Question Period: Poverty Reduction – December 19, 2014

Poverty Reduction


Mr. Coon: My question is for the Minister of Social Development and of Healthy and Inclusive Communities. At this time of year, there are many excellent fund-raisers around the province, such as the Feed a Family Campaign at CBC here in Fredericton, for people to support food banks to ensure that people have a Christmas dinner. We know that the use of food banks is rising, and we know that families and individuals living in poverty need help every day, not only on Christmas day.

My question for the minister is this: What are her personal priorities for the coming year to help alleviate poverty among families and individuals in this province?

Hon. Ms. Rogers: I would like to thank the Leader of the Third Party for this good question. Our government is very committed to working on poverty. We see poverty as a problem in New Brunswick, as many other provinces across Canada do. Our government is very committed to responding to this problem in a variety of ways, including what our government’s top priorities are: creating jobs and stimulating the economy as well as getting our fiscal house in order and helping vulnerable families. That goes a long way to addressing poverty.

I am very committed to working very closely, as well, with the Minister responsible for the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation to move our poverty reduction plan forward. In fact, I have been involved in this plan since the outset. I helped to put it together. I am very, very committed to helping vulnerable families. Thank you.

Poverty Reduction Plan

Mr. Coon: Since 1989, childhood poverty has increased in this province. There are 11 000 children living in poverty. At the same time, the economy has grown, on a per capita basis, by 40%. Many, many jobs were created, so job creation and economic growth just do not cut it in addressing poverty. Clearly, that is the evidence.

My question is this: What will the minister do in terms of beefing up and improving the poverty reduction plan specifically to help families and individuals living in poverty?

Hon. Ms. Rogers: Eradicating poverty is, of course, a joint responsibility. It is a responsibility of everyone in the community and a responsibility of all government departments and government levels, but it is also a responsibility of individuals. The Department of Social Development and the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities play a strong role here because people in poverty experience more than a lack of income. People in poverty experience a diminished meeting of their basic needs. They experience a lack of full participation in their society, and they also experience a more vulnerable position when being protected.

Addressing all these concerns means that we have to provide the tools to help vulnerable New Brunswick families and individuals. The Department of Social Development is very committed to helping in the areas of income assistance to supplement and also to help with affordable housing, to help with seniors . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: One of the things that could really help the working poor in particular is for the provincial portion of income tax to be removed for people who are essentially living on the minimum wage or thereabouts and are considered to be among the working poor. My question for the Minister of Social Development is this: Will she, under advisement, urge the Minister of Finance to take under advisement my recommendation to urge him to reduce the provincial portion of income tax on the working poor?

Hon. Ms. Rogers: I am certainly very pleased to support our recent initiatives to increase the minimum wage. We all know that the minimum wage still leaves a lot of people in poverty. In fact, those who work 40 hours a week at minimum wage—which is rare because people are usually given only 30 hours a week—still fall under the low-income cutoff. I will be discussing many opportunities that we can bring forward, including discussing this with the Minister of Finance so that we can ensure that we have a fair and equitable tax system that helps our vulnerable people in New Brunswick.

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