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Poverty activists occupy Joanne Bernard's constituency office

Latest budget cuts make a hard life harder, group charges

by Robert Devet

Do these people look threatening or what? Members of ACORN Nova Scotia and supporters briefly occupied Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard's constituency office to bring attention to the Liberal budget's effects on people living in poverty. Photo Robert Devet
Do these people look threatening or what? Members of ACORN Nova Scotia and supporters briefly occupied Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard's constituency office to bring attention to the Liberal budget's effects on people living in poverty. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK) HALIFAX - This morning people on income assistance and their supporters briefly occupied the Wyse Road constituency office of Joanne Bernard, Minister of Community Services and MLA for North Dartmouth.

Making ends meet on social assistance is simply impossible, the group charges, and freezing the rates for the second year in a row just adds to the misery of people already foced to live in often shocking circumstances.

“The amount they give is not enough,” Jonethan Brigley, chair of the Dartmouth chapter of ACORN Nova Scotia, told Bernard's constituency worker, the lone person attending the office.

“Everything goes up, but income assistance stays the same. Everything from food to gas to power, including rent.”

Indeed, Nova Scotians on social assistance struggle to survive while living between 30 percent and 60 percent below the poverty line.

Cutting back on bus passes and reducing grants to community groups such as People First and the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living also has the group upset with Community Services.

Occupiers were told that Bernard was unable to meet or talk with them because she was at Province House.

The cheerful and decidedly non-threatening group agreed to lift the occupation when the constituency worker promised to come to an ACORN community meeting scheduled for May.

“I have advocated for people who have power arrears. They're trying to move into a place and can't get the power hooked up until they have their arrears paid up,” the constituency worker told the group.

“I understand those issues. I am here sometimes with people literally crying on my shoulder, they're at the end of their rope. They don't know what to do, where to go.”

“That's' exactly why we put public pressure on these politicians,” Brigley responded. “So they don't continue to come to you, expecting you to do miracles.”

“We wanted to find out why Joanne (Bernard) approved those budget cuts,” Brigley later told the Halifax Media Co-op.

“Take the cuts to bus passes,” said Brigley. “People need the bus to get around. Especially if they are disabled.”

“The assistance freeze is very hard. I have been on assistance. I have tried to talk to my case worker. Anything that is a bill just goes up and up.”

“Bernard says she represents North Dartmouth. Everyone here feels she doesn't,” Brigley added.

Sebastien Labelle, an actor and activist, participated in the occupation as an ally.

“A lot of people are under the impression that the only issue about the provincial budget is with the film industry,” Labelle told the Halifax Media Co-op.

“But this Liberal budget is attacking the social fabric of communities as a whole. It is really terrifying what's happening, and it is very important that we all get together and fight this budget.”

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Topics: Poverty
462 words

Comments

This action was really needed!

Hello,

 

What I do not get is that Joanne Benard herself was on the system at one point in her life. She should be all for wanting to see the rates raise. Instead she has allowed two years in row go by, with no increases in income assitance rates. Furthermore she has cut angcies funding. With this goverment, we really need to be aggrisetive in getting our message across. I which thier was some kind of surprime court action we cold take aginst this current Minsiter of Community Services. She seems to have no respect for thoese of us who cannot work.

 

Kendall Worth

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