Policy on the Rock is an annual gathering of people from government, community-focused nonprofits, and those living with low income. The aim of 2018’s Policy on the Rock was to facilitate a discussion between participants in order to identify the day to day hurdles of those living in poverty, and to develop solutions to these problems.
Those who gathered at the event this year tried to identify policies that are working well (and should be strengthened further), and policies that are not working well (and cause issues for people). Discussion tables were set for Housing, Income, Transportation, Education, Food, Health, and Other.
Among other things – fodder for future Overcast articles – The Summary Report argues that broader policy from the Federal Government, that could be fine-tuned and adjusted between Provincial and Municipal governments, is a necessary change.
“People need a pathway out of poverty,” the report reads, “[but] as a country, Canada does not have a defined measurement of poverty nor a methodology to measure inequities over time.”
A National Affordable Housing Program is among policy goals the report says would alleviate poverty. The cost of renting a home or paying a mortgage is generally what kicks the biggest dent in a person’s income, to the point of landing many people in poverty, unable to meet their other needs.
If better policies could ensure that what people pay for a roof over their head is affordable, more people/families could better afford healthy food, school supplies, transportation to work or medical appointments.
As it stands, the affordable housing situation sounds grim. You can’t even state a preference about where you’d want to live. “Currently an offer of social housing is made, and you need to take what is available or go to the bottom of the list.”
At the level of the provincial government, the report says government could “shift policy toward set rent levels to avoid financial burdens.”
The report also recommends that NL Housing should simplify the application process, among other things. As for a municipal government’s contribution, they could “work with community non-profits to alleviate homelessness by finding temporary accommodations for ‘hard to house’ individuals.”
Similarly, the report argues, a National Food Policy would go a long way in improving the affordability of healthy eating in NL. As it stands, there is a prominence of diet-link diseases here. We have the highest rates of diabetes and heart attacks among Canadian provinces for instance. The report offers multiple solutions there, beyond somehow lowering the cost of healthy food or enacting guaranteed annual incomes.
These options include but are not limited to better food skills training so folks know how to shop for and prepare healthy meals on a budget, and improvements in access to healthy food, from more community gardens in rural areas (where fresh produce is scarce), to more such gardens growing healthy produce to donate to food banks.
The report also calls for a national investment in Early Childhood Education. “Not only will this provide the skills that some children living in poverty miss out on before attending school, it will also benefit parents, by allowing them more free-time to pursue an education, career, or other opportunity.”