Shameful! It’s autumn and hunting season is here once again. New Brunswick’s Minister of Finance, Blaine Higgs, will make money from hunting licences and since we are in debt, the Minister is looking for new revenue sources by handing out licences on a new species; people living in poverty.
Apparently, Mr. Higgs has just discovered that the number of citizens who rely on social assistance to survive has risen since his party took power, so he has decided to “manage the caseloads” – or in hunting jargon – “cull” the number of individuals and families on social assistance.
The words were no sooner out of Mr. Higg’s mouth when the vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, David Plante, jumped on the bandwagon, blaming social assistance eligibility criteria as the source of the debt problem. Shame on both of you! If we are seeing an increase in people living on social assistance, it’s because of the 2008 economic crisis brought to us by friends of Mr. Higgs in the corporate world. Thousands of workers lost their jobs and now they have to rely on inadequate Employment Insurance or welfare to survive. If we are worried about increased poverty we need to think about the forestry sector disaster and the disappearance of a good part of our pulp and paper industry. If we are concerned about our debt we need to think about the mismanagement of our public tax dollars by the Shawn Graham government and especially Shawn Graham’s cuts to income tax for individuals and corporations -which have been continued by the present government.
If Mr. Higgs is truly a prudent administrator, he should be asking why his government is giving hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars for payroll rebates to Innovatia ($425,000), First Canadian Title ($180,000) and worse $500,000 to Kent Homes, a company owned by Mr. Higgs former employer, Irving; the third richest family in Canada! I don’t see Mr. Higgs asking why our tax money is being given out by the fistful as payroll rebates to corporations. I don’t see him asking why we are subsidizing shareholders of these private companies.
As NB’s Minister of Finance, Mr. Higgs should put his efforts into finding new sources of revenue. One of the more equitable sources is through our income tax system. I challenge Mr. Higgs to make a bold financial decision and reverse the income tax cuts that were instituted by the Shawn Graham government. Then he will have hundreds of millions of dollars to make this province work.
Mr. Higgs, please leave people living in poverty alone. They are already suffering enough from inadequate incomes, higher food and gasoline prices, sub-standard accommodations and the underlying prejudices which make it easy to scapegoat them for the economic ills or our society – including, most recently, the provincial deficit of $633 million for which the poor people of New Brunswick are certainly not to blame.
Jean-Claude Basque, NB Common Front for Social Justice