February 20, 2010- Act to lift people out of poverty- Lamrock

By Stephen Llewellyn, The Daily Gleaner

The Liberal government has taken another step towards its goal of lifting 25,000 New Brunswickers out of poverty over the next five years, says Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock.

Lamrock introduced the Economic and Social Inclusion Act on Friday to create the legislative framework to implement the government's plan to overcome poverty.

"While the government plays an important role in lifting New Brunswickers out of poverty, we cannot do it alone,' said Lamrock. "With the introduction of this act, we are formalizing the partnership among government, business and communities in the fight to reduce poverty in our province."

The legislation creates the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corp., community inclusion networks and a co-ordination unit to support the corporation board and the networks. There will be 22 members on that board representing government, business, non-profit groups and people with experience with poverty, said Lamrock.

There will be four vice-presidents who will take turns as the one-year chair of the board.

The province held a forum on poverty in the fall that led to the anti-poverty plan.

"Today's act puts everything together," Lamrock said.

He said the government has announced changes to the economic unit policy, increased the interim social assistance rate and made the social assistance health card more accessible.

The new board will provide advice on issues like raising other assistance rates, making sure there is proper training and support for people with disabilities and setting up local networks to tackle problems, Lamrock said.

"It may differ by community," he said. "We're going to give the resources to the community to drive this themselves."

One community might say transportation is the biggest problem, while another says it's literacy, he said.

Lamrock said he will announce the budget of the corporation and the community networks soon.

Ken Pike, director of social policy for the New Brunswick Association of Community Living, said the new act is an important piece of the poverty reduction plan.

"The plan is a five-year plan so we need to make sure things are moving along as we go," he said.

Pike said lifting 25,000 people out of poverty in five years is a huge task but he's not intimidated.

"We have been at it for a few months with the process in place," he said. "Most of us here are pretty excited to get to work at the community level "¦ to make a real impact."

One of the first steps is to get the community networks talking to their business sectors about opening up their workplaces for people who want jobs, said Pike.

Opposition leader David Alward said he was pleased by the bi-partisan approach on this initiative.

"The poverty-reduction task force was the way things should be done in the province where government (and) opposition works collaboratively along with stakeholders to find solutions for the future," he said. "We continue to be pleased to participate in that."

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