THE RIGHT CHOICES
Reducing Poverty and Increasing
Mr. Speaker, we have outlined numerous ways in which we will
work with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to create new
opportunities in both traditional and breakthrough industries.
These initiatives will open doors for people throughout
Newfoundland and Labrador. But for many people in our province,
obstacles stand in the way of opportunity. Currently,
approximately 66,000 individuals in 33,000 families in our
province live in poverty. Poverty often means poor nutrition and
poor health, poor educational opportunities and poor employment
prospects. But it is not only the poor who suffer the costs and
consequences of poverty. We all suffer when circumstances
prevent so many among us from developing and contributing to
their full potential.
Guided by a strong social conscience, we moved forward last year
to develop Newfoundland and Labrador�s first-ever comprehensive,
integrated Poverty Reduction Strategy. We set to work to
gather solid research and consult broadly with those who
understand poverty best in order to develop an action plan that
will truly make a difference. We are ready this year to announce
our progressive Poverty Reduction Strategy with an investment in
measures across several departments totaling $62 million on an
Our research and consultations have indicated that
prescription drug costs create the biggest financial barrier
to work for those on Income Support and are a significant
hardship for those earning low wages who lack prescription drug
insurance. This year, we will invest $8.3 million (which means
$32.8 million on an annualized basis) to extend eligibility for
the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to more
low-income residents and introduce an accelerated co-pay at the
same time for these additional clients. This initiative will
expand coverage to approximately 97,000 additional people.
Some people face barriers to work because of high housing
costs. At an annual cost of $750,000, Newfoundland and Labrador
Housing will begin calculating the rent of employed tenants to
reflect net pay rather than gross earnings, thereby cutting
rental charges by about $50 a month for some 1,200 households.
This initiative will be complemented by others through NLHC,
including Phases I and II of the Affordable Housing Agreement,
the Provincial Home Repair Program and the Residential Energy
To assist in the transition to the work force, we will
invest $570,000 to extend Income Support to clients starting a
job during the critical first month and will simplify the
process for reporting income. We will also invest another
$500,000 this year to continue career development, job
recruitment and placement initiatives to help Income Support
clients, especially young people, find jobs. Also, we will
increase funding under the Supported Employment Program for
adults with developmental disabilities.
Recognizing that education is critical in achieving
self-sufficiency, we will invest an additional $1.2 million a
year to expand the number of Adult Basic Education courses at
College of the North Atlantic campuses. We will provide a
monthly $25 rental rebate for every adult member of an NLHC
household who is in full-time attendance at a post-secondary
institution as well as for every level 2, 3 and 4 high school
student in a tenant household. And, as already indicated, we
will also invest $2 million a year to assist female and male
students in Grades 10 through 12 with new skills-development
courses that can open up college and career paths.
We believe no parent should have to pay for instructional
materials that students require to participate fully in
classroom instruction, such as workbooks and photocopying.
Therefore, this year, at a total cost of $5.3 million, we are
increasing the instructional grant from $80 to $150 per pupil in
order to eliminate common school fees for all items and services
that are currently purchased in bulk by schools and boards and
billed back to parents. We will also invest $1 million to cover
prescribed consumable workbooks.
To promote student health, we will invest $250,000 to
implement new school food guidelines to encourage healthy eating
and enable school cafeterias to provide healthier food choices.
This complements our $500,000 investment under the provincial Go
Healthy wellness plan for the Kids Eat Smart Foundation, which
works with schools and community groups to establish nutritious
breakfast, lunch and snack programs. With an annual contribution
of $250,000, we will also continue to support the Jumpstart
Program developed by the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families,
which enables children from low-income homes to participate in
sports and recreational activities.
We also know that low-income families often find it difficult to
pay surcharges associated with accessing dental care for their
children covered by the Provincial Children�s Dental Program. We
are allocating an additional $4.1 million in an effort to
eliminate these surcharges so that all families can avail of the
dental health services their children need.
While education and employment are keys to reducing poverty, it
is also essential to support those who are most vulnerable in
our society. We will invest $7.4 million a year to raise
Income Support rates by 5 per cent, a further $3 million a
year beginning in 2007-08 to index Income Support rates to the
rate of inflation, and another $2.8 million a year to further
assist families in high-rent centres or with high-cost needs
with their rental costs. We are also increasing the rate we
provide for Income Support clients to cover funeral costs. And
for families of children with disabilities, who often face
extraordinary costs, we will invest $2.25 million a year to
increase access to the Special Child Welfare Allowance program
that helps families offset some of these costs.
Many low-income families have particular difficulties accessing
legal and counseling support services. We will invest
$679,000 to expand Unified Family Court Services to provide more
family law resources throughout the province, thereby enabling
the working poor, particularly in rural areas, to reduce their
legal expenses through improved access to family law services.
We will invest $250,000 to enhance civil legal aid services that
help low-income families with family law matters. And we will
increase funding to the province�s Women�s Centres by $80,000 a
year so they can continue to provide counseling, support, and
education services to women throughout the province.
Measures such as these will help break the cycle of poverty,
both by addressing the consequences of poverty and by targeting
the circumstances that cause and sustain poverty.