Thanks for tuning into my new website, and to this blog. I hope to publish thoughts on a number of things I am working on in the Legislature and in the community here. To start with, I’ll add the essay below. In the last (Fall 2018) sitting of the Legislature, I introduced a bill calling for a Child and Youth Advocate Office. While it wouldn’t solve all the issues that affect children and youth in Nova Scotia, it would offer away to examine policies and laws that could be harmful, it could make recommendations to governments and it could also look at specific cases where children and youth come into harm due to government policies. Here’s the essay:
ON THE NEED FOR A CHILD AND YOUTH ADVOCATE IN NOVA SCOTIA
Between 2015 and 2017, the number of children living in poverty across the country has declined in every province but one -- Nova Scotia.
In other provinces, thousands of children and their families now live above the poverty line. In our province, there are 5000 more children living in poverty than before the federal government created its Canada Child Benefit. This fact is simply unacceptable and we must do better.
This past fall, our NDP Caucus tabled legislation that would create a Child and Youth Advocate for our province. Right now, Nova Scotia and Quebec are the only provinces that do not have a advocate for children and young people. As MLAs return to the Legislature this week, I am calling on the Liberal government to include the creation of this office in the upcoming provincial budget.
The McNeil Liberals need to realize the effect of decisions that deny children basic needs like healthy food and safe shelter. Ignoring calls to re-introduce rent control and raise the minimum wage means more and more people can’t afford the things they need for their families. Experiences like those of Abdul Abdi who should have had help while he was in foster care to become a Canadian citizen or children taken from their families affected because of inaccurate Motherrisk testing, show that the children of Nova Scotia need an advocate.
A Child and Youth Advocate would review government programs and policies and make recommendations to make sure children get the care and opportunities they deserve. This office could look at issues of inclusion in child care centres and pre-primary classrooms while always keeping the well-being of young people at the forefront of its work. The advocate could recommend a plan of action to address the lack of services for youth with mental health care needs.
When every other province in the country has found a way to reduce the number of children in poverty it’s time to do something different in Nova Scotia. Stephen McNeil and his Liberal government must make this important investment in the well-being of children and youth and make sure they have an advocate to speak on their behalf.