It is estimated that the total cost of poverty in Prince Edward Island is at minimum between $240 and $320 million per year, which corresponds to about $1,720 and $2,265 per person, per year.
These costs are calculated in The Cost of Poverty in PEI, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS), in partnership with Poverty Bites and the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice. Author of the report, economist Angella MacEwen, a Research Associate with CCPA-NS, notes that “in terms of the PEI economy, the cost of poverty is between 5%-7% of GDP, which is significant though similar to the estimated costs in other Canadian provinces.”
As Mary Boyd points out, “From the perspective of antipoverty organizations in PEI, this is troubling news. It illustrates the scope of the problem, the shared economic burden of poverty, and the urgency that exists for the PEI government to make a concerted effort to take the lead to eradicate poverty now.”
There are those who argue that in difficult economic times, we cannot justify additional government spending. However, it is exactly during these times that it is critical to prioritize poverty eradication measures. “Poverty eradication can be much more affordable than most people expect, since there are so many costs associated with allowing poverty to continue to exist,” explains MacEwen. This report demonstrates the high costs of continuing to treat only the effects of poverty, and points out the savings that will accrue if there is a concerted effort to also tackle the root causes of poverty through a comprehensive poverty eradication strategy.
There must be a concerted effort to tackle the specific barriers that Prince Edward Islanders face in their struggle with poverty. But, investments in universally accessible programs benefit those living in poverty as much as those who are not.
Clearly, when we help those in need, we make PEI a better place to live for everyone. Everyone benefits if we reduce and ideally eradicate poverty. To do so would result in more cost-efficient uses of limited government revenue.
Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director of the CCPA will be discussing the costs of poverty in PEI and the need for a poverty eradication strategy on Thursday, January 27, at 7pm at the Murphy Community Centre, Room 207, 200 Richmond St. in Charlottetown.
For media inquiries please contact Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director of the CCPA at 240-0926 (cell) or (902)477-1252; author Angella MacEwen at (902) 4825235 or Mary Boyd, Poverty Bites and the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice in PEI at (902) 892-9074.