FREDERICTON (CNB) – Three advisory committees formed by the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation to tackle key issues in the province's fight against poverty have held their first meetings.

"All members bring a wealth of invaluable experience and unique perspectives from a variety of sectors to these committees," said Social Development Minister Sue Stultz, one of the four co-chairs of the corporation. "We are grateful they will be contributing to the important work of reducing poverty, and we look forward to the advice they will provide the corporation."

Members of the advisory committees represent government; business; community non-profit organizations; and persons who have experienced poverty.  

Several tasks were dealt with at meetings held Jan. 18, including establishing the roles and responsibilities of the committees and developing a timeline for completing their work.

The committees:

Health benefits:

This committee will consult stakeholders to develop options for a prescription drug plan for uninsured residents by 2012 to ensure all New Brunswick families have access to necessary medications and are protected in the event of a catastrophic illness. This committee will also study options relating to vision and dental care for children of low-income families. Former minister of health and wellness, Dennis Furlong of Dalhousie, will chair the committee, replacing Marilyn Trenholme Counsell of Sackville.

"It is an honour to chair the health benefits committee, and I look forward to working closely with the other members," Furlong said. "I am confident that all three committees will provide valuable insight to help determine the best course of action to take on these challenging issues."

Social assistance reform:

This committee will provide advice to the Department of Social Development about its work to change New Brunswick's rules-based social assistance system into an outcome-based system that encourages social assistance recipients to become self-reliant. The chairpersons are Roger Lessard of Pokemouche, chair of the Community Non-Profit Organizations Secretariat advisory committee and executive director of Youth Priority Centre Inc. in Campbellton; and Ken Pike of Fredericton, director of social policy for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living and the 2008 recipient of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission's Human Rights Award.

"Poverty is everyone's business, and we are pleased to have been asked to participate on these committees," said Lessard. "We look forward to using our knowledge and expertise to help shape the policies that will successfully tackle poverty in New Brunswick."

Social enterprise and community investment funds:

This committee will develop a policy framework on social enterprise and community investment funds within which community inclusion networks may work. The chairpersons are Seth Asimakos of Saint John, general manager, Saint John Community Loan Fund, executive director, Canadian Community Investment Network Co-operative, and co-director, Atlantic Social Economy Research Project, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax; and André Leclerc of Edmundston, professor of economics and chairperson of caisse populaire and co-operative management at the Université de Moncton, Edmundston campus, and who is also involved with the national research program in financial services with York University in Toronto.

"The work we are undertaking is critical to the development of concrete solutions to help lift New Brunswickers out of poverty," said Asimakos. "This is an opportunity to offer advice that will directly impact those that need help the most."  

A list of committee members is online.


●    Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation: