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GNWT releases anti-poverty plan
Activist calls document a good first start in need of specifics

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 17, 2014

The GNWT has outlined steps it will be taking to reduce poverty.

Its Anti-Poverty Action Plan, presented to the legislative assembly on Feb. 10, describes commitments the government has made to address the needs of NWT residents most at risk of falling into poverty.

The action plan identifies investments of $2.6 million and outlines actions the GNWT is taking now, or is committed to take, to address poverty, including supporting day-shelter programs in Yellowknife and Inuvik, building new housing in small communities, providing nutritious food to youth through established programs and many other steps.

"Government alone cannot eliminate poverty," stated Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy in a news release. "The GNWT is committed to continuing our work in partnership with non-government organizations, community and aboriginal governments, business and industry and other partners towards the development of a multi-stakeholder NWT action plan.

"I am confident that working together will bring us closer to our goal of eliminating poverty in the Northwest Territories."

The government is establishing an Anti-Poverty Action Plan Advisory Committee, which will include representatives from regions across the NWT. It will lead the development of the action plan over the next year.

Yellowknife's Julie Green, co-ordinator of the No Place for Poverty Coalition, called the plan a good start.

"It's good as far as it goes, but there are some things that are missing," she said.

For example, Green noted none of the actions included targets or any way to determine whether a difference is being made.

"So take something like access to early learning programs and childcare services," she said. "The plan says that the access will be enhanced. But without a specific objective or target, how will you know what enhanced is?

"Does that mean another 10 communities will be served, or another 100 children, and is that over one year or two years or more?"

She said such specifics need to be added to the plan.

While addressing the legislative assembly on Feb. 10, Abernethy said there is funding in the budget to enable his department to develop a performance management framework to allow partners to report on activities and track progress.

Green said she hopes more subject areas will be added to the plan to address, in a systematic way, why people are poor.

She noted, for example, it is good that the plan discusses feeding children in school to ensure they are in good shape to learn, but it doesn't mention hungry adults and seniors.

"Where will they go to have their needs met, and what about funding that will create more food security for everyone?" she said, mentioning things such as community gardens and mail-subsidy programs that make fresh food more affordable.

The GNWT's plan addresses some of the priorities and gaps identified in Building on the Strengths of Northerners: A Strategic Framework toward the Elimination of Poverty in the NWT, which was released by the government last June.

It has been estimated nearly 20 per cent of people in the NWT live in poverty, and that 16 per cent of families earn less than $30,000 a year.

Late last year, the GNWT, aboriginal and community governments, and non-governmental organizations signed an anti-poverty charter, which has the elimination of poverty as its goal.

- with files from Kassina Ryder

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