What are the costs of poverty in Saskatchewan? What are the benefits of addressing these costs? What policies and practices can we put into place to address these issues?

When we think about interventions that we enact to alleviate poverty, it is all too often common practice to frame them as “all cost and no benefit.” When we started talking about the cost of poverty a few years ago, one of the main things that we wanted to bring to the floor was that poverty is extremely expensive not only the poor, but also our community as a whole. Dealing with poverty, then, could actually generate a return and create a lot of benefits.

Even Premier Doug Ford’s fiscally conservative nephew, Councillor Michael Ford, wants the province to reconsider its decision to cut $1 billion in social services by limiting eligibility for the Ontario Disability Support Program.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Toronto city council approved a motion by Beaches-area Councillor Brad Bradford urging the Ford government to reverse the cut and scrap a proposal to change the definition of disability for ODSP.

The motion also calls on the province to raise benefits and include people receiving social assistance in any review of the program.

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon would like to see a basic income guarantee replace the province’s social assistance program which has led to “government enforced poverty.”

“It’s a different kind of social assistance system, that’s for sure. It’s simpler,” Coon said in an interview with Information Morning Moncton.

“It doesn’t have the clawbacks. It doesn’t have these awful rules that really bind people in poverty and prevent them from getting ahead in any way.”

Coon tabled a bill on Tuesday that would amend the Family Income Security Act, which provides funding to people who can’t support themselves financially.

The case began in Boise, Idaho, in 2009, when six homeless people sued the city for prosecuting them. They argued that the city’s laws violated their constitutional rights. The case later reached the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California. In 2018, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment, prohibits punishing homeless people if there are more of them than there are available shelter beds.

The appeals court said: “As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.” The city of Boise then appealed this ruling to the United States Supreme Court on December 6, 2019.

With no dissenting opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court on December 16 struck a blow to cities that would refuse homeless people basic civil and human rights. Refusing to hear Boise’s appeal, the Supreme Court let stand the 9th Circuit’s ruling that the homeless have the constitutional right to live on city streets and in public parks if a city does not provide enough shelter beds for them.

By the end of the day, more than two dozen homeless residents at the Cornerstone and Gospel Mission shelters will have moved into the new Fuller Place bridge shelter in Kelowna, freeing up space for homeless campers to move inside.

Eleven Cornerstone residents were moved over yesterday but their beds in Cornerstone were not opened to other homeless people until today, Dec. 17, Dawn Himer, executive director of the John Howard Society which manages both facilities, told iNFOnews.ca.

Plans call for another 10 people to move from Cornerstone today and five from Gospel Mission.

Outreach workers handed out notices at the Recreation Avenue tent encampment today, letting people know the beds were opening up. Seven campers were offered beds at Fuller House with a move-in date set for tomorrow.

The NB Media Co-op editorial board recently reviewed its archive and found 64 articles tagged “social assistance” going back to the earliest days of our publication, February 2009. This archive is evidence of the many social injustices existing across New Brunswick. The majority of these injustices continue to exist in New Brunswick in 2019, ten years later. New Brunswickers are waiting for our government to take action.

Our stories include tales of hardship, food insecurity, and housing insecurity that affect thousands of New Brunswick residents who simply cannot afford to live within existing social assistance conditions. Our review of these articles found that successive governments in the last number of years have failed even to adjust the basic rate of social assistance for inflation. At the same time, our archive also contains stories about the lack of revenue coming into provincial coffers due to decreases in taxes on corporations and the most wealthy earners. The actions of successive governments to increase the wealth of our most privileged residents at the expense of our most vulnerable residents flies in the face of social justice.