Glavine: Where has maintenance enforcement gone?

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From Province House to home

By Leo Glavine

Good jobs are a cornerstone for a strong community.  Attracting and maintaining those jobs are a major part of what we aim to do as MLAs. A good MLA will work for the betterment of all communities in the province. Of course, we look to our constituents needs first, but we can’t take from one to build another. We work for the betterment of all Nova Scotians.

I wish I could say that is what the MLAs who form our NDP government are doing. In an effort, it claims, to make the province’s Maintenance Enforcement Program more efficient and provide better service, the government is moving eight jobs out of Kentville to New Waterford. Twenty-eight more jobs from around the province will also go to a newly-established central office in New Waterford.

When the announcement was made, Deputy Premier Frank Corbett spoke about strengthening communities and moving good jobs to rural locations, but there was no reference to the communities like Amherst, New Glasgow and Kentville, from which he was taking the very same jobs. This was about establishing an efficient new government office in New Waterford, which conveniently is Corbett’s home town and in the riding he represents. Once the Deputy Premier spoke, MLA’s Morton and Jennex were voiceless in support of the Kentville office that provides personal service to Valley clients.

I can believe the centralized office for Maintenance Enforcement will save monies, but it is the concept of this move offering better service that I have trouble with. The Maintenance Enforcement Program collects court ordered child and spousal support payments, now generally referred to as maintenance payments. The program deals with 9,000 Nova Scotia families who are owed millions of dollars.

Many of these people are single parents living in poverty. They are simply fighting for what their children are owed and, in some cases, it is a substantial amount. More than 2,000 of these people are owed in excess of $10,000; 500 of them are trying to collect more than $50,000. The loss of these maintenance enforcement jobs in Kentville means not only that there are eight families facing turmoil, but there are families in need all over the Valley who have to deal with a stranger over the phone in Cape Breton rather than the caseworker who knows their story, their kids and sometimes even the former spouses who owe them money. 

Then there is the new office itself. Sure, it’s great for New Waterford, but what about the people whose jobs are being relocated? Many of them don’t want to move to Cape Breton. Just like us, they have families, homes and commitments. Mr. Corbett is asking them to uproot their lives and their kids’ lives, putting those families under tremendous pressure. These employees had the option of staying in their communities and opting into other government jobs. Many of them chose to do that. In fact, the Maintenance Enforcement Program lost 23 skilled workers in this move. That’s a big hole in a small program, and a big hole in the Deputy Premier’s theory that such a move will make the program more efficient. There are now 23 new employees to be trained and thousands of clients with caseworkers unfamiliar with their files. Management confirmed that it takes at least two years for their officers to reach a highly effective level.

The NDP slogan promotes the party as working ‘for today’s families.’ The party’s election platform promised stronger communities and secure jobs. Now, unless they live in New Waterford, there are thousands of families in the Annapolis Valley and across the province to whom those promises have been broken.

Organizations: NDP, Province House

Geographic location: New Waterford, Kentville, Nova Scotians New Glasgow Cape Breton Nova Scotia Annapolis Valley

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