By Lauren Calleja
Your vote matters! The outcome of today’s election could re-define the provision of services for the most vulnerable communities in Canada; which will directly affect our clients as they are some of the most marginalized in society.
There are various platforms that will most greatly affect the programs and services offered by inner city agencies. These platforms include the National Poverty Plan, the National Homelessness Plan, Aboriginal Health Programs and National Mental Health and Addiction Strategy.
The NDP has a national poverty strategy which includes the strengthening of the National Child Benefit Supplement as well as the Working Income Tax Benefit. With regard to homelessness, the NDP have pledged to renew the federal housing arrangements as well as introduce incentives for new rental housing. The NDP’s approach to Aboriginal health includes consultation with various aboriginal groups to create a food and clean water strategy. The NDP are leaders in the establishment of the child-first Jordan’s Principle and have advocated for a suicide prevention strategy for aboriginal youth, leading into their mental health platform, which includes an addiction strategy that emphasizes evidence-based harm reduction and prevention.
The Conservative party does not currently have a federal anti-poverty strategy; however, with
regard to homelessness, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy was established by the Conservative government in 1999. The 2013/14 federal budget allocated funds for affordable housing through the Housing First approach, which is based on the principle that every person has the right to a safe, secure home. The Conservative party’s approach to Aboriginal health includes supported mental wellness teams in First Nations Communities as well as into Aboriginal health research to improve and promote the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. With regard to addiction, the Conservative government has implemented the National Anti-Drug Strategy, which favours enforcement over prevention, treatment, and harm reduction.
The Liberal Party’s national poverty strategy includes a Canadian Child Benefit, a return to the age of 65 for Old Age Security as well as expansion of Nutrition North to ensure affordable nutrition. The Liberal Party’s National Homelessness plan includes a $20-billion allocation to social infrastructure over ten years and renewed Housing First initiatives that help homeless Canadians find stable housing. The Liberal Party offers several initiatives to help Aboriginal communities. The Liberal Party’s mental health and addiction strategy emphasizes harm reduction and public health, for example, their support of supervised injection sites.
The Green Party’s national poverty strategy suggests implementing the Guaranteed Liveable Income Initiative to ensure Canadians can live healthy lives, regardless of socioeconomic status. The party also intends to implement a National Affordable Housing Program that includes the creation of affordable housing to help reduce homelessness. In terms of Aboriginal Health Programs, the Green Party has committed to ensuring that the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Report are implemented. This includes recognizing and implementing the health care rights of Aboriginal people as identified by international and constitutional law, and under the Treaties. The Green Party does not have a clear Mental Health Strategy; however, they advocate for increasing funding transfers for non-institutionalized mental health patients to ensure a comprehensive mental health strategy for all Canadians.
What does the election mean for HIV Edmonton? HIV Edmonton is a harm reduction agency which works with clients who are not only HIV positive but are also struggling with poverty, addiction, stigma and discrimination, mental illness and homelessness. Of particular concern to our agency are policies surrounding poverty, aboriginal health and harm reduction. In Canada, Aboriginal people make up 4% of the Canadian population but make up 12% of total new HIV infections. To inner city agencies, Aboriginal Health Programs are absolutely essential. Further, a strong harm reduction strategy would greatly improve the lives of our clients and would promote safe and healthy communities.
Regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, make sure you exercise your right to vote! Each party has different platforms and strategies, all of which have merit; however, without active voter participation, Canada will not see much needed change. The choice you make today is an important one! If you don’t know where to vote, find your polling station here.
Comparison of HIV Incidence Rates Among Key Populations in Canada, 2011, Public Health Agency of Canada 2014