News Articles - ESPC Referenced or Cited
Susan Morrissey, Executive Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council provided the recent Op-Ed in the Edmonton Journal.
Read the full version here: https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-budget-is-a-setback-for-lower-income-albertans
Download the Fact Sheet here: 2019 Alberta Budget fACTsheet
Excerpt from the Edmonton Journal:
With the UCP tabling their first budget, there is a lot of talk of what this means. Depending on who you ask, this budget is either an attempt to get Alberta’s fiscal house in order or a ruthless act of austerity.
The Edmonton Social Planning Council took a deep dive and produced a fact sheet to inform the public on what this latest budget means for social services and what some of the most vulnerable Albertans living in poverty can expect from our provincial government.
First, the good news. It is heartening to see the Government of Alberta continue to support investments in affordable public transportation with $9.5 million per year in funding for a low-income transit pass. In 2018, this pass was purchased by over 100,000 Albertans in Edmonton and Calgary, many of whom reported better access to education, jobs, and other opportunities. Staying the course will improve the quality of life for low-income Albertans and enable their further economic and social participation.
For school-age children, a 20-per-cent funding increase to the existing school nutrition program is welcome. Research has shown that students enrolled in schools with a universal breakfast program had fewer discipline problems, better attendance, and improved psychosocial well-being. Investing in our children’s welfare is simply the right thing to do and strengthens our communities.
Also commendable is the additional funding going toward a mental health and addiction strategy, an opioid response, palliative care, and a new sexual assault hotline. This shows a commitment to support the most vulnerable and we applaud that.
Nevertheless, there are a number of other areas in the budget that are deeply concerning and could threaten to set people back, especially after all the progress that has been made in alleviating poverty over the past few years.
The Alberta Child Benefit and the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, two programs designed to support lower- and middle-income working families, have shown themselves to be important tools for poverty reduction. However, they will now be rolled into a single program, the Alberta Child and Family Benefit, starting in July 2020.
While benefits for the lowest-income families will increase by 15 per cent, the benefit will be phased out more quickly as incomes rise. As a result, $40 million less will be delivered to Alberta families. While it’s encouraging to see the lowest incomes receive more supports, it still leaves out many other working families in need and struggling to make ends meet.
We are alarmed to see a 24-per-cent reduction in the Rental Assistance Program. These programs help households find affordable rental accommodations by providing rent subsidies in eligible rental projects. According to the 2016 census, more than 164,000 households in Alberta are living in unsafe, crowded, and unaffordable housing. Approximately 6,000 households in Edmonton alone are currently on the Capital Region Housing rent-subsidy program wait list, many of whom have been waiting for years.
Finally, the de-indexing of Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), the Alberta Seniors Benefit, Income Support, and Special Needs Assistance programs from the consumer price index (CPI) is perhaps cause for the greatest concern.
While current levels for these income assistance programs remain the same, the fact that they will not increase with the rising cost of living places many of our most vulnerable citizens with the burden of having to choose between purchasing nutritious food or heating their homes.
Despite additional investments in some key areas, the overall impact of the budget puts many low- and modest-income Albertans at greater risk. The four-year strategy outlined in the budget fails to account for either inflation or population growth.
This means that Albertans will face real and growing cuts to health, education, and social programs. As was pointed out in their fiscal plan, households and businesses would pay at least $13.4 billion more in taxes if Alberta had the same tax system as any other province. There is ample room to address this revenue shortfall without sacrificing the vital services on which Albertans rely.
We are hopeful that finding common ground and working towards a prosperous future for all will result in the desired outcomes that benefit all Albertans.
Susan Morrissey is executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
Radio Active with Adrienne Pan
Interview with Sandra Ngo, Edmonton Social Planning Council.
By Catherine GriwkowskyStarMetro Edmonton
Thu., May 17, 2018
EDMONTON—Pipeline inspector and project manager turned stay-at-home dad Chad Miller is pinning his family’s future on the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline as he searches for work to pay off debt.
“I’ve got more qualifications than I know what to do with and I can’t even get a damn job to save my soul,” Miller said.
Miller is not alone in his struggle to support his family and rejoin the workforce full time after a downturn in the Alberta oil economy cost him work.
A recent Statistics Canada study shows nationally the number of couples who were working part-year or part-time in 2015 was up to 18 per cent from 14 per cent in 2005.
Part-time workers increased
Meanwhile the proportion of families with one parent working for the full year, full-time with one partner working part time dropped to 30 per cent in 2015 from 34 per cent in 2005. The trend was driven by a downturn in the manufacturing sectors in central Canada and the downturn in oil, Bernard said.
The study’s author Andre Bernard, with Statistics Canada, said parental leave policies, child care, differences in labour market conditions and earnings accounted for regional differences.
“If both parents are reporting not working, or working part-time, these are families that would be more vulnerable to low income,” Bernard said.
Only 19 per cent of families where the youngest child was under six years old in Alberta had both parents working full-year, full-time in 2015, similar to the 20.4 per cent in 2005.
For families with children aged 6 to 17, the number of two-income earner families in Alberta dropped to 31.7 in 2015 from 36.9 per cent in 2005.
The average median income in full-time, single-earner families in the province was $94,000 annually, the highest in Canada. That is compared to the median income of $108,600 in Prince Edward Island where both parents worked a full year, full-time. With single-earner incomes near that of families with two parents working, some Alberta families may opt to have only one parent work, said researcher John Kolkman.
Kolkman, research associate with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said the census data shows two very different points in Alberta’s economies. In 2005, Alberta was experiencing a boom while in 2015 the province was in recession, which may account for the differences.
“Where one parent works in a pretty highly-paid position, therefore it is more feasible for the other parent not to be working rather than working full-time, so that probably is a factor,” Kolkman said.
Bernard said in Alberta specifically, men are the large majority of single-income earners in families.
Boom and bust
And it is those men, Bernard said, that likely make up the bulk of the increase in parttime, part-year workers due to a downturn in the manufacturing sector in central Canada and the oil industry in Alberta.
In Miller’s 20 years of working in the oilfield sector, taking jobs from Fort St. John, B.C., to Cuba, Miller had seen a few recessions. After the 2008 recession, Miller ensured he had a year’s worth of income saved up.
It wasn’t enough.
As a project manager, Miller could make up to $1,000 a day and worked 338 days in 2014. Last year, he worked 90 days for far less, sometimes $500 per day.
Miller said he had to give back his truck. He’s missing bill payments.
Kolkman said in the downturn there weren’t just layoffs, but reductions in hours as well. These reductions in the oil industry had spillover effects in other areas of the economy.
“People cut back on eating out for example,” Kolkman said. “If you have less disposable income, that affects the hospitality industry. Certainly if you look at rural Alberta, and even in the urban centres, the energy industry supports a lot of these smaller towns in terms of eating and drinking establishments, in terms of hotels and motels.”
Male single earners
Bernard said men account for the majority of single-earners in households.
When times were good, Miller built his wife a salon in the family’s basement so she could give haircuts to clients for extra spending money, but he was the main earner.
Then work for the self-employed contractor dried up, and Miller’s wife had to pick up more work. She is now a full-time instructor in Red Deer, teaching at a hair academy.
His wife’s income puts food on the table, but doesn’t cover the bills, Miller said. Worries over money and finding work has put a strain on his relationship.
Hope for recovery
As he waits for work, he looks after his kids, a 14-year-old daughter, 9-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
“My wife, she tells me, we’re never going to have another kid because every time we have another kid, a recession comes,” Miller said.
During the recession, Miller felt isolated and depressed because he felt like no one wanted to hear the negativity of what he was going through. He stopped answering the phone because the only calls he got were from bill collectors.
After founding the Oilfield Dads Facebook group, Miller has found hope and camaraderie.
He sees optimism when his fellow oilfield dads find work, and on days when he doesn’t see a point in getting out of bed, the group has shown him he’s not alone.
These days, he tells his wife things are getting better — after all, she has a full-time job, they are close to paying off the family’s Jeep and soon they will be able to refinance their mortgage.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to keep going,” Miller said, “and that’s the reality of most Albertans now.”