Saint John group calls for federal help to deal with poverty

New numbers confirming a stubbornly high rate of poverty in Saint John among single parent families has activists hoping the Trudeau government will look at testing promised new federal programs to help the poor in the city first.

Statistics Canada says Saint John had lowest median income for single income families of 33 metro areas

The Saint John Human Development Council is pushing the federal government to devote funds to help combat poverty in the city. (Saint John Human Development Council/Facebook)

New numbers confirming a stubbornly high rate of poverty in Saint John among single parent families has activists hoping the Trudeau government will look at testing promised new federal programs to help the poor in the city first.

"I know the federal government is trying to decide which cities they want to start this initiative in and if Saint John could be part of that, that would be amazing," said Joma Dix, with the Saint John Human Development Council.

"They would commit a lot of resources."

[Poverty] is not really hidden here. It's staring in your face.- Joma Dix

Dix is among a group who have been trying to generate signatures on a petition to Parliament asking Ottawa to designate Saint John as a "demonstration site" for "testing and evaluating" any new poverty reduction ideas.

The petition needs only 500 signatures to require a formal response by federal government but Dix said he is hoping for at least 2,000. So far, 1,454 signatures have been collected.

He has been posting videos on Facebook to encourage support but said people in the city do not need much convincing about the need to attack poverty.

"It's not really hidden here. It's staring in your face," said Dix

Struggling single parent families

Randy Hatfield, who heads the Saint John Human Development Council, said the Statistics Canada report confirms how much some families are struggling in the city. (CBC)
Last week, Statistics Canada reported that according to 2014 income tax data Saint John had the lowest median income for single parent families among the country's 33 metropolitan areas

Moncton fared little better at 31 on the list.

But it is the 10th year in a row Saint John finished last, consistently posting the lowest income levels for single parent families of any Canadian urban centre.

Statistics Canada's Francois Page said a metropolitan area is any community of at least 100,000 people that also has an urban core of at least 50,000.

He said the measurement and ranking of single parent income levels that has placed Saint John at the bottom every year since 2005 is very accurate because it is pulled from actual tax returns.

Randy Hatfield is the Executive Director of the Saint John Human Development Council and speaks about the new Stats Canada data that shows that Saint John has held the title for ten years. 10:36

According to the report, half of all single parent families in Saint John reported incomes of less than $35,330 in 2014, well below the national median income for single parent families of $41,780

Randy Hatfield, who leads the Saint John Human Development Council and authored the petition to Parliament asking for help for Saint John, said the new numbers show why action is needed.

"It confirms that we have an issue of lone parent families in the community that aren't performing well economically. We've experienced these poor numbers for quite some time," said Hatfield.

"There is a federal willingness to move on this. There will be money and programs available and so we just wanted to make sure that if we are talking poverty reduction that Saint John stands out."

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.