Social inclusion group spearheads poverty reduction consultations

by | Mar 19, 2024

Renewal of ‘Overcoming Poverty Together’ program gathers public input from community

Western New Brunswick Community Development (WNBCD) held three public consultation sessions to develop a framework to help the province in its battle against poverty.

New Brunswick’s “Overcoming Poverty Together” plan was initially developed by the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (ESIC) and administered through the now-defunct Carleton-Victoria Community Inclusion Network.

WNBCD is responsible for regional community development and social inclusion under the Western NB Service Commission’s (WNBSC) mandate.

Public sessions were held in Southern Victoria, Woodstock and Carleton North.

The sessions, held in February and March, grouped participants and gave them specific questions to consider. Designated note-takers gathered input and presented it to organizers.

Wendy Marr is the WNBSC Community Development Coordinator.

“Poverty reduction and social inclusion are important topics, and it’s important to get input to help develop the next five years,” she told participants at the Woodstock session at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

The afternoon saw participants offer ideas on tackling some complicated and long-standing issues around poverty.

Questions like, ‘In terms of economic and social inclusion, what are the challenges for people living in New Brunswick?’ and ‘What would have the greatest impact on reducing poverty for people living in New Brunswick? List three top priority actions.’

Woodstock Police Chief Gary Foward was one of the participants. He said it was important to be a part of the conversation, noting that his officers see the impact of poverty firsthand.

“We are seeing the impact (of poverty), widespread. This is being felt not just locally, or in New Brunswick, but nationally and globally. Rising prices for housing and food – it’s becoming an issue where we are seeing good people forced to make difficult decisions that often become problematic, just to survive. And survival is not the solution, we need people to flourish,” said Forward.

Valerie Carmichael is the Anglophone West School District Community Engagement Coordinator.

Her job is to support students through community engagement and identify resources and connection opportunities that may not be immediately apparent to the district.

Carmichael is more interested in sharing ideas for solutions instead of pointing out all the problems.

“It’s easy to identify the issues, but it’s harder to identify what needs to be done to change that,” she said after the session.

“The idea of a guaranteed basic income came up. That could be one of the solutions. If there was a basic income, it could go a long way to battle some of the issues – you know, it won’t solve everything, but it would help with a lot of it,” explained Carmichael.

Heidi Horner is the Executive Director of the Valley Family Resource Centre in Woodstock. Her centre offers free family programming that attracts people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“One of the biggest barriers for families facing financial challenges is transportation,” explained Horner, noting that a return cab ride from the end of Broadway to her centre on Richmond Street is $22.

“That’s prohibitive for our centre, but also for our families, and it’s those families that are struggling that we are trying to reach.”
Horner hopes the province will take the suggestions offered at these sessions and build a practical framework to help those who need it.

“I am hoping they’ll listen because we see firsthand how many are struggling,” said Horner, explaining that her centre could be a solution if the government provided a stable funding model so it could help more families.

For those unable to participate in the sessions, there is an online survey at NBTogether.ca.

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