In October, New Brunswick’s Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, a Crown corporation tasked with poverty reduction, reported a big decline in the number of low-income people in the province.
But the non-profit group Ability New Brunswick is calling foul on those numbers.
“We’re seeing right now higher levels of poverty than our organization has ever seen,” said Haley Flaro, the executive director of Ability NB, in an interview with the Media Co-op.
“People with a disability and single mothers are the two most impoverished populations in this province, [and] there are more people on social assistance with a disability than we have ever seen,” she said.
She added that the number of people living in deep poverty is the “highest we’ve ever seen.”
“In my 25 years working in nonprofit I’ve never seen this level of hardship,” she said.
Check out the interview here:
Highlights of the report from the provincial Crown corporation included a “51 per cent reduction in the number of people living with a low-income between 2015 and 2020.”
But Ability NB, a group that supports people with disabilities, says poverty is getting worse and calls the report misleading, because it doesn’t acknowledge the effects of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in 2020.
CERB was a federal relief program that initially provided $500 per week to people affected by the COVID-19 lockdown crisis. The program, which the feds have phased out, isn’t mentioned in the 48-page report.
“The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation is supposed to be a leader in advising government, public and community, you know, on the state of poverty in New Brunswick, among other objectives, and their status report was very misleading with the statistics,” said Flaro.
In a statement to the NB Media Co-op, a spokesperson for the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation said that the report was “not a report on the state of poverty in New Brunswick.”
Under provincial law, the Crown corporation must publish a report every two years “concerning the progress on the implementation of the [Economic and Social Inclusion Plan] and its nine Priority Actions,” spokesperson Marc Gosselin said.
But Flaro said the report suggested progress as conditions worsened for people who struggle without a living wage. “[The report] seemed to imply that there has been significant strides in reducing poverty in New Brunswick, which is not accurate,” Flaro said.
“We’re seeing right now higher levels of poverty than our organization has ever seen.”
Here is the full statement provided by the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation:
The Economic and Social Inclusion Act stipulates that the Corporation must submit, every two years, a report concerning the progress on the implementation of the Provincial Plan and its 9 Priority Actions. It is not a report on the state of poverty in New Brunswick. We have complemented the report with Statistical Data from Statistics Canada 2020 Canadian Income Survey, released in March 2022. It is the most recent data available at the time of the preparation of the report. ESIC is using the Market Basket Measure (MBM) from Statistics Canada, which is the standard measure adopted by Statistics Canada and the Government of Canada. There is no mention of the CERB in the progress report.
The Statistics Canada data used in the progress is a snapshot in time. We recognize that the last few years have had a unique influence and that those influences shift year-to-year. We stay abreast of them. The report was released in October 2022.
The final report on OPT 2020-2025, as stipulated by the Act, is scheduled to be released in the second half of 2026.
Arun Budhathoki is a video-journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).