Davies Points Finger at Prime Minister-in-Waiting Paul Martin for BC Governments’ Welfare Time Limits

OTTAWA – Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East, today challenged the federal government to intervene in the BC government’s decision to institute a 2-year time limit for welfare recipients.

“The former finance Minster’s elimination of the Canadian Assistance Plan has paved the way for the BC government to be the first province to impose time limits for social assistance”, said the federal NDP Social Policy critic in Question Period today.

Paul Martin, as finance minister in 1995 eliminated national welfare standards, this has left the door open to provincial governments to eliminated social assistance even to people in need. As of April 1, 2004 the Government of BC will begin cutting people off welfare if they have been receiving assistance for more than 2 years.

“This is going to result in tens of thousands of people being without a means to support themselves and clearly violates rights protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms”, said the Vancouver East MP.

Community organizations from across BC are preparing a constitutional challenge to the 24-month time limits on social assistance. “The federal government is going to have to sit up and listen to this legal challenge as it highlights their failure to protect constitutionally entrenched rights and to guaranteed the provision of essential public services”, adds Davies.

The court challenge will argue that the 24-month cut off violates basic human rights guarantees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 and 15 of the Charter outlines an individual’s right to life, liberty, security of person and equality under the law. Section 36 of the Constitution also applies in this case, as it jointly obliges the federal and provincial governments to provide essential public services to all Canadians.

“The federal government has to stand up and say these changes are unlawful and must be stopped now. They have a responsibility to Canadians and it is shameful if they hide behind the excuse that it is out of their jurisdiction”.