New women's advocacy group created by province

The Alward government has unveiled the makeup of a new independent forum designed to address women's issues.

$200,000 budget raises questions about whether new body will have enough funding to do its job

The Alward government has unveiled the makeup of a new independent body designed to address women's issues.

The announcement comes three years after the Progressive Conservatives shut down the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

The Voices of New Brunswick Women Consensus-Building Forum will be made up of six women and representatives of nine advocacy groups.

One of the members, Sarah Leblanc, the executive director of the Regroupement Feministe, says she has her concerns.

Leblanc says she is happy the forum is in place, but she noticed its $200,000 budget is less than half of what the former advisory council received.

"To have a mandate so important to advise the government and the population on women's equality, you do need resources, so we will be watching that closely," she said.

"We have to compare a little bit, unfortunately, to the late advisory council that had a budget of $400,000 when it was abolished. Those were the kind of resources that were necessary at that time to realize the mandate."

Marie-Claude Blais, who is the minister responsible for women's equality in the Alward government, says the new government-funded organization will have a broad range of women as members.

"You have business women around the table, immigrant women around the table, so that may bring questions that are not sometimes in the forefront," she said.

Blais says her budget estimates in the coming weeks will detail how much funding the forum will have in its first full year of operation.

The forum will provide advice to the provincial government on matters of interest to women while bringing issues to public attention, she has said.