NDP points to material deprivation map

HALIFAX: Nova Scotia’s New Democratic Party says a map produced by the provincial government demonstrates that the policies of the Liberal government are not working.

Two weeks ago, as part of a freedom of information request, the NDP discovered a map, produced by the Department of Internal Services, which shows large parts of the province have serious levels of material deprivation.

“The map shows that very significant parts of the province have large, troubling percentages of people for whom the financial realities of daily life are very, very troubling and difficult,” NDP leader Gary Burrill told The Reporter.

What makes this even more worrisome for Burrill is that the disclosure came as the province provided their final numbers for the 2018-2019 budget which showed a $120 million surplus.

Burrill asked what is the point of having this much money in the bank when there are families that cannot afford to feed their children and over-crowded hospitals.

“We have this troubling contrast,” Burrill noted. “On the one hand, Nova Scotia is the only province in all of Canada where poverty of children is getting worse instead of better. It’s getting better in nine of the other provinces, and in Nova Scotia, it’s going backwards.

“At the same time, we have one-fifth of our hospitals taken up by people who are not hospital patients but nursing home residents for whom there is no place in a nursing home because the government has not opened a single nursing home bed in the six years they’ve been in power.”

As explained by the province, material deprivation is based on unemployment rates, the numbers of adults with less than a high school education and median individual income. The level each community experiences is classified using a five-point scale where one is the least deprivation and five is the most. Based on the map, the NDP contends that a majority of the province – including the Strait area – is in the 3-5 range.

Pointing to numbers showing Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food bank use in the country, the lowest media income in the country, without enough nursing home spaces, and in a province with too few hospital beds, the NDP leader said it’s inappropriate for the McNeil government to congratulate itself on attaining a budget surplus.

In fact, Burrill said this is precisely the time for the province to invest in things like home care and long-term care.

“The government perceives themselves and advertises themselves as overseeing an economy that is in wonderful condition,” he stated. “What we’re saying is that it is, in fact, a sign of a government that has turned its heads away… from the real financial suffering of significant parts of the population of the province.”