Poverty in Nova Scotia is an issue that the provincial food bank hub wants front and centre during the election campaign.
“When those candidates come knocking on your door, ask them what their plan is around how to reduce hunger in this province,” said Nick Jennery, the executive director of Feed Nova Scotia.
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Jennery said food bank use and poverty go hand-in-hand.
“Out of all the provinces, we have the highest level of food insecurity, outside of the Territories,” Jennery said.
A national report from 2016 showed Nova Scotia had the highest increase in food bank use than anywhere else in the country.
Policy expert Christine Saulnier said addressing the issue of poverty in Nova Scotia requires a comprehensive plan that the province needs to lead and implement.
“We need to be connecting the dots across government departments, to really address the root causes of poverty,” Sauliner said.
She said a “poverty-strategy” needs to include much more than just an increased minimum wage.
“[We need] to figure out how to not just provide people with income supports, who aren’t able to work. Help people who are in the work force, help them to afford what they need in their lives. It requires a full poverty-reduction strategy,” Saulnier said.
The main provincial parties haven’t rolled out their campaign platforms yet, but each party is addressing poverty through their own lens.
“I believe that when we get the cost of living down to an affordable level, that will be reflected in a much lesser need for food banks and it’s something that I would love to see and I think we have a plan to at least help in that direction,” said Jamie Baillie, the leader of the N.S. Progressive Conservative party.
“You have to work with people where they are, you have to meet their challenges and you have to make sure that other challenges in their lives are supported. Such as addictions, mental health and housing. Those are all root causes of poverty,” said Liberal candidate Joanne Bernard, on behalf of the party.