Political parties differ in their plans to fight poverty

Published Friday September 17th, 2010

For The Daily Gleaner

Candidates from four of the province's five political parties came together Thursday in Fredericton to promote their party's proposals to reduce poverty and homelessness in New Brunswick.

Green party candidate Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, NDP candidate Jason Purdy, Progressive Conservative candidate Jody Carr and Liberal candidate Kelly Lamrock made up the political panel at a forum hosted by the Fredericton Community Action Group on Homelessness.


Thorne-Dykstra said the Green party would give social-assistance recipients more financial freedom and roll back the planned corporate and income tax cuts.

"That's a 67 per cent reduction in corporate and income tax," she said. "That's a lot of money that could be put to this cause."

Jody Carr said the Progressive Conservatives' cost-saving initiatives will mean more money for poverty-reduction programs.

He said the party will eliminate tax cuts given to people earning more than $450,000 per year, cut spending by two per cent, reduce the size of cabinet and introduce a government review office.

"We know poverty is more than poverty on its own," Carr said.

"It involves health, it involves the justice system, jobs, household bills, childcare cost, transportation."

Purdy said the NDP has come up with a cost-neutral "Poverty Reduction Plus" plan that would cut administrative costs of the Department of Social Development's income support programs by one per cent.

It would then use the $2.3 million in annual savings to increase income support benefits for people with permanent disabilities by 55 per cent.

"So that means going from $618 per month to $956 per month," he said.

He said the party would eliminate duplication of adult literacy programs and use the estimated $1.1 million in annual savings to create a Career Development Opportunities Program to help single parents on social assistance find employment.

It would also eliminate bureaucratic spending in the Economic and Social Inclusion Corp., the new Crown corporation formed to tackle poverty.

Lamrock said the Liberal government would continue implementing its poverty-reduction plan by revamping the disability support program, pushing the federal government to provide funding for more community-based placements for adults with disabilities, getting rid of the spousal economic unit policy for people with disabilities, and ensuring the middle class have access to affordable drug coverage.

Dan Weston, the co-ordinator of the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization, said in an interview after the forum that he's not convinced the province can afford to tackle poverty.

"The logic has always been to reduce the cost of poverty to government, and we feel that that's the same logic being used today and that in the future the business and non-profit sectors will be asked to contribute money to the general kitty and they're both broke and the government has no money either, so we don't know where the money for income assistance is going to come from in the future, especially if there's an economic crisis," he said.