Looking Back to Move Forward: New Brunswick’s Focused Approach toward Economic and Social Inclusion

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research in collaboration with the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation and Government of New Brunswick


The Best Brains Exchange (BBE) will bring together researchers, representatives from the four key sectors represented in the Economic Social Inclusion Corporation (ESIC): government, citizens who are or were living in poverty, business and non-profit stakeholders to inform and advance the development of New Brunswick’s third Overcoming Poverty Together Plan (OPT3).

More specifically, BBE participants will:

  1. Gain a comprehensive understanding of current key drivers of poverty in New Brunswick and examine research evidence related to the determinants of such drivers;
  2. Explore best practices and lessons learned from proven poverty reduction interventions and models from across other jurisdictions, with specific attention on initiatives that are regional or provincial in scope or are proven to be scalable projects;
  3. Based on the evidence shared at the BBE, prioritize the top key considerations that must be addressed to support the reduction of poverty within each of the four sectors (citizens, non-profit organizations, businesses and government) for the next economic and social inclusion plan;
  4. Identify opportunities and approaches for key stakeholders in the four sectors to support OPT3 and contribute to poverty reduction in New Brunswick, considering:
    1. Actions need to be measurable
    2. Actions should have the potential for scalability in either a rural or urban environment.

Policy context

In 2010, ESIC was created by the Government of New Brunswick to oversee the development, implementation and reporting of New Brunswick’s Economic and Social Inclusion plan. ESIC is uniquely structured; governed by a Board of Directors with representatives from four sectors (citizens, non-profit organizations, businesses and government) including three Government of New Brunswick Ministers representing Social Development (SD), Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) and Service New Brunswick (SNB); and directed by the Deputy Minister of Social Development, as the ESIC President.

The Economic and Social Inclusion Act requires that the Economic and Social Inclusion Plan be renewed every five years through a public engagement process, with ambitious targets for reducing income poverty included in the Act (to reduce income poverty by 25% and deep income poverty by 50% by 2015). To date, depending on the year and the measures used to evaluate the progress, targets have been reached or surpassed for specific demographics.

As shown through the make up of ESIC, addressing poverty is a shared responsibility that requires an integrated approach and the engagement of all New Brunswickers. This philosophy is the cornerstone of Overcoming Poverty Together – unique in Canada for its visionary principles and operational structure. Those who live or have lived in poverty provide a realistic view of poverty in New Brunswick. Their contribution at the decision-making level is invaluable in the formulation and execution of the plan. Businesses also feel strongly about this initiative because a skilled workforce helps companies operate efficiently and compete in the global market. Non-profit organizations are a key component of the plan as they provide firsthand expertise in community development and service delivery. Government’s direct involvement remains essential, through its financial support to ESIC and the CINs and in the development of policies and the delivery of provincial programs and services.

Overcoming Poverty Together 2009-2014 (OPT1) was a foundational plan, which focused on program development and reform as well as legislation (e.g. establishing ESIC and the Community Inclusion Networks (CINs)). These were to support community and regional partnership development, and improve provincial services to address poverty issues. New Brunswick recognized the need to join forces and work together in building capacities for each other. The 12 CINs, established as part of OPT1, play a vital role in building the collective capacity of working together. Considerable progress has been made since the beginning stages of the poverty reduction plan through the community and regional work of the CINs.

Overcoming Poverty Together 2014-2019 (OPT2) was collaborative at both the provincial (ESIC) and regional levels (CINs) in advancing ideas on poverty-focused initiatives and supporting the collaboration of the four sectors in working together toward poverty reduction and economic and social inclusion in New Brunswick. Details on the progress of OPT1 and OPT2 can be found here: Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation – New Brunswick.

Need for evidence

Starting in February 2019, the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, in collaboration with the CINs, will begin the plans renewal process by holding dialogues, sectorial meetings, focus groups and consultations with subject matter experts. In addition, individuals can participate by completing an online questionnaire or submitting a briefing to highlight specific issues or concerns related to poverty or social inclusion. The BBE will be hosted as part of a series of efforts to advise on the renewal of the Overcoming Poverty Together plan which aims to reduce poverty through cross-sectorial collaboration.

It is critical that the OPT3 be founded on research and implementation evidence to ensure its impact. Given that poverty is a wide reaching public policy issue that affects all aspects of society on economic, health and social levels, it is important to consider evidence that acknowledges that these sectors are interrelated and that they must be incorporated in the design and delivery of intervention programs and policies. Research and programs considered need to be applicable to NB’s geographical population distribution of 50% NBers located in three cities, 13% in 4 mid-size communities, over 33% in rural areas and more than 80% of the province is forest.

In addition to understanding the current landscape and best research on poverty reduction determinants and drivers, there are learnings from other jurisdictions which can lend to the updated poverty reduction plan. Since the development of OPT1 and OPT2 the New Brunswick population’s needs and research evidence has evolved, and the number of provinces that had developed poverty reduction plans has increased. In 2019, many provinces and the federal government have developed plans. Across Canada and internationally there have been successes in the different sectors. It is this research evidence that will provide lessons learned examples of successful initiatives or policies that contributed to the reduction of poverty in other jurisdictions which will stimulate the NB dialogues.

Anticipated outcomes

To date there has not been an opportunity for multiple sectors and groups New Brunswick to engage in a dialogue related to measurable poverty reduction that is contextualized to address realities within the province. The BBE will be an opportunity to bring leading-edge researchers and implementation experts from across four sectors of government, business, non-profits and citizens to share best practices, lessons learned and engage in a dialogue with key stakeholders in New Brunswick.

The BBEs context-specific, research-centric approach will be key to the development of OPT3 as it will allow for a meaningful engagement with key stakeholders from across sectors and the development of action items based on a solid research-based foundation.

Presentation summaries

The BBE was facilitated by Stéphane Robichaud, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Council. Here is a summary of the evidence presented by each of the presenters:

Poverty Reduction Canadian Highlights

Aisling Gogan, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policies and Programs, Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Provincial-Territorial co-chair of the Poverty Advisory Committee to Federal-Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services

In this presentation, Aisling will highlight some best and promising poverty reduction practices in Canada, focusing on initiatives in areas that emerged as priorities during the consultations for Overcoming Poverty Together 3. She will begin with specific examples relating to data and evidence, including Canada’s New Official Poverty Line and the unique provincial market basket measure approach in Newfoundland and Labrador that has provided valuable insight into subpopulations, as well as Effective Marginal Tax Rates analyses. Then Aisling will discuss Newfoundland and Labrador’s approach to mental health and addictions services, which takes a government-wide approach and has quickly improved access to services and is taking innovative approaches to prevention. She will highlight what is working in a number of communities across the country to promote a Housing First approach to reducing and preventing homelessness; and, will conclude with examples of innovative transportation and food security solutions from a variety of provinces. Aisling’s examples will focus on initiatives most relevant to New Brunswick, including approaches that are working well in smaller cities and rural areas.

Reducing (Child) Poverty with a Health in all Policy Approach

Frida Gothnier Leander, Sustainability Strategist on the 2030 Agenda, City of Malmö, Sweden

In 2010, in the third biggest city of one of the most equal countries worldwide (however with growing inequalities), the City Council of Malmö appointed one of the world’s first local commissions on Social Determinants of Health, The Commission for a Socially Sustainable Malmö, inspired by the WHO Commission’s final report Closing the Gap in a Generation. The Malmö Commission’s task was to present evidence based recommendations on how to reduce inequalities in health.

The final report gave two overarching recommendations and 72 specific proposals within six policy areas. These were politically adopted and from 2013, the City is implementing them on a grand scale together with partner actors, such as universities, other public authorities, local businesses and civil society.

One of the main challenges for Malmö is child poverty. Out of 290 municipalities in Sweden, Malmö has the largest number of children living in economically vulnerable families. Following the Malmö Commission’s recommendations, efforts and investments to prevent and to relieve child poverty is done throughout all policy areas; social welfare, labour market, culture and recreation, education, city planning, gender equality, anti-discrimination and children’s rights. Universal as well as targeted interventions are of importance, as is increased participation and democratised governance. Three follow up studies have been done and one of the outcomes is a decrease in child poverty from 31 % (2010) to 25 % (2016). The decrease is larger in Malmö than the national average. The presentation will include success factors och challenges when addressing child poverty on a local level through an extensive strategy involving a wide range of policy areas.

Quebec – Government Action Plan to Foster Economic Inclusion and Social Participation 2017-2023

Chantal Maltais, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Analysis and Community Action, Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale

Adopted unanimously by the National Assembly in 2002, the Act to combat poverty and social exclusion bears witness to Quebec society’s desire to foster respect for human dignity. Quebec was the first Canadian province to pass such a law.

Building on the two earlier action plans and keen to fulfill the expectations voiced by Quebecers and the organizations that spoke during the public consultations, the government launched the Government Action Plan to Foster Economic Inclusion and Social Participation 2017-2023 (GAPFEISP) on December 10, 2017.

The $3-billion plan sets out 43 measures and actions to better assist a segment of the population that is disadvantaged, particularly single people and couples without children, who are more likely to find themselves in vulnerable situations. Its main goal is an ambitious one: to lift over 100,000 people out of poverty by 2023.

Measure 1 of the plan is to introduce a basic income for Quebecers with a severely limited capacity for employment, in particular by gradually increasing benefits for eligible beneficiaries. In 2023, recipients will have a considerably higher disposable income, enabling them to individually reach the market basket measure threshold. This measure alone is expected to lift over 84,000 people out of low-income situations.

Equally important matters are covered by other GAPFEISP measures, including Measure 11, which is to pursue the Solidarity Alliances initiative. This approach to territorial governance recognizes the autonomy of local and regional stakeholders to define their community’s needs and potential in combatting poverty and social exclusion.

This presentation will begin with a brief overview of the Act to combat poverty and social exclusion and will focus on two particular transformative measures that could enrich the discussion about the renewal of Overcoming Poverty Together: The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan.

Poverty Reduction in British Columbia

Robert Bruce, Executive Director, Research Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

In 2019 British Columbia launched TogetherBC, the first poverty reduction strategy in the province’s history. The poverty strategy was developed through an extensive consultation process, by researching what initiatives have been proven to be effective, and by learning from implementation lessons from other jurisdictions. The poverty strategy sets targets and timelines in legislation, and must be reviewed and updated at least every five years. In addition to reducing the number of British Columbians living in poverty, TogetherBC requires that government make life better and more affordable for those living in poverty. Many of the initiatives announced in the strategy reduce the harshness of some government programs, to help people living in poverty get access to the supports they need to succeed instead of creating long-term poverty and homelessness.

Recommended readings

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. Swedish Poverty Context – Backgrounder
  3. Commission for a Socially Sustainable Malmö
  4. Continuing work for a socially sustainable Malmö
  5. Facts about Malmö
  6. Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation
  7. Overcoming Poverty Together
  8. Overcoming Poverty Together: Looking Back to Move Forward [ PDF (863 KB) - external link ]
  9. Overcoming Poverty Together: 2014 – 2019 Progress Report [ PDF (11.9 MB) - external link ]
  10. Overcoming Poverty Together: The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan 2014-2019 [ PDF (1.17 MB) - external link ]
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