Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 19, 1999
Gov't priorities askew, says Alta. CWL head
More money needed for social housing - Cook
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The Alberta government has its budget priorities askew, says the provincial president of the Catholic Women's League.
By allotting more money for education and health care and reducing the budget for social housing, "they're doing it all backwards. They don't have their priorities right," said Janet Cook, of the Alberta-Mackenzie chapter of the CWL.
"If these hungry children don't get enough to eat and have a place to live, they won't be well enough to learn, they'll probably need more heath care then. We have to feed them first."
Following a March 29 meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Iris Evans, Cook left with confidence that Evans understood the realities of the increasing number of homeless and low-income families in Alberta.
But Cook said there was little Evans could do to alleviate the problem this year to rectify the situation.
"There just isn't enough money there, unless the other (ministries) are willing to share their budget," Cook said.
This year, the province increased education funding, but decreased the social housing budget by about three per cent.
In June, Evans will chair a committee to address the housing issue.
"But there is no use meeting and meeting if no money is released," Cook said. "We're not just saying 'Ralph Klein, give me the money for this.' We're willing to put our time into this, helping to build these homes."
Cook called the continual growth of homeless and low-income families in the province a crisis.
With the increasing demand on food banks, a hike in rental prices and stagnant social services payments, Cook said crisis may even be an understatement considering how many people don't call in for social assistance.
"Not everyone is going to report their living conditions," Cook said. "There are places where two or three families are living in one apartment, but they're not going to call in because they're scared of being evicted. This is not right."
Cook said boom towns, such as Calgary and Fort McMurray, have the highest number of homeless and low income families because of their large number of migrant workers.
The Edmonton Social Planning Council has no official count for the number of homeless people in Edmonton, but it expects the rate to be similar to Calgary's 3,800.
Cook's meeting with the minister was a result of last year's CWL convention where members discussed child poverty and the need to build quality low-income houses in Alberta.
The meeting with Evans will be discussed at the league's provincial convention in June.
"We're going to continue lobbying," Cook said. "We're a wealthy province, we're not poor, but this problem is escalating.
"We're going to keep at this, pressuring the government. We won't go away until something is done about it."