New poverty reduction plan unveiled
Five-year plan short on measurable goals, deadlines
New Brunswick's second poverty reduction plan was unveiled today in Fredericton.
The plan, entitled Overcoming Poverty Together: The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan, 2014-2019, is based on four pillars, officials said.
- Community empowerment
- Economic inclusion
- Social inclusion
But unlike the previous plan, measurable goals and deadlines appear hard to find. It talks about "fostering community mobilization," "celebrating success stories," and encouraging, exploring and promoting other ideas.
By comparison, the previous plan offered specific targets and dates for a wide range of issues, including minimum wage, vision and dental care for low-income people, welfare rates and tenant improvements.
But businessman Gerry Pond, co-chair of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation of New Brunswick, which oversees the poverty initiative, says that's because the new goals can't be easily implemented by the provincial government.
Instead, the new objectives require action at the local community level, making it harder to set targets, he said.
"Most of these areas require more work, I don't say study, but more analysis with the various communities involved," said Pond.
He cites public transportation as an example.
"It's not a provincial responsibility in total, but a community responsibility and the system is probably going to have to be different in each region. So we know we need more transportation capacity. We don't know how to set the targets for that."
Pond says as the plan rolls out it will become easier to establish specific goals.
Premier David Alward says another challenge with setting targets is it's been difficult to measure progress under the initial plan.
Ottawa's elimination of the long-form census has deprived the province of valuable statistics, he said.
"With the change to how census data is collected, it is more complex to be able to evaluate the effects."
Public engagement process
The plan, which comes into effect at the end of the year, was based on public input.
More than 4,800 comments were received during a public engagement process last fall, he said.
"This plan represents the willingness of New Brunswickers from all sectors to rally around a shared vision of society that seeks to build a more inclusive New Brunswick," Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation of New Brunswick president Léo-Paul Pinet said in a statement.
"The plan was designed so that everyone can make a direct and tangible contribution with respect to improving their own situation."
Premier David Alward is encouraging all New Brunswickers to embrace the plan and to participate in it personally.
"The fight against poverty is a shared responsibility that requires an integrated approach and the participation of residents at all levels," he said.
The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation of New Brunswick was established four years ago to work toward cutting "deep poverty" in half in New Brunswick by 2015.
It has been estimated that about 110,000 people in the province are currently living below the poverty line — about 15 per cent of the population.