New Brunswick

Poverty reduction is a never-ending job, says former deputy minister

A former deputy minister of social development thinks poverty reduction efforts in New Brunswick are working, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Groundwork laid for reducing poverty in New Brunswick but work isn't over

A former deputy minister of social development says the province has laid a lot of groundwork for future poverty reduction, but the work isn’t done yet. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A former deputy minister of social development thinks the province's poverty reduction plan is working, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

James Hughes, now with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, a non-profit in Montreal, was deputy minister during parts of the Shawn Graham and David Alward governments.

He is back in the province now as Crabtree visiting scholar at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, where he is working with students on ways to improve policy-making in the area of poverty reduction.

Hughes said the province has laid a lot of groundwork for future poverty reduction, but the work isn't done yet.

"I think the structures are in place for successful poverty reduction, and there have been some successes," he said.

"For sure there's more work to be done."

Mixed bag

Hughes cited the city of Saint John as an example of where there have been both improvements and setbacks.

The overall poverty rate in the city is better than it was when he was deputy minister, he said, but the child poverty numbers aren't as good.

"I know the child poverty rates, however, are somewhat stagnant and they're in the 25 to 30 per cent area."

Early childhood education, specifically daycare, is one area where the province has been doing a good job, he said.

"High-quality daycare is not only a tremendous way to get young people prepared for school," said Hughes. "But in terms of poverty reduction, specifically for single moms, it's an answer for many of them to actually get off welfare and get the opportunities to work."

Not just money

Hughes said poverty isn't just defined by not having enough money, but also by societal issues such as childhood education and senior isolation.

"It's not just about your income … but it is about income as well," said Hughes.

"When we see kids start school better off, when we see less seniors being isolated from their communities we know we're also doing better there."

He warned against complacency.

"Poverty reduction is an ongoing effort," he said. "It's a job which never ends. We can always do better."

With files from Shaun Waters and Information Morning Fredericton

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