|Common Front for Social Justice|
| Common Front
For Social Justice
96, ave Norwood, #208
Moncton, NB E1C 6L9
November 20th, 2008
Honourable Mary Schryer
Minister of Social Development
P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1
On June 17, 2008, several organizations with interest in poverty reduction met with yourself, the Deputy Minister and other members of your staff. On behalf of 12 groups, they presented the document “The Establishment of a Working Group to arrive at a Poverty Reduction Strategy for New Brunswick”. This text explained the need for our province to develop a Poverty Reduction Strategy. At the closing of the meeting, you promised that you would bring this issue to Cabinet.
We were pleased that on October 17th, you unveiled the plan “Bringing the pieces together, developing a poverty reduction plan”. Your proposal has three phases:
1. Dialogue Sessions (Winter 2009): A public engagement process where everyone comes together to talk about the problem, find solutions and propose some actions. These public sessions will aim at achieving consensus. The three-person leadership group for the Poverty Reduction Plan will include yourself, as government representative, someone representing the business sector and another person coming from a community group.
2. Round Table Sessions (Fall 2009): Participants will be chosen by the leadership group. They will have expertise regarding the issue of poverty. A Poverty Reduction Options document will come out of these sessions
3. Final Forum (Fall 2009): to debate the Poverty Reduction Options Document and adopt a Poverty Reduction Plan. This Forum will be chaired by the Premier and the participants will be selected by government.
The purpose of the letter is to share with you the observations which the signing organizations have with your proposal. We have two major concerns.
Our first concern is related to the proposed process for the public sessions. We know from experience that trying to arrive at a consensus, with participants who have different agendas, and doing this in a single session, is practically impossible. The actions that might reach the widest consensus might still be less effective in terms of poverty reduction. Some key issues (i.e. modification of social assistance policies, comparative gender analysis, etc.) might not be popular with everyone but still need to be addressed. These examples illustrate why we would very much prefer that participants at the Dialogue Sessions do not have to come to a consensus at the end of the day.
Our second concern is with the selection of the participants for the Round Table Sessions and the Final Forum. The information from your Department indicates that all participants in steps 2 and 3 will, in effect, be chosen by government. We believe that this does not provide for a buy-in from the different stakeholders, nor does it provide for accountability to the various groups who have great interest in seeing poverty being significantly reduced.
In the June 17th document presented to you, the following proposal was put forward for the composition of a Working Group on a Poverty Reduction Strategy:
1. A group of Ministers or Deputy Ministers, spearheaded by the Minister of Social Development. Other invited Ministers could be from the Departments of Education, Finance, Justice, Health and Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. The Advisory Council on the Status of Women would bring valuable data regarding women in poverty.
2. Ten or more representatives from community organizations working on specific poverty issues. Suggestions for consideration by the government, in alphabetical order, are:
a. Comité des 12 from the Acadian Peninsula
b. Common Front for Social Justice Inc.
c. Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization
d. Maison de bienfaisance from Campbellton
e. Non-profit group from Edmundston – to be identified
f. Provincial Seniors’ group in contact with low-income seniors – to be identified
g. Urban Core Support Network from Saint John
h. Vibrant Community Saint John
Two or more other community organizations could be selected to arrive at a reasonable community and gender balance. One third or more of the community representatives should be people living below the poverty line
3. Two municipality representatives nominated by Federations of municipalities, one representing the English sector, the other one the French sector
4. Two representatives from the business sector, one nominated by the Chambers of Commerce and another one by Enterprise New Brunswick
5. Two Union Group representatives chosen by New Brunswick Union groups.
The positive aspects of our proposal are:
(1) Inclusion of many stakeholders with strong interest in poverty reduction;
(2) Options for community organizations to choose representatives who would be accountable to their membership;
(3) Provision of opportunities for regional representation and gender balance;
(4) Good representation of people living in poverty, an aspect of vital importance.
We believe that our proposal is well suited for the selection of participants for the Round Table Sessions as well as for the Final Forum. We consider it important that the same participants be at every step of this very important process to discuss, debate and find solutions together instead of bringing in new participants at levels 2 and 3 of the process. Our proposal also takes away the perception that the Plan is only a government initiative, not one coming from all segments of society.
We strongly believe that New Brunswickers living in poverty need a plan which offers them hope. We are very much interested in working with you in putting together a Poverty Reduction Plan but we consider that the present process, as it stands, needs to be changed so that it is more inclusive. We therefore ask you to seriously consider our proposal.
We thank you in advance for this consideration and we hope to hear from you soon.
Jean-Claude Basque for
Association des bibliothécaires,
professeures et professeurs de l’Université de Moncton
Association acadienne et francophone des aînées et aînés du Nouveau-Brunswick
Canadian Labour Congress-Atlantic Region
Comité des 12 pour la justice sociale
Howard Society-Saint John
Justice and Solidarity Team-Moncton diocese
New Brunswick Association of Social Workers
NB Coalition for Pay Equity
NB Common Front for Social Justice
NB Federation of Labour
Support to Single Parents Inc.
Chignecto Presbytery- United Church of Canada