The Annapolis Valley Poverty Coalition has been working diligently to send a resolution to the fall sessions of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM).
The intent of the resolution is the promotion of a province-wide dialogue about poverty in rural settings. With a provincial election on, the issue should be heard on that stage as well.
According to coalition spokesperson Nancy Stewart, we need to talk about poverty. Outmigration, she points out, has a devastating effect on rural community. Youth in rural areas are 30 per cent more likely to leave because they do not see opportunities for them.
Poverty affects health, and as rural regions decline, then access to services is reduced. More affordable childcare could be a boost.
Stewart speaks of food security as an inherent problem. Apparently the Annapolis Valley, despite being an agricultural breadbasket, has some of the highest costs for a healthy diet in the province. The Valley is second only to Halifax in terms of people needing to access food banks. Many view that reality as a violation of inalienable rights to safe and healthy food.
Housing is very much a concern due to the efforts of the Housing First volunteers. More subsidized affordable housing programs that create mixed neighbourhoods would help alleviate the problem of homelessness.
The Valley has suffered from the decline and closure of primary sector employment, such as food processing. Transportation is a huge challenge for anyone living off the central corridor. In fact, one quarter of all senior citizens do not have a vehicle.
There are great benefits to rural life, but the risk factors involved with rural poverty are unique and they need to be addressed by both provincial and municipal leaders. Over 85 per cent of Canadians believe that government should take action on the income gap between rich and poor. In Atlantic Canada, over 90 per cent of citizens think that poverty would be reduced by an increase in the minimum wage.
Many Canadians would like to see tax loopholes closed so that the wealthy pay more taxes. After all, new data from the latest Census and the National Household Survey reveals the fact that the richest of the rich in Canada are married, middle-aged, white men. The median family income in Canada is $76,000, while the median individual income is only $27,600. That means just as many individuals earn less than $27,600 as earn more.
Economists from the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University have found that the wealthiest one per cent of Americans, for example, saw their income increase by 31.4 per cent between 2009 and 2012 while the income of the 99 per cent grew only by 0.4 per cent.