Whoever gets elected prime minister next week will be getting a lot of reminders in the mail to take action against poverty.
Red Deer was one of more than 40 cities across the country where the annual Chew on This! campaign was held Thursday.
Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance members and supporters handed out lunch bags with an apple, magnet and a postcard to send the incoming prime minister.
Alliance member Harrison Blizzard said the campaign started seven years go with a call to develop a national plan to reduce poverty, and a plan was released this year.
“That was a huge step forward. Now that it’s written, we’re really looking for the next government elected to put that in the budget and take action on those recommendations,” Blizzard said.
“The largest part of the increase in the reliance on Alberta Works benefits is due to the recession in the energy sector, a recession sparked by the fall in energy prices in 2015 and prolonged by the uncertainty surrounding pipeline construction and approvals for other energy projects,” the report said.
Blizzard said many Red Deerians work multiple jobs, but still struggle to survive on low incomes. If they didn’t work so many jobs, the number of people on social assistance would be even higher.
Byron Bradley, the Mustard Seed’s managing director, said there has been an increase in people accessing his organization’s shelter and free dinners.
He said last year, the shelter averaged about 16 people, and this summer, it was 35. Dinners last summer attracted an average of 75 people, and this summer, dinners averaged over 125.
It is a mistake to think that everyone who comes to the Mustard Seed is homeless, he said.
“Actually, we have a lot of people who live in Riverside Meadows that walk here multiple times a week. A lot of people drive in, too. It’s not just people who can’t afford a vehicle,” Bradley said.
Usually, few families use the services, but lately, more have started to come for food, hygiene items and diapers.
It’s unfortunate that ensuring a basic income for Canadians in need has not been discussed much during the federal election campaign, he said.
“When you take care of people, in the end, it boosts the economy and helps the overall economy. That would be a fantastic thing to see,” Bradley said.