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Report highlights ‘stark’ differences in child poverty rates

By Brad Perry Mar 7, 2023 | 10:35 AM

There are “stark differences” in child poverty rates throughout the Saint John region, according to a recent report from a local non-profit.

The Human Development Council (HDC), based in Saint John, recently released its annual Child Poverty Report Card.

Researchers Chelsea Driscoll and Heather Atcheson presented the findings to Saint John council this week.

Driscoll said the city itself had the highest child poverty rate at 23.8 per cent, well above the provincial average of 16.6 per cent.

“We tend to see that the central city in a CMA does have a higher child poverty rate than the more suburban towns, however the differences in the Saint John CMA are quite stark,” said Driscoll.

By contrast, child poverty rates were 10.5 per cent in Rothesay, 9.5 per cent in Hampton, and seven per cent in Quispamsis and Grand Bay-Westfield.

There were also notable differences in child poverty rates among the city’s four wards, according to HDC.

“The 2020 child poverty rates in Wards 1 and 4 were below the provincial average while the child poverty rates in Wards 2 and 3 were more than double the average child poverty rate in the province,” said Atcheson.

The number of children living in poverty stood at 12.4 per cent in Ward 1 (West), 15.9 per cent in Ward 4 (East), 32.1 per cent in Ward 2 (North) and 36.2 per cent in Ward 3 (Central Peninsula).

While the province’s poverty rate fell to 16.6 per cent in 2020 from 21.7 per cent the year before, officials cautioned it is not cause for celebration just yet.

Driscoll said the rate actually would have increased had it not been for COVID income supports.

“In absence of any income supports such as CERB, the child poverty rate in New Brunswick would have been 24 per cent,” she said.

Deputy Mayor John MacKenzie said that strengthens the argument for a basic income level, or living wage, across Canada.

“If it works short-term like that, obviously you can expect long-term results,” said MacKenzie.

Council passed a motion in October to send ideas to the province and the federal government on what can be done to support that.

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