New Brunswick's minister for the status of women is defending the elimination of an arm's length agency dedicated to women's rights.
Margaret-Ann Blaney said the elimination of funding for the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women — announced in Tuesday's provincial budget — was a tough, but necessary choice for the Tories.
In the first question period after the budget, the Opposition Liberals attacked an increase in the gas tax, an increase in tuition fees, and the cutting of all funding for the advisory council.
Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau linked the council's budget cut to allegations of Tory patronage appointments by Premier David Alward.
"The salary he's paying for his two campaign co-chairs, Mr. Speaker, as a gift for their political work, could fund the entire Council on the Status of Women for next year ...," Boudreau said.
Blaney said the alternative was cutting funding for 14 outreach workers who counsel victims of abuse.
"It really did come down to, OK, do we fund advocacy, or do we continue to put these front-line workers front and centre with the work that they do?" Blaney said.
Two employees of the advisory council will join the women's issues branch in the government, but they'll no longer be at arm's length and free to offer criticism.
Blaney wouldn't say if an independent voice is now unnecessary, only that women's issues are more of a priority than they were when the council was created.