NB Social justice group urges voters to consider poverty issues

17 09 2014

Common Front for Social Justice polled 5 parties on issues ranging from social assistance to child care

CBC News Posted: Sep 16, 2014 2:28 PM ET Last Updated: Sep 16, 2014 2:28 PM ET

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A social justice group is trying to make New Brunswickers mindful of poverty-related issues in the final week of the campaign before the Sept. 22 provincial election.

The Common Front For Social Justice released a summary on Tuesday of the poverty reduction platforms of each of five political parties running.

While saying it is not supporting any political party, the group said it found the Progressive Conservative and People’s Alliance platforms lacking on initiatives to help people overcome poverty.

Common Front for Social Justice

Pauline Richard, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice, and Jean-Claude Basque, provincial co-ordinator, released the results of its poll of the five political parties on poverty-related issues on Tuesday. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

​The organization polled the parties on several topics, including minimum wage, pay equity and a provincial drug plan.

It released its findings during a news conference in Moncton, as well as on its website and Facebook page.

“The Common Front for Social Justice wanted to make poverty an election issue because of the dire conditions under which tens of thousands of New Brunswick citizens are living,” the group said in a statement.

“It’s clear that the [Progressive] Conservatives don’t see poverty reduction as an urgent need. Liberal, NDP and the Greens have really good proposal[s]. People’s Alliance have almost nothing on poverty reduction,” said Jean-Claude Basque, the group’s provincial co-ordinator.

Co-chair Pauline Richard says the group doesn’t support any particular party, but urges people to inform themselves on the issues and to vote.

‘ Everybody’s vote counts. It’s the only time when we are as important as the big industries, because we’re a bigger percentage than they are.’– Pauline Richard, Common Front for Social Justice

“Staying home and saying, ‘My vote doesn’t count,’ isn’t true. Everybody’s vote counts. It’s the only time when we are as important as the big industries, because we’re a bigger percentage than they are,” said Richard.

“So people do need to realize that they have to go out and talk to their MLAs and talk to their candidates, and see what their priority is in reducing poverty and stopping that gap from growing,” she said.

Too many people in New Brunswick who work full-time, still can’t pay the bills, said Richard.

“I don’t understand how government can give billions to industry and billions to other countries and we have children that go to bed starving in this country. That’s not normal,” she said.

The poll topics fell under three main categories the group contends cannot be ignored in a bid to reduce poverty: revenue, public programs and taxes.

Revenue-related issues include minimum salary, social assistance basic rate and pay equity.

The Liberals, NDP and Green Party have said they would increase the minimum wage, “which is very encouraging,” and the Greens have gone a step further, proposing a “living wage,” Common Front for Social Justice officials said. The Progressive Conservatives and People’s Alliance have been silent on the issue, they said.

Only the Green Party has said it would increase basic social assistance rates: by 10 per cent in 2015 and five per cent in 2016, which would have  “huge impact” on the lives of close to 40,000 New Brunswickers, the Common Front said.

The NDP and Greens have said they are for a pay equity act in the private sector.

Public programs covers drug plan, child care, home care, social housing, literacy and programs for disabled persons.

Personal income tax and corporate income tax fall under the tax system category.

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