Common Front for Social Justice

For Immediate Publication

News release

February 1, 2008

" Are the people living in poverty not part of this province" asks Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.

"Last evening our Premier Shawn Graham made his State of the Province Address and it is only at the very end that he mentioned poverty. Quite a feat when we know that almost 24% of the workers are making less than $10.00 an hour and more than 44,000 New Brunswickers are on Social Assistance. All of these citizens certainly did not recognize themselves in the State of the Province Address" continues Ms McCaustlin

There was no mention of an increase in the minimum wage nor of any date when there would be one. This week, the province of Nova Scotia realized the need to increase its minimum wage and a Review Committee proposed increases over two years. The proposal would see the Nova Scotia minimum wage go to $8.10 in May 2008, $8.60 in April 2009, $9.2 in April 2010 and $9.65 in October 2010. We certainly hope that this province would follow in the same path!

The Premier has said that in 2026, fewer children will live in poverty. Why wait another 18 years?. What will happen to all the children who are living in poverty now and have to wait until 2026? What about the thousands who have to rely on food bank to feed themselves. What is the Premier proposing for them in his State of the Province Address? Nothing!

The Premier also mentioned he has expanded the mandate and changed the name of the Department of Family and Community Services to Department of Social Development. He is shifting the focus on a more active approach. He said that he was pleased to announce that they plan to drop the social assistance caseload by 2,500 over the course of his mandate. Since McKenna, every New Brunswick Premier has said he would reduce the number of people on social assistance. In reality, there are just shifting people from one department toward different programs.

We all agree that the province should help people who are capable of working but the reality is that the majority of individuals and families on social assistance are unable to work. They have real physical or mental disabilities and the province needs to take that into account.

"For us, simply changing the name of the Department and expanding its mandate is not a real change. We will believe this government wants to make a dent in poverty when elected politicians address, right now, not in the future, the real issues which are: Our minimum wage is one of the lowest in the country; Citizens on social assistance have one of the lowest rate in Canada People living in poverty have to made do with high fuel costs Public social housing is insufficient, so many citizens are living in sub-standard dwellings.

"The speech sounds great but the people living in poverty are left with not enough food on the table, not enough heat in their house and not enough revenue to live on" concludes Ms McCaustlin

For information-
Linda McCaustlin- Co-Chair -855-7086
John Gagnon, co-chair - 548-9776