NB Social Development “Investments”: Band-Aid Solutions Are Not Enough

In a recent announcement made this week, the Government of New Brunswick claims to have made “Progressive Investments” in the Department of Social Development.

Unfortunately, their claims do not hold water, as they fail to address real problems being experienced by too many citizens. Bruce Fitch celebrated meagre investments in his Department, which amount to little more than Band-Aids on the major issues of childhood poverty, hours of care for seniors in nursing homes and housing.  Until this government introduces progressive tax reforms, their efforts cannot keep up with the growing costs of poverty. More and more New Brunswickers will fall into the poverty trap.

Poverty in NB

This government continues to talk about energizing the private sector to increase economic growth in NB. A recent study released on April 7th of this year by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, clearly illustrated that poverty is costing our province 1.4 billion dollars per year, and a loss of economic growth of 3.71 percent annually. Their new 2.4-million-dollar investment to tackle early childhood poverty will have next to no effect as more people are not keeping up with the cost of living. It does not help that government wants to freeze wages instead of introducing price controls to protect citizens. Higgs’ 5-cent per hour increase to the minimum wage is also insufficient, as it’s only equivalent to one cup of coffee per week.

The provincial and federal government have an obligation to end poverty. Sadly, GNB’s 10-year plan to invest more in affordable housing also misses the mark significantly. With the hyperinflation of building materials, in some case as high as 300 percent, their investment of 17 million dollars will not go far enough to make a real difference. Rent paid on accommodations in New Brunswick between March 2020 and March 2021 rose 4.8 percent, the largest increase in the country. More families will not be able to afford housing and thus creating significant strain on an already underfunded strategy.

Hours of Care

Minister Fitch announced he would increase by 0.1 hour (or 6 minutes) the daily hands-on care provided to seniors in NB nursing homes this year, and 0.1 more in 2022. This Band-Aid solution goes against the Department’s own seniors’ needs assessment:  in 2005, Social Development produced an internal report demonstrating the need for a minimum of 3.5 hours of daily care for seniors in Nursing Homes. Today, we have an older, more fragile population than in 2005. Experts on senior care and CUPE agree the minimum standard should be 4 hours of daily hands-on care per day. Giving seniors 6 more minutes is like giving 5 cents more to minimum wage workers: It’s not enough. It’s insulting as it dramatically misses the mark.

The human cost and struggles that many people are facing are devastating and not acceptable. If government is serious about caring for its citizens, it needs to implement progressive tax reform to pave the way for real, tangible solutions.