In response to a report from a Recent Brunswick Crown Corporation, the number of individuals living in poverty within the province was cut in half between 2015 and 2020.
A progress update on the province’s five-year poverty reduction strategy from the Economic and Social Inclusion agency says that 58,000 Recent Brunswickers were experiencing poverty in 2020, down from 119,000 in 2015.
But not everyone seems to be convinced by those numbers.
“I’ve done a bit of little bit of digging into the info and definitely it’s a beautiful example of what spin doctors can do to place lipstick on a pig,” said Green Party leader David Coon when asked concerning the report.
The report uses the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which is the official poverty metric used across the country. It’s calculated based on the associated fee of a series of products and services including housing, food, clothing and transportation for a family of 4.
Coon says the metric is more favourable than others. He prefers the Low Income Measure (LIM), which considers a house low income if it earns 50 per cent lower than its community’s median income. In 2019, there have been 17,000 children experiencing poverty, in response to the MBM, and 30,190 in response to the LIM.
The manager director of the Economic and Social Inclusion agency, Stephane Leclair, says the report uses MBM due to its standardized nature, allowing for comparisons across jurisdictions.
“While you compare Recent Brunswick to Nova Scotia or P.E.I., it’s best to read the identical information, where just a few years ago it wasn’t the identical. Some were using different data,” he said.
The 2021 Child Poverty Report prepared by the Human Development Council uses the LIM, citing concerns over the restrictions of the MBM. The MBM relies on the Canadian Income Survey, a much smaller sample size than the tax filer data utilized by the LIM, and isn’t robotically adjusted to reflect cost of living changes. It also doesn’t include a variety of expenses experienced by many families.
“The MBM doesn’t include childcare,” the report says. “It doesn’t include non-insured health expenses like dental and vision care, pharmaceuticals, private medical health insurance and aids for those with disabilities.”
Coon doesn’t disagree that poverty within the province declined over the period examined by the report, but says it wasn’t attributable to the actions of the provincial government.
The general poverty, as expressed by MBM, fell from 16.2 to 7.6 per cent between 2015 and 2020. But Coon says that improvement appears to be largely attributable to federal government programs, resembling the Canada Child Profit, which provides direct payments to oldsters based on income level.
“The message that comes out of this report for me is that government financial supports matter and a lot of the difference in people’s live which have been made by government transfers over the past five or eight years has been from the federal government, it’s time for the provincial government to step up,” he said.
Leclair doesn’t disagree, but says it’s vital to provide the provincial government credit for the work it’s done to make life easier for low income people as well.
“The provincial government did lots of things as well with the day care initiative and particularly with the tax breaks for low income earners,” he said.
But each of those initiatives were introduced after the period studied within the report. The deal to cut back child-care fees within the province by half was announced in April of this yr, with the lion’s share of funding coming from Ottawa. And the rise to the essential personal amount and the low-income threshold were announced in March.
Liberal social development critic Robert Gauvin says he’s unsure the report accurately reflects what Recent Brunswickers are seeing and experiencing at once. He pointed to a chart within the report that shows an uptick in social assistance recipients in the present yr.
“It’s hard to inform people (that poverty is down) when there’s an increasing number of those that reside within the streets, you’ve got tent cities Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, all around the province, you see that an increasing number of,” he said.