New Brunswick

New Brunswick poverty report missing detail, says social justice group

The provincial Crown corporation set up to reduce poverty in New Brunswick says it has exceeded some of its main goals, but the Common Front for Social Justice is calling for an independent report.

Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation says it has exceeded some of its main goals

The provincial Crown corporation set up to cut "deep poverty" in New Brunswick in half by 2015 says it has noted a change in culture in the way poverty is addressed since it was created six years ago.

Jean-Claude Basque, of the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, says he wants an independent source to rate the province's progress on poverty reduction. (CBC)
But the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation's progress report, released Thursday, is missing key details, according to a group that lobbies for unemployed and low-income New Brunswickers.

Jean-Claude Basque, provincial co-ordinator of the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, says the report, entitled Together: The Impact of New Brunswick's 2009-2014 Economic and Social Inclusion Plan, shows some of its goals have been met.

"But is it the effort of the province, or is it partly due to the money that people living in poverty are receiving from the federal government, especially regarding child care rebates? So that's not in the report," Basque said.

According to the study, poverty among single mothers, two-parent families and single people is down by 25-43 per cent, surpassing its goal of 25 per cent.

The report also highlights new partnerships with community groups, and approximately $8.3 million worth of community investment in more than 212 different projects.

- Jean-Claude Basque

But efforts to help the poorest of the poor have not been successful, the report shows. Instead of cutting that rate in half, there was a increase of about five per cent.

The number of people using food banks has barely improved since 2009, and New Brunswick's minimum wage still ranks near the bottom in Canada.

Basque says many New Brunswickers are still living with incomes too low to stay above the poverty line.

"Poverty reduction is still not seen as an investment that society should be doing," said Basque.

"So that's the thing that has to be changed — seeing the fight against poverty as an investment that will bring economic results, by bringing more people in the labour force, by increasing the amount of money people are making when they're working, so that they don't need all of these public programs," hes aid.

"And we have seen part of the private sector resisting increases in minimum wage, being completely against contributing to New Brunswick's job plan, that didn't help either."

Basque says there was also supposed to be a separate, independent report looking at poverty impacts in New Brunswick over the same five-year period.

"Yes, it looks good for the corporation to do its own report, but there has to be an independent view of what happened, and really look at everything done the last five years," he said.

"Did it really reduce poverty, or did we just talk about it? We put food in people's baskets, but did it really reduce poverty, so that's what's missing."

The provincial government began the project six years ago after consulting with anti-poverty and business groups.

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

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