Common Front for Social Justice

Common Front Presentation to the Provincial Government Special Committee on Wellness
February, 19, 2008

Good afternoon.

Iím Linda McCaustlin, Co-Chair of the N.B. Common Front for Social Justice and a welfare recipient.

Thank you for giving me the time to speak. I will speak on behalf of the poor who could not be here, to be heard. Actually those on social assistance, low wage, E.I. and low income seniors are the ones affected the most.

Lets take the transitional category of social assistance, single older people, of which there are many and most on permanent disability. The rate for a month is $521.00. The past three raises only totaled $36.00, to bring it to this amount. Now anyone knows you canít live on this, you canít even meet basic necessities: rent, heat, power and phone. Where is the food? There is none, honestly, there is none. Can you imagine the fear and stress? Is one meal a day at a soup kitchen sufficient? The most one can go to a food bank is once, the order lasting three to four days. Is that sufficient? And you ask what wellness means to us. Weíd love to eat properly, just like you. Weíd love to feel good. No more arthritis, heart conditions, rampant diabetes, teeth falling out, depression or stress and sleepless nights. No more beating the feet every single day to find food. There is no time to think what you would like to do and no money to get there. Its like a slow death, going downhill and giving up hope. We do not have enough money to get there or have good health and it hurts. We are being controlled by a government whim and never b rought into the picture at all. Do you have any idea at all, how many of us there are? I donít know of any groups or organizations out there in this province that can feed everyone properly.

You can promote wellness til the cows come home, we can see and we can hear. But until social assistance rates, low wages, changes to E.I. and more for low income seniors are raised to meet the cost of living, it wonít happen. We can only stand there and watch ourselves being left behind.

Why should the government pass almost impossible roles onto individuals, stakeholders and communities? You have to start somewhere but at least start. Important activities: 1) Lobby government for better rates for Social Assistance, raise minimum wage, redo E.I. and better Pensions for low income seniors. 2) Reform Social Assistant Policies which benefit no one. 3) Have free seats in Community Colleges for courses for decent paying jobs 4) Donít cut social assistance if one goes to university. 5) Provide fitness classes of low income people for free. 6) Land for community gardens.

At the budget meeting with Minister Boudreau, he said hard choices had to be made. How can this government ignore the cries of the hungry, those in the cold and the homeless in favour of business. And for Godís sake, reform the policies, there are too many closed doors to get out. Until rates and wages are brought up to par with inflation, not much progress can be made. This is far more than any community organization or non-profit group can handle. And what a cost to the Department of Health. Wellness might improve for most but it certainly looks bleak for us. All we want is enough to pay the bills and buy food. It would be absolutely fantastic to feel good again but I canít help but feel that its too late for some.

Thank you.