Social Development Discriminates Against Single Mothers: Question Period – 28 March 2017
Here is the video and transcript of oral questions today recorded in the language it was originally spoken.
Mr. Coon: I have a constituent in crisis. She has no source of income, so she and her children face homelessness. When people are in dire straits, our social safety net is meant to be there to support them. That is not the case for her. She is being denied social assistance because she refuses to name the father of her children. I find this ludicrous and, frankly, sexist.
Can the Minister of Families and Children explain to this House why his department insists on knowing the name of the father before providing a single mom and her children with the income they need through social assistance so that they can secure housing and food?
Hon. Mr. Horsman: I appreciate the question from the member opposite. The people at Social Development continue to work hard for all the people of New Brunswick, and they will continue to do so. I cannot get into specifics, but there are rules and regulations for everything. I would welcome the member opposite to come to our office if he has any questions or concerns about that. Get a consent form signed by that person, and we will certainly discuss that. I will continue to be proud of the people at Social Development for the work that they do to help people in crisis.
Mr. Speaker: The member for New Maryland-Sunbury will come to order.
Hon. Mr. Horsman: We do this either through jobs, finding homes, etc. Again, the people at Social Development will continue to work and to help the people of this province. They will continue to do so.
Mr. Coon: I show up here in the Legislative Assembly to ask questions in question period, and I am looking for answers. There are countless reasons that a woman may choose not to disclose the identity of her children’s father. To hold her assistance ransom for such a private piece of information is an abuse of the social assistance system that is being perpetrated on single mothers. Almost half of the single-parent-led families in our province live in poverty. In Saint John, one in four families is led by single mothers. This is an issue not just for my constituent, but this is an issue that stands to impact many women and families across this province.
Can the minister explain to this House why he needs to know the name of the father of the
children in families led by single moms seeking social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Horsman: Again, we do not want to talk about specifics, but we want to talk about the general population. We continue to help the people of this province, and we will continue to do so. Again, I would request of the member opposite, if he has any questions or concerns, that he get a consent signed by the person mentioned and come to our office. We welcome the members opposite at any time, if they have any questions or concerns, to come and see us. We would certainly be glad to help them out as best we can, with the rules and regulations at this time.
I have always stated that our policies need to be changed. We welcome at any time a change in our policies to make them better for the people of this province, maybe to modernize them. Again, we will continue to help the people of this province. We will continue to help the people who are on social assistance. That is why our government has raised the minimum wage. We want to raise the money that people are earning in those jobs, and we will continue to do so. Again, I want to thank the people at Social Development for the work that they do.
Mr. Coon: Continually, ministers on the other side, in response to questions, invite us to come to their offices rather than answering questions in the light of day here so that all New Brunswickers can hear what is behind the policies that are being implemented and that are having significant impacts on New Brunswickers.
I thought that this blatantly discriminatory policy had been abandoned a long time ago when Elizabeth Weir successfully campaigned against the McKenna government’s efforts to force single mothers to reveal the identity of the men who had fathered their children in order to qualify for social assistance. Everyone will remember, I am sure, the “Frank’s the Father” campaign as women around the province started sporting buttons that said: “Frank’s the Father” in response to that question.
I thought that this government was using a gender-based analysis in its approach to policy. Will the minister strike this policy from the books of his department immediately?
Hon. Mr. Horsman: Again, because of privacy issues, we cannot confirm or deny what the member opposite is saying. As a former police officer, I know that there are always three sides to a story. I am not saying that the side that the member opposite is giving is not true. What I am saying is that there are always different sides to a story. There are rules and regulations that we have to follow, and we will continue to follow them. The people who work at Social Development will continue to work hard for all New Brunswickers, and we will do so.
Again, I would invite the member opposite to come to our office. We welcome him at all times to see what we can do. Maybe we have to modernize our policies. Let’s look at it. Again, I want to thank the people at Social Development for the work that they do for all New Brunswickers. Thank you.