Common Front for Social Justice

Front commun
pour la justice sociale
96, ave Norwood, #208
Moncton, NB E1C 6L9
Tel.: 851-7084

Common Front
For Social Justice
96, ave Norwood, #208
Moncton, NB E1C 6L9
Tel.: 851-7084

Open Letter
March 9, 2009

Premier Shawn Graham
670 King Street
Fredericton, NB, E3B 1G1

Dear Premier Graham:

The New Brunswick Conservative Party is promising, if elected in 2010, to restore the home heating program of 5.5 million dollars which was formerly in place. The Common Front for Social Justice (CFSJ) is in agreement with such a change as it is coherent with our commitment to work for more justice-based social policies which help those in need. The cancelled home heating assistance program formerly in place is being missed by many low income citizens. Last year, if one had an annual income of less than $25,000, it was possible to access at least $100 per person during the winter. When one is poor, every penny counts!

We have publicly expressed our disappointment with the emergency heating program Warm Hearts, Warm Homes. On the very first day it was announced, we criticized the private aspect of its administration. This type of assistance program should be delivered by government employees, not by a private service group. The media routinely reports stories about people living in poverty who are experiencing difficulties in accessing the Salvation Army heating program. It was late starting, being only available in early January. By the end of February, 1,820 applications had been received, 1,245 had been processed, and 700 had been rejected. Salvation Army staff now advises applicants that the waiting time for a response is from two to three week. Moreover, accessing the Salvation Army by telephone has been difficult.

The CFSJ wants to point out that there is a group of social assistance recipients to whom the government is denying the $900 electric heating supplement. This group is composed of those who own a trailer or a modest home. Such home owners do have many expenses: taxes, lot rent, maintenance costs for painting, etc. Their heating costs are often over $350 per month during the winter. Yet, the Department of Social Development denies them the heating supplement of $900. The CFSJ has already asked the government to remove this exclusion criteria but our request was never considered.

Besides the energy related problems, there are many other irritants in the social assistance policies: scandalously low welfare rates, claw back of wages earned, a restrictive "economic household" policy, etc. As Premier, there is now less than two years before the end of your present mandate. Unless you bring about the major changes in social assistance promised at the beginning of your mandate, and unless you make some significant changes in the heating supplement allowances, the dissatisfaction of thousands on NB citizens will continue to rise.

Linda McCausltin
Co-Chair, Common Front for Social Justice