Real change comes with votes

Darrell Cole
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Empowering Beyond Borders encouraging high voter turnout

Poverty advocates say the best way get action on issues like income assistance is to vote.

Poverty advocates with the Empowering Beyond Barriers committee are urging people at or below the poverty line to vote on Oct. 8.

Amherst fire chief Bill Crossman talks to an Empowering Beyond Barriers meeting on Friday while Megan Deveaux from Dal Legal Aid (centre) and Nita MacLean from Health and Wellness look on. The committee met to discuss landlord and tenant rights, but also to encourage those living below the poverty line to vote in the Oct. 8 provincial election. Darrell Cole – Amherst News


AMHERST – Representatives of the Empowering Beyond Barriers committee say the best way to have poverty issues addressed is for those living below the poverty line to cast ballots on Oct. 8 when Nova Scotians go to the polls to elect a government.

“Everyone should vote, but the people who would seem to have the most to lose are the ones who normally don’t vote,” committee member Colleen Dowe said following an Empowering Beyond Borders meeting on Friday. “We’re trying to get the message out for people to vote. We know if people living on assistance aren’t voting then we’re never going to get higher income assistance, more affordable housing spots or change any of the issue we have because the people who are voting don’t have these issues.”

Megan Deveaux from Dal Legal Aid said many look at voting as just another errand with no return, but added it’s an attitude that really needs to change if real change that benefits those living in poverty need to overcome so their voices are heard.

“If you’re not a tenant or a landlord, or don’t need any government assistance or use any government services or are totally an island then don’t vote,” she said. “If you want them to care about what you do you need to vote and so do people who are like you. It’s terrible to take for granted things we can do in Canada.”

Deveaux said the parties look closely at who’s voting. She said they care very deeply about how people vote in hopes of securing their support. Because of that, areas that have high voter turnout get more attention than those areas with low participation.

She said the parties also purchase profile information from Statistics Canada so they can target their message more effectively.

“If you care about homelessness, vote; if you care about income support, vote; if you care about tenant rights, vote,” he said.

Deveaux said the problem is some of the most vulnerable people don’t vote because of anxiety over going into the polling station and lining up to cast a ballot.

“If you’ve grown up in trouble with the law you don’t want to go to some school and line up to vote,” she said. “It’s not logical, but it’s going on out there.”

Dowe said during the last election there was a lot of talk about helping the province’s most vulnerable people, but there has been very little change in things like income assistance or providing more affordable housing. If the 16 per cent of those in Cumberland living below the poverty line voted, she said, their concerns would be taken more seriously by the three main parties.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell


Organizations: Dal Legal Aid, Amherst News, Empowering Beyond Barriers committee Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Cumberland

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