PEI Liberals tilt to American Tea-Party style policies on feeding the poor
By Stephen Pate – Anyone listening to the CBC Radio Political Panel last Friday would have been shocked to hear the Liberal lawyer on the panel suggest that people on social assistance need an education on how to eat for $100 a month.
The panelists were discussing CBC’s Laura Chapin report that “PEI only provides 61% of the cost of a healthy diet for people on social assistance. That’s about middle of the road as far as the rest of the country.” PEI Starving People on Social Assistance
I had to give my head a shake. Was I listening to Glenn Beck or Anne Coulter preaching right-wing Republican values or was this still PEI where the government exists on welfare from Ottawa?
No it was Jordan Brown, Liberal District Executive for Premiere Robert Ghiz. In deference to Mr. Brown, here are his exact words, unbelievable as they sound,
“We had a lawyer in our office who originally went through and took a nutrition degree and would write a blog on nutrition stuff. She did a program for a couple of months where it was called something like Healthy Eating on $100 a Month. She actually put herself to the test and ate on a $100 a month budget for a few months and was able to do it.”
Of course no one other than the newly-minted apologist for the Tea Party believes you can eat a healthy diet for $100 a week, despite the un-scientific evidence presented by Mr. Brown.
Brown did not say the young lawyer kept up the extreme diet for more than a few months since it would be unhealthy to do so. Try as I might over the years to save money on food, I have never been able to break below $300 per-person-per-month, despite not eating much meat. On average, a healthy diet costs us about $350 per person and I would suggest Mr. Brown’s family spends the same or more.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Brown goes on to suggest that people on social assistance merely need education on how to eat for less.
“But the reality is there is a huge education gap for those who are disadvantaged in terms of what healthy eating means to them. You could increase the budget from 61% to 100% and they may still not eat any healthier. They may still eat the same.”
Insulting the intelligence of the population is great rhetoric for radio but it has never been on the Liberal Party platform.
“Right now people on social assistance have no choices,” replied Conservative commentator and former MLA Wayne Collins. “Education will not do them well if they don’t have the money to pay for it.”
“We judge a society by how well we treat those who are most disadvantaged,” said Collins.
“You look at people on social assistance, we know those rates have got to increase. They should have increased. I don’t see why they should have left 2.3 million dollars on the table in social services there in the last budget,” said Collins referring to Minister Docherty’s decision to voluntarily give up $4.3 million of her social assistance budget.
“We should move ahead on this. You shouldn’t just plan for a 5-year program somewhere down the road where they are going to start increasing these.”
“Also, never mind just the people on social assistance and their problems, there is the issue of the working poor as well. They too have a problem trying to get enough money to have proper nutrition on their table also. I figure they should move ahead immediately.” In fairness, it should be noted Mr. Collins served in the Pat Binns government that did not increase food allowances for 6 years.
The Liberals got another grilling from Eastern Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill. “The problem with Valerie Dockery’s take on this, it would take 8 million dollars a year to bring it up to standard and we don’t have the money. Well, she’s wrong. There is money. It’s a matter of where we are spending it now.”
“Frankly, government will not ask the offsetting questions. What impact does a 61% rate have on economical development? What impact does it have on the education of our children and the quality of education that they are able to receive on a day to day basis? What impact does it have on the cost of health care? Nobody is asking those questions.”
“They are looking at 8 million dollars out of a budget of 1.6 billion and saying we don’t have it.”
“The minister is willing for us to accept money when we bail out the pension every year[$50 million] . The minister is willing to accept money when we pay for her patronage executive assistant. The minister is willing to accept when we put her in a new car. So the minister isn’t willing to make real choices.”
More than 50% of the people on social assistance are living with one or more disabilities. It is not their choice.
Thanks for CBC Island Morning for the broadcast on June 20th, 2014. Featured image CBC Radio (from left to right: Jordan Brown, Wayne Collins, Paul MacNeill, and CBC host Matt Rainey)