|Common Front for Social Justice|
| Common Front
For Social Justice
96, ave Norwood, #208
Moncton, NB E1C 6L9
The Sad Side of Victor Boudreau's Budget
One of the roles of the Common Front for Social Justice (CFSJ) is to intervene publicly on issues affecting citizens living in poverty. We recognize that healthy and capable individuals are responsible for their own welfare but when one goes through economic hard times, reduction of poverty becomes a social responsibility. We pay taxes so that government redistributes the wealth to serve the common good. Presently, there are thousands of New Brunswickers who, for reasons of ill health, geographical location, personal limitations, etc. cannot move out of poverty unless proper social services are there in place to assist them.
Last February, the CFSJ had requested that the Minister of Finance include, in his 2009-2010, the funds required to raise social assistance rates to the average for Atlantic Canada. This was a promise made in the Liberal government's Charter for Change. Given that New Brunswick's social assistance rates are the lowest in Canada and considerably lower than those in the other three Atlantic Provinces, the CFSJ had requested that the 2009-2010 budget contain from $20 to 30 million dollars to raise the social assistance rates for the 38,657 persons currently on social assistance.
Sadly, no raise whatsoever was included in the recent budget. The provincial government chose to ignore the plight of social welfare recipients. They are facing an alarming rise in the price of food. Between February 2008 and February 2009, the cost of food purchased from stores rose by 8.9%. The main contributors were a 25.8% hike in the price of fresh vegetables, a 9.7% rise in the prices of bakery and cereal products and a 6.1% increase in meat prices . We know that poor nutrition leads to diminished resistance to disease. Minister Boudreau's budget included 65 million raise in the health, bringing it to a record high of $2,3 billion. The CFSJ has already told the Minister that a significant portion of these increases in health care costs could be prevented if social welfare recipients were allocated enough money to eat properly. With absolutely no increase in social assistance rates, it is not surprising to hear that food banks are facing unprecedented demands.
The CFSJ had also asked the Finance Minister to include in the Department of Social Development's budget the money necessary to implement another promise made in the Charter for Change, namely to increase the maximum allowable earnings that can be retained from casual or part-time." We had demanded that the maximum allowable earnings be raised from $150 or $200 dollars per month to at least $350 per month, and thereafter, that 50% of the wages earned be left with the social assistance recipient who is trying to move out of poverty. Our request was completely ignored the 2009-2010 budget.
In his recent budget, Minister Boudreau also released information which will lead to additional hardships for New Brunswick's low-income people:
The majority citizens of this province had "Budget Blues" after March 17th . Yes, there were good news in the budget for the 5 to 10% of New Brunswickers who are in the highest income bracket. As for those in the lower end of the economic scale, what struck them was the depressing aspect of the budget. The CFSJ is in a reflective mood, hoping to come up, with the cooperation of other groups, with a strategy to change the value system upon which the present government bases its decisions.
Provincial Council Member,
Common Front for Social Justice