NS Election: NDP candidate Lauren Skabar pushes for higher minimum wage, permanent rent controls

Lauren Skabar poses with NDP campaign sign (Facebook photo)

Lauren Skabar says she’s been involved with the New Democratic Party for as long as she can remember.

“I would go with my parents to different events and different debates, [and] I’ve been a card-carrying member since I was 14, so over 10 years now almost.”

She says she has also been a volunteer on various federal and provincial election campaigns for more than a decade.

Skabar, who is now running as the NDP candidate in Cumberland North in the August 17 Nova Scotia election, is following in the footsteps of her father Brian who represented the riding for four years when the NDP took power in 2009.

“For me the NDP has always represented something better for Nova Scotians whether that be better health care, better access to information, quality housing…higher minimum wage, it represents everybody in Nova Scotia and not just the higher-ups in Nova Scotia, not just business owners in Nova Scotia, but everybody,” Lauren Skabar says.

She adds that the NDP’s call for a $15 minimum wage, up from the current $12.95 per hour, is an example of the party’s concern for everyone and especially the poor.

Newly released figures from Statistics Canada show Nova Scotia has consistently trailed behind New Brunswick and PEI in average or median, after-tax family incomes in recent years ranking lowest among the 10 provinces in 2017 and again in 2019.

“The minimum wage we have right now is just disgusting,” Skabar says. “We need to implement a $15 minimum wage immediately on the way to a living wage, which in Nova Scotia is $18.95.”

Skabar adds that there’s no way people can cover their bills, afford child care, pay their rent or save up for a down payment on a house when they’re earning less than $13 an hour.

“During the pandemic, we were praising retail workers and grocery store workers and gas station attendants for being the heroes along with our health-care workers,” she says.

“If these are our heroes then why are we paying them poverty wages?”

Skabar says she’s also concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Cumberland North, adding that during recent door-to-door canvassing, she heard from one couple whose landlord sold the house they were renting.

“They had to move, but their rent doubled, so that isn’t right, there’s no reason that somebody who’s been living in Cumberland North for their whole life, who may not be able to afford a house, has their rent doubled in a month because there’s no permanent rent controls.”

Last November, the Liberal government announced a temporary two percent cap on annual rent increases during the pandemic, but then quietly dropped the cap for tenants moving into existing rental properties.

Library school

Lauren Skabar outside First Baptist Church in downtown Amherst

As we talk on Sunday outside the Four Fathers Memorial Library in downtown Amherst, Skabar remarks that the building is one of her favourite places in town.

Her four years of work as a summer student there led her to library school at Dalhousie University where she recently graduated with a Masters degree in library and information studies.

She says she’s currently using her research skills working for the federal NDP in Halifax.

Later, as we walk on Victoria Street, Skabar points to the First Baptist Church where she joined the youth group as a high school student.

“Some of the memories I hold dearest to me is that youth group,” she says.

“My acting career started and ended there,” she adds smiling. “Maybe one day, I’ll get back to the stage.”

Meantime, Skabar’s NDP candidacy in Cumberland North has landed her on the Nova Scotia political stage where she gets to talk about big issues such as climate change, health care, education and the need for ensuring quicker access to mental health counselling.

“Even though I’ve definitely been strongly influenced by my own Dad, when I look at the NDP platform now, there are so many things that I wouldn’t have thought about before and now that I see it in writing and I see what we’re going to do, I realize how important that is to me,” she says.

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