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Province withholds welfare statistics on election eve

The provincial ministry responsible for the welfare system normally releases caseload statistics at the end of each month, but on the eve of the election has so far failed to release its April report.

“For at least six months the monthly welfare data were showing double digit increases,” said David Schreck, a former NDP strategist who pays attention to welfare issues. “They are sitting on it undoubtedly because it's bad news and they don't want it coming out during the election campaign.”

The most recent caseload report (as of 3:45 p.m. on May 11) on the Housing and Social Development ministry's website is dated March 31 and uses data from February 2009.

That report showed, the Tyee reported, a 42 percent climb in people in the “expected to work” category from a year earlier.

Updated statistics, using data from March, would have been released by April 30 or shortly after if the ministry kept its usual schedule.

The Tyee sent e-mail or made calls to three different spokespeople for the ministry asking why the report was delayed, but none responded by posting time.

The Liberal government tightened welfare eligibility requirements in 2002, a factor in the large increase in homelessness, Schreck said. With the caseload and budget rising faster than expected, he added, a re-elected Liberal government may be tempted to do the same thing again.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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