In Vancouver last month, more than 400 volunteers walked around, carrying clipboards and wearing bright yellow buttons that read “Homeless Count.” They were out on the streets or in shelters asking homeless people to complete brief surveys for the city’s annual Homeless Count co-ordinated by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. (HSABC).

I spent one evening at a shelter, one block east of Main and Hastings. This intersection is at the heart of the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood in Vancouver that is home to a diverse group of people, many who struggle with socioeconomic and housing challenges and others affected by issues of mental health and substance use. To meet the significant need, a large number of social service agencies are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside.

For more than five years, Nova Scotia’s welfare system — sorry, it’s income assistance (IA) program — has been undergoing a transformation which, upon completion, leaves IA recipients poorer than they were before the whole thing began.

That’s right Nova Scotia, comparing apples to apples, or income assistance rates then and now — adjusted for inflation — Nova Scotians dependent on IA were better off before the government undertook its grand redesign of welfare.

If the goal was to improve the lot of the poorest Nova Scotians, the grand design is an epic failure, made so by the steadfast refusal of the government to increase IA rates to a level adequate for a family to live without want for the basics like nutritious food and decent housing.

The mayor of Fredericton is calling on the province for a new temporary homeless shelter that would open next month.

With Fredericton’s temporary out-of-the-cold shelter closing at the end of April, Mayor Mike O’Brien wrote a letter to Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard, asking the province to take action on the issue of homelessness.

O’Brien says the homelessness problem isn’t going away once the shelter, located at 791 Brunswick Street, closes at the end of the month.

And if plans aren’t put in place soon, dozens of people will be back on the streets.

With the basic income pilot project having reached its conclusion when the final cheques were sent out at the end of last month, poverty reduction advocates say the impact is already being felt.

The program, which provided eligible participants with a guaranteed income, had used Thunder Bay as one of its test sites before being cancelled prematurely last year by the newly elected Progressive Conservative government.

Presenting their annual report to Thunder Bay city council on Monday night, representatives from the local poverty reduction strategy said those who were getting the income supplement feel they are already worse off one week after receiving their final payment.

Minister Shane Simpson said TogetherBC’s strategy is to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty, with the goal to lift 140,000 of them out of poverty.

A panel of experts is looking at whether British Columbia could provide a basic income or if the federal government would have to initiate it, says the minister responsible for the province’s poverty reduction plan.

Shane Simpson said Monday the aim of the strategy is to cut the overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within five years.

He said the three experts came together six months ago and would make recommendations next year on various issues including the question of a basic income.

Anti-poverty advocates held a demonstration outside of a luxury pop-up restaurant located under the Gardiner Expressway, a short distance away from an area that used to be a site of a former homeless encampment known as “tent city.”

The event, called “Dinner With A View-Of The Rich,” was organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

According to a report this week by the province’s Financial Accountability Officer, Ford failed on both fronts last September when he axed a planned hike to the minimum wage from $14 an hour to $15.

Not that he wasn’t warned by the experts. But, as usual, he didn’t listen. Now everyone is paying the price.


At the time, Ford swore, with no evidence to back up his claim, that minimum wage earners would be better off under a low-income tax credit he was introducing than if they received a $1 raise.