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PCDA Blog

Big Things Happening on Prince Edward Island

Author: Laurie Michael, RD, MPH (she/her), PEI Working Group for a Livable Income on Prince Edward Island 

Registered Dietitians, dietetic interns, and nutrition students across Canada are becoming more involved in social justice and its connection to food. As we know, food related issues tend to be a symptom of a more complex issue. The Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are often taught as part of our curriculum but if you are like me, I often felt helpless with food related social issues starting out as a Registered Dietitian. I got my MPH and worked in primary care for many years to gain a better understanding of our healthcare systems and upstream solutions, such as a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). 

Recently, the Special Committee on Poverty on PEI released a report which confirmed the need for implementing a BIG approach for poverty eradication. 

Did you know? 

Over 40% of the Island population would qualify for the program (50, 238 people).

The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income response to this report sums up the case for BIG: 

Poverty is a lack of money, not a lack of human worth. 

BIG addresses poverty by providing direct payments to people to meet their basic needs, such as for housing and food, clothing, transportation, child and elder care, health care and supplies, the capacity to deal with emergencies, and opportunities to study and learn and participate in community. The payments are provided regardless of employment status.

BIG meets people’s needs with dignity, on the basis of their human rights.

Recipients do not have to be destitute or to spend their last dollar before receiving help. They do not become ineligible if they pursue training or education. While there is a reduction rate as people’s earnings rise, they do not have their occasional earnings clawed back dollar for dollar when they exceed $250. Their choices about work and spending, about where they live and whom they live with, are not put under a microscope to be judged for worthiness. Rather than judging people’s willingness or ability or availability for paid work, basic income guarantee addresses the unfair distribution of wealth and wages and the unfair value placed on some kinds of contribution to society over other kinds.

For people who live in low income or close to the line, it is past time to replace the barrier-ridden and inadequate social assistance program (and its high eligibility conditions and devastatingly low income-support rates) with an unconditional basic income guarantee. PEI can lead Canada as a launching point for change, just as Saskatchewan once launched the Medicare program that has been so important to Canadians’ health care.

The global pandemic has demonstrated so clearly that there is no separation between health and economy: healthy people are the base of a healthy society. Emergency relief benefits have made it clear that when people have no income, what they need is money. For all these reasons, and more, the time is now to establish a permanent basic income guarantee in PEI, and to use the model described by the Special Committee on Poverty in PEI as our starting point.

It’s an exciting time for RD’s and we can play a critical role in these potential waves of social justice change. Think about the root cause issues that impact the communities you work with and get involved in advocacy groups that interest you, I know that I have.

 
PCDA Note: Laurie is also a Founding Member of the Primary Care Dietitians’ Association Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. This group aims to support the PCDA Executive and Members in advocating for social justice frameworks in their work and communities.

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