N.B. Liberals call for increase in social assistance rates
Published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 6:45PM ADT
There was a call in the New Brunswick legislature Wednesday to increase social assistance rates as the Opposition Liberals accused the Tory government of not living up to its promises.
"They promised that they were going to move ahead with the poverty reduction strategy and so far, they've missed every deadline and broken every promise that's in that strategy," said Interim Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau.
However, the government says it has no intentions to increase social assistance rates anytime soon.
"We will wait for the report of the advisory committee," says New Brunswick Social Development Minister Sue Stultz. "That's what they're in place to do, that is their task to do for us. We will wait for the report from the advisory committee."
But some people say action is needed now.
Bernice MacKinnon of the Oromocto Food Bank says she is seeing a disturbing trend - the number of people using the service has been increasing like she has never seen before.
"I've been here for almost 19 years and I've never seen the numbers go up like this," says MacKinnon. "We're increasing by 25 per cent."
MacKinnon says the jump in demand is largely from a growing number of social assistance clients.
"I think we did 64 social assistance families in January, up to 74 in February and 83 in March, so the numbers are going up," she says.
The increase in demand is forcing the food bank to relocate and build a newer, bigger facility, but the Oromocto Food Bank isn't alone.
Other food banks across the province are also reporting a spike in client numbers, which sparked the debate in the provincial legislature today.
MacKinnon says that while social assistance clients would likely welcome a raise, she's not certain it would be enough to curb the trend she's seeing.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell