Suffering the SaskParty

Saskatchewan: The birthplace of Canada’s socialized health-care system, rich in resources yet still a province of inequity! Why is this the case? Growing up here taught me that we take care of one another in our community. We look out for the needy and the vulnerable, and we expect our taxes to do the same. Why are so many of us still suffering so piteously? Is there a disconnect between the true nature of our humanity and the government’s management of our collective resources?

We can’t simply rely on the generosity of our friends and neighbours’ efforts through online mutual aid groups, community fridges and food banks. We must not normalize warehousing the homeless and gaslighting the poor as if poverty was a lifestyle choice. We must demand our elected government do more to ensure we all have our essential needs met. 

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Of course these are very tough times, with the pandemic still raging alongside a rapidly progressing climate crisis, but we mustn’t sacrifice the most vulnerable to conform to the dominant economic worldview of capitalism.

I’m not speaking academically but from a lifetime rooted in helping the poor, mentally ill and homeless, and from my own experiences as a single mother who also grew up in poverty. Additionally, through my work as leader of the SGP, as administrator of the group “I Will Help Regina” with 12,000 members, and as community organizer and lifelong volunteer, I’m no stranger to struggle.

Here are a couple of stories shared with me over this past weekend: 

One woman detailed her budget to demonstrate an obviously inadequate amount of income to make ends meet. This is the reality for one real-life Saskatchewanian, disabled and desperately looking for work, trying to survive on Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) benefits of $1134 per month. She deserves better than this: 

Rent/Utilities$600.00
Food*$100.00
Prescriptions$6.00
Phone$100.00
Bus Pass$25.00
Laundry$20.00
Bank fee$17.00
Subscriptions$27.00
Miscellaneous$239.00
$1,134.00

* Cut from $200 with supplements from Food Bank

Now let’s look at another person’s experience – an Indigenous Woman on SAID. After she lost her ability to get a doctor’s note because her neurologist died, the province took her to court. She lost, and now she owes the government $48,000. She tried fighting repeatedly from 2017 to 2020. Her advocate then died and she lost all the paperwork. 

She’s still epileptic and still has had no help from social services since 2018. She moved from Saskatoon to Prince Albert pre-covid for a minimum wage job, working from home with two kids. But now she’s unemployed and has been since July of last year. Her husband is also disabled, and they have never approved him for SAID and have never even tried to help with his special diet that he’s been on for 13 years. They are barely able to survive now.

These are real life stories of the SAID program. Please reach out to your MLA today and demand that SAID rates be increased to get much needed help to people immediately. Anti-poverty advocates have been asking for an increase in rates for a very long time already — What are we waiting for?

If we want to help both people, we need long term solutions – a Guaranteed Liveable Income Program, with a social safety system that ensures no one falls through the cracks to end up in the situation that the woman in my second example endures — disabled and owing $48,000 to the Ministry of Social Services!

It’s our Ministry and it’s time we used it to properly care for the people in this province.

Naomi Hunter
Leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party
Phone: (306) 561-8880
Email: naomihunter@saskgreen.ca
Twitter: @GpcHunter
Facebook: SaskGreenParty

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