Front commun pour la justice sociale

Pour diffusion immédiate

 

A 5000-STITCH SCARF

June 7, 2007

Knit one stitch, minimum wage was raised. 
Drop two stitches, it remains among the lowest in the country. 
Knit one stitch, social assistance benefits have increased by 3% 
Drop two stitches, electricity rates will increase by much more. 
Knit one stitch, the NB government created a Study group on the community and volunteer sector. 
Drop two stitches, community organizations are seriously underfunded, in every aspect of community life. 
Knit one stitch, the NB government has created a working group on the wage gap. 
Drop two stitches, it persists in refusing to enact legislation on equal pay. 
Knit one stitch, the unemployment rate has decreased in our province. 
Drop two stitches, the employment insurance plan still has not been given the major makeover it needs so it can offer workers real protection."

This scarf of many thousand stitches, knitted over time according to the government's commitments, is full of holes. Stitches have been dropped on every row, creating holes in the scarf of social protection. Trying to protect the men, women and children of New Brunswick from the worst social risk - the loss of income or too little income - with a scarf full of holes: Is that really what New Brunswickers want?

The answer is no. NO, that's the answer the citizens are giving.

Since December 2006, more than 5000 people from all walks of life have signed the card prepared by the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, joining together as one voice to call for:

An immediate increase of minimum wage to $8.55/hour, followed by a gradual increase to reach $10/hour.

An immediate increase in the rates of social assistance, to reach the average rates in the three other Atlantic provinces, to be indexed to the cost of living. Subsequently, a gradual increase of these rates so that benefits are sufficient to cover basic needs as calculated in Statistics Canada's Market Basket Measure (MBM)

Advocacy for the province's citizens to bring real improvements to the federal government's employment insurance plan.

Over the past few months, we have also reached 41 elected officials both in the government and the opposition, or met with them personally, on this topic. Here again, the answer was clear. Nearly all the MLAs we spoke to stated that they supported the proposed improvements, which illustrates their willingness to bring changes in the lives of the citizens they represent.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Legislative Assembly, we are asking you to get your knitting right : reduce the number of dropped stitches and mend the holes they create in the scarf of social protection.

Now that citizens are mobilized and MLAs just as strongly convinced, it's time for the Prime Minister to act. The New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice feels that, in the short term, some of the basic stitches must be picked up, so as to shrink the largest holes in the current scarf of social protection. These include:

1- The minimum wage stitch. As was done by the McGuire Commission on self-sufficiency, we need to determine specific dates by which the minimum wage will be increased, positioning this increase as an essential component of a more comprehensive plan to attain prosperity and self-sufficiency in this province.

2-The stitch of social assistance benefits. One of the major electoral commitments of the Liberal government was to increase social assistance benefits to the level of the average benefits provided by the other Atlantic Provinces. This dropped stitch MUST be picked up immediately, not at the end of the current government's term. The most vulnerable people in our province cannot afford to wait only to be used as electoral fodder when the current Liberal government seeks a second term.

The holes caused by dropped stitches need to be mended to ensure minimal protection against the all-too-often tragic consequences of poverty. But that is not enough, as we all know. The support given by the citizens of New Brunswick must be taken seriously. What these people have expressed is their desire for poverty to recede in New Brunswick. This desire is shared by such a great a number of people that it is unthinkable not to get working on it collectively.

Today, we are seeing examples of Canadian provinces that are successful in reducing poverty in their jurisdiction, by getting to work together. Today we know that poverty is a social phenomenon that persists as long as consultative action plans are not implemented by communities that have chosen to operate a reduction in poverty.

The provinces of Quebec and of Newfoundland and Labrador have set to work to get at the root of the problem. At the Common Front, we believe that it is possible to fight poverty in our province as well, and that if we want to make a difference, the first step is to all sit collectively at the table.

The Common Front for Social Justice calls upon the New Brunswick government to take a leadership role in combating poverty, drawing its inspiration from actions taken by other provinces in Canada, and more specifically, by Newfoundland and Labrador.

-30-

For Information: Linda McLaustlin and Auréa Cormier : 204-1134