The following statement was issued by the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
Significant Progress Being Made to Prevent, Reduce and Alleviate Poverty in Our Province
I rise today to inform this Honourable House of the significant progress being made to prevent, reduce and alleviate poverty in our province.
Last June, government and the community embarked on a journey to transform Newfoundland and Labrador from the province with the most poverty to one with the least poverty. Guided by a long-term and integrated approach, Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way as only the second province to move forward with a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan. The National Council of Welfare and leading anti-poverty groups in Canada applaud our efforts and call it a national model for the country.
There are many elements contained in our $91 million Budget 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy commitment including initiatives for low income families, women, seniors and youth, and persons with disabilities as well as measures to address affordable housing, access to education and training, dental care, childcare, employment and income. Today, I will highlight progress in several areas.
Drug costs are a significant barrier for low income individuals and families and add to the depth of poverty. The expansion of Newfoundland and Labradorís Prescription Drug Program and recent enhancements to it has significantly reduced drug costs for thousands of people.
It is recognized that increasing self-reliance through employment is critically important in fighting poverty. This means investing in programs to enable low income persons to access and make better connections to the labour market. For example, over 1,000 people have accessed the Job Start Benefit to form a much stronger linkage to work.
Going to work is difficult for families without access to affordable child care. The strategy addresses this by increasing the number of affordable child care spaces for low income families to help 25 per cent more children access it.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy recognizes the need to see incomes rise for low income earners. Keeping with this, the minimum wage has risen by $1.00 per hour and in Budget 2007 a further increase means it will reach $8.00 by April 2008. As well, changes in the provincial tax system mean the elimination or reduction of provincial income taxes for more than 30,000 individuals.
We are making progress and there are many other areas in which we are moving the strategy forward. This government will continue to invest in a mix of policy and program areas to achieve the vision for our province where poverty has been eliminated.
2007 06 04 2:00 p.m.
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