Partisan politics dominate non-partisan poverty plan

A committee of the New Brunswick Legislature spent three hours on Friday hearing from the Crown corporation that's working to reduce poverty in the province.

An estimated 15 per cent people in the province are living below the poverty line

It’s estimated that about 110,000 people in the province are living below the poverty line.

Partisan politics intruded on a supposedly non-partisan poverty plan this week.

A committee of the New Brunswick Legislature spent three hours on Friday hearing from the Crown corporation that's working to reduce poverty in the province.

The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation — a rare moment of Liberal-Progressive Conservative cooperation — was established four years ago to work towards the plan's goal of cutting "deep poverty" in half in New Brunswick by 2015.

It’s estimated that about 110,000 people in the province are living below the poverty line — that’s about 15 per cent of the population.  

On Friday MLAs seemed more interested in scoring political points than in measuring the corporation's progress.  

PC MLA Ross Wetmore tried to get the non-partisan CEO of the corporation to comment on recent Liberal musings about the HST.

"What do you feel the impact, like, a two per cent increase would have on the HST, for people living in poverty?" he asked.

Wetmore didn't get the answer he seemed to be seeking. CEO Leo-Paul Pinet said thanks to tax credits and rebates -- an HST hike might be the least harmful tax increase for poor people.   

Liberal MLA Bill Fraser also went looking for political ammunition, pointing out the original plan promised dental and vision coverage for low-income children by spring 2011.

"Can you tell the committee if that was completed, and if so, when?" he asked.

It's already well-known and has been well-reported that the PC government was a year and a half late launching the program — but Fraser seemed more intent on getting that point repeated, rather than asking about progress towards the overall goal of poverty reduction.

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