Monday, December 10, 2007

Poverty rally beats frigid day

from The Prince George Citizen

SCOTT STANFIELD, Citizen staff

Bitterly cold weather didn't prevent a crowd from gathering Saturday outside the Prince George Courthouse, where the public was treated to hot chocolate, chili and even some entertainment at the fifth annual Chili Blanket rally.

The Northern Women’s Forum hosted the event to speak out against poverty.

"It was a wonderful turnout," said Jan Mastromatteo, a CNC instructor and NWF member. "I mean, minus 27 today. I think we may have had 50 to 75 people out."

The rally garnered numerous donations of blankets and winter wear for people in need. Leftover items were donated to various shelters and non-profit groups.

"People bring vehicles down with donations. That's really increased over the years," Mastromatteo said. "And we get more money donated each year as well. So the money that we have we tend to target different groups each year. Because we're a women's organization, we always look at the transition houses and AWAC (Association Advocating for Women and Children), but we also are looking at seniors this year. The seniors council called us because they get so many calls from seniors that are cold or hungry. Seniors have been so hard hit with the Pharmacare, the listings of drugs, the closure of senior centres. It's tragic."

This year, the Chili Blanket theme was appropriately dubbed Tax Cuts Don’t Cut The Chill.

Speakers included CNC student union president Valentine Crawford, Christal Capostinsky of the New Hope Society, and Betty Bekkering, NDP federal candidate for Prince George-Peace River.

"The one speaker said a penny is what we're getting out of it (tax cuts), so that's not cutting the chill very much," Mastromatteo said. "I think, certainly when we started this, the province was in a deficit situation. It had a lot to do with the tax cuts they brought in the first go-round. But now, with the surpluses, none of the social programs are being refunded. Things are worsening. The announcement that B.C. has the most children living in poverty in Canada is phenomenal, to me."

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