with this persistent and depressing issue.

A question to the minister of family and human services: Does his department have any quantitative goals to reduce child poverty on Prince Edward Island?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We take the responsibility in our Department of Family and Human Services very seriously in looking out for the well-being of families in our province. We have made a clear statement in our recent platform that we are committed to eliminating and addressing poverty in the Province of Prince Edward Island. My department, if the Leader of the Third Party has had a chance to read the mandate letter from the Premier to myself as minister, we clearly state our goals and objectives to continue to work towards the elimination of poverty here in the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Speaker, thank you.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your first supplementary question.

Basic income guarantee

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I’m glad to hear you take it seriously and indeed I have read the mandate letter, and I’m aware of that goal, the same goal which has been stated repeatedly by previous governments and, I said earlier, poverty rates continue to increase.

During the provincial election all four party leaders, including our Premier, agreed to explore the idea of implementing a basic income guarantee, a policy which could potentially eradicate child poverty on Prince Edward Island. But we haven’t heard much about it since then. Does government still support this idea?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I also had the opportunity to have a very positive conversation with the federal minister yesterday morning in respect to his mandate letter and how it ties in to the objectives and goals of what we’re trying to accomplish here for families, children, and poverty in the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Very aware of the basic income question. There’s a fiscal reality of that which is a real reality. I think that the last level of information it would be approximately an investment of about $150 million annually to the Province of Prince Edward Island.

We are certainly very interested. We’ve had a number of discussions with some key stakeholder groups, but we are very realistic in that in order for us to obtain and accomplish that, I feel that a partnership with the federal government – and we were very clear that we’re very open on any initiatives that the federal government would want to work towards to continue to support Island children, Island families, and to eliminate poverty in the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Thank you.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your second supplementary question.

Basic income guarantee pilot project

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I absolutely agree, the federal government will be a critical partner in implementing an initiative like this. In any of the minister’s discussion with his federal counterparts, did they discuss in any depth the possibility of Prince Edward Island being used as a potential pilot project for a guaranteed annual income?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.

Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The conversation was the first conversation I had with the federal minister. I was very clear that as a minister who’s been part of this provincial government’s Cabinet for the last nine years that we feel that we have a tremendous amount to offer and contribute in respect to conversations at the provincial and territorial table, but also at the FPT table.

We will be looking at formally meeting with the federal minister. During that conversation I said that we would welcome any partnerships, any initiatives. We’re small, a population of 145,000 people, and we are going to be very collaborative in our partnership and very open on initiatives and pilots that the federal government may want to implement, and we’ll do them very well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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