FREDERICTON –The Common Front for Social Justice New Brunswick is encouraging the Higgs government to rethink its priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Premier Higgs delivered the State of the Province Address Wednesday, February 10th outlining government priorities for the provincial budget. With pre-budget consultations and Premier Higgs’ address focused on private-sector investment and maintaining the province’s credit rating, the Common Front thinks eliminating poverty and social services should take priority.
The Common Front’s Budget recommendations, submitted today, say that the government should invest more in supporting and destigmatizing people in poverty, raise the provincial minimum wage to $15/ hour, and invest significantly in building and maintaining social housing. The Common Front also says the budget should be balanced by taxing the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, many of which have made billions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Premier’s address and budget priorities sound more like a business pitch than commitments to New Brunswickers. Poverty has gotten worse during this pandemic as a result of unemployment and lost incomes, something the Premier seems to think isn’t worth addressing. At the same time, the richest people in our country have made billions of dollars. The government has an historic opportunity to tax these pandemic profiteers and invest in the kind of policies that will immediately start to eliminate poverty and benefit thousands of people i.”
– Abram Lutes, Provincial Coordinator for the Common Front
“Higgs thanked essential workers in his address but didn’t offer anything concrete. As we pointed out in our budget submission, grocery-store workers, gas station workers, and other essential workers make minimum wage, which is well below the poverty line. The best way to support these essential workers is ensuring that they can afford to live with dignity”
– Gabrielle Ross-Marquette, Labour Co-Chair for the Common Front
“There are still stigmas and prejudices against people in poverty, even as poverty gets worse during this pandemic. There are lots of policies that prevent people from getting out of poverty that the government could fix in this budget.”
– Johanne Petitpas, Community Co-Chair for the Common Front
- New Brunswick held pre-budget consultations starting in January which posed questions like “How can private sector investment be stimulated such that it will support a stronger, more resilient economy?” No questions addressed the problem of poverty in New Brunswick.
- Premier Blaine Higgs gave the State of the Province address on February 10, 2021 at an event sponsored by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and Siemens AG.
- New Brunswick has the lowest median household income in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
- Based on the Market Basket Measure, there were 74,000 people in New Brunswick living in poverty in 2018.
- Unemployment and lost income have exploded as a result of the recession and COVID-19 pandemic, though federal programs like CERB cushioned some of the impact.
- The minimum wage in New Brunswick is $11.70/hour, well below the 2020 estimate for a living wage of roughly $20/hour.
- According to the CCPA, Canadian billionaires increased their collective wealth by $37 billion last year.
- Poverty in Canada was bad pre-coronavirus. Experts worry what will come next
- New Brunswick shows lowest median household income in Canada
- Social assistance increases don’t go far enough, say advocates for poor
- Average hourly wages in Canada have barely budged in 40 years
Provincial Coordinator, Common Front NB