New Brunswick

Number of children living in poverty rises to 31,400

More than 31,400 children are living in poverty, according to an annual report from the Saint John Human Development Council.

Poverty line for one parent with one child is $28,884

Child poverty rates in Saint John are tied with Toronto for the highest in the country. (CBC)

More than 31,400 children in New Brunswick are living in poverty, according to an annual report from the Saint John Human Development Council.

The 2018 Child Poverty Reduction Report Card shows a 2.5 percentage point increase from 2015 to 2016 in the number of children living in poverty.

The rise can in part be attributed to a change in the definition of poverty. The new formula raised the income threshold.

The poverty line for one parent with one child is $28,884. In 2017, the poverty line for one parent with one child was $25,498.

The child poverty rate was 24.7 per cent in 2015. 

Randy Hatfield, executive director of the Saint John Human Development Council, said many of the young people living in poverty are children of single-parents or newcomers to New Brunswick.

About 1,200 of the 7,600 Muslim children and teenagers in New Brunswick, from infants to 17-years-olds, are living in poverty, he said.

"Many of these children are coming with families in refugee situations, and if you're coming as a refugee to New Brunswick, you're entitled to a level of support that those on welfare would receive, so it's not surprising really," Hatfield told Information Morning Saint John.

Randy Hatfield, executive director of the Human Development Council in Saint John, said political will is needed to improve the lives of people who are living in poverty. (Saint John Human Development Council)

According to the report, 52 per cent of children in single-parent families in the province are also living in poverty.

Hatfield said he's not surprised by that number.

"When we talk about poverty," he said. "We know that it's a lot more than not having a lot of money. It goes to participation, belonging, social cohesion, but the only thing we can measure really is income, it's very crude and a proxy measure, but it's one that you can look at over time."

Poverty has 'deleterious effects'

The report also says that one in three people accessing a food bank in New Brunswick is a child. 

"There's a lot of trauma that's associated with poverty and youth poverty and that's why we want to catch them when they're young," Hatfield said.

"Over the life cycle, poverty has a lot of deleterious effects."

According to 2016 numbers, the most recent data, New Brunswick has the fourth highest child poverty rate of Canada's 10 provinces. The overall rate for child poverty in Canada in 2016 was 19.6 per cent.

Hatfield said there's a basic "needs deficit" in the province.

"Our shelters are exploding."

However, he said it's been a "remarkable year" for poverty reduction, citing the creation of a national poverty strategy.

In August, the Liberals vowed to lift two million Canadians out of poverty by 2030.

"The feds have chosen an official poverty line, a poverty measure, it's not a perfect one, but it's one that will allow us at least to speak the same language and to all agree on what we're measuring and what that means," Hatfield said.

He said there are other factors that contribute to living below the poverty line.

"The cost of child care is enormous in this community, across the country it is, and we know that that's a huge impediment to labour force participation," Hatfield said. "Transportation continues to be a barrier, a low minimum wage, a lack of a living wage.

"I think there are a whole host of variables that you have to consider when you're looking at poverty, particularly as we measure it as an income phenomenon."

About the Author

Sarah Morin

Reporter

Sarah Morin is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. Story tip? sarah.morin@cbc.ca

Information Morning Saint John