June 25, 2015 4:20 pm
Updated: June 25, 2015 4:41 pm

N.B. sees an increase in deep poverty, launches new plan for 2019

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WATCH: There’s good news and bad news coming out of a major five year plan to reduce poverty throughout the province. While we’ve achieved many of the goals in the plan there’s one problem we’ve actually seen grow over the past couple years. Global’s Laura Brown explains.

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FREDERICTON – The final report on New Brunswick’s first poverty reduction plan shows that while the situation has improved for many low-income New Brunswickers, the number of people in deep poverty actually increased by five per cent between 2009 and 2014.

Stephane Leclair, the executive director of the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, says it’s not clear why that number increased, but it represents about five per cent of the province’s population.

“Deep poverty means that you’re very, very far, at the bottom of the barrel and most of the time we can’t access those people because we don’t really know them very well,” he said.

Leclair said many living in deep poverty don’t file income tax, so they can’t access services they need.

Monique Richard, a co-chair of the plan, grew up in poverty and said “once you’re down there, it’s hard to get up.”

“I had two boys and I was a single mom on social assistance and I didn’t have very much self-confidence,” she said.

Richard is now hoping her story helps find some solutions.

Leclair says 21 of the 22 priority items in the first plan have been completed, such as increasing the minimum wage, introduction of the provincial drug plan, and dental and vision programs for the children of low-income families.

Ed Doherty, the minister responsible for the corporation, says work is underway on 28 items in the new plan that runs until 2019.

But Green Leader David Coon says the new plan is weak and doesn’t include the kind of action it will take to address deep poverty.

“We need to speed up the increase minimum wage that the government’s committed to but we can’t wait until 2017,” he said. “We have to continue to improve social assistance particularly for single parents.”

Coon also identified the need for an income guarantee. He says there also needs to be better access to mental health services, housing programs and assistance for people with disabilities who are living in poverty.

With files from the Canadian Press

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