Common Front for Social Justice

For Immediate Publication

The next Provincial budget needs to have $25 million in real new money in it to help people on Socail Assistance

''The next Provincial budget needs to have $25 million in real new money in it to help people on Socail Assistance in this province'' says Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice (CFSJ)

''People in poverty cannot wait much longer for help. Compared to other Canadian provinces, New Brunswick is at the bottom when it comes to the level of help given to people on Social Assistance. Estimates calculated by the CFSJ and reviewed by an economist indicate that, for 64% of individuals and family units on social assistance, more than $16 million are required to increase the benefits up to the average of the other three Atlantic Provinces. To increase all social assistance recipients to this level it would therefore require around $25 million new dollars. These additional monies must be included in the 2007-08 budget of the Department of Family and Community Services'' stated Linda McCaustlin.

Shawn Graham in his document Charter for Change stated that he would bring the basic rates of welfare recipients to the average of the other Atlantic Provinces. The CFSJ considered this promise as a first small step in the right direction.

''A Liberal Government will review the current social assistance rates paid to recipients and the programs available to people on social assistance with the goal of raising rates to the average for Atlantic Canada'' Charter for Change p 27.

In January 2007, when a Common Front for Social Justice delegation met with the Premier and the Minister of Family and Community Services, they were under the impression that change would happen. We were astonished that the Throne Speech did not address the issue of poverty, which affects a high number of individuals and families in this province

''There are abundant reasons why the upcoming provincial budget needs to have new monies for people on welfare'' says Linda McCaustlin

The situation for people on welfare is not getting any better. Right now in Canada, New Brunswick is close to the bottom of the pile in the help it provides to individuals and families on welfare.

In its October 2006 report the National Council of Welfare identified four(4) categories ( single employable, Person with Disability, Lone Parent, One Child and Couple,Two Children). The report clearly says that for each of these categories and for the four Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick is the lowest for Basic Social Assistance (except NS Lone Parent,One child)and also the lowest for Total Welfare Income (except NS Lone Parent, One Child).

The Canadian Association of Food Banks has said that the number of Canadians using food banks has more than doubled from 1989 (378,000) to 2006 (753,458). New Brunswick statistics shows that in March 2006, there were 18,140 people using a food bank. The 2006 Hunger Count Report says that in New Brunswick, 66.3% of the clients using food banks are on social assistance, the highest percentage throughout Canada.

The 2006 Child and Family Poverty Report Card for New Brunswick stated that 24,550 or 1 in every 6 children in New Brunswick lived in poverty. It said that many families in this province are living in deep poverty and that the average low-income two-parent family would need an extra $7,400/year just to bring them up to the poverty line.

''In the last months, we have all heard the message from Shawn Graham and the Working Group on Self-sufficiency. We want to tell them that we all wish our province would become self-sufficient. However, we find it very darn difficult to think about self-sufficiency when we are freezing in our apartment, trailer or house this winter and don't have enough to feed ourselves in our fridge'' concludes Ms. McCaustlin.

For information
Linda McCaustlin - 854-5856
John Gagnon - 545-0651

Common Front- 862-9182