On March 15 of this year, the Minister of Health of New Brunswick brought before the legislative assembly of the provincial House a measure which, in the words of the newspaper, L'Evangeline, "would mark the beginning of a new era in the history of the province". And if the Minister had had before him, while introducing his measure, all the poor of the province who are literally being crushed beneath a load of misery and poverty, he most certainly would have said in his opening remarks:"I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people!!!
Now it is quite true that there has existed in New Brunswick, as there has in the rest of Canada, considerable social aid affecting certain groups of citizens; e.g., old age pensions, family allowances (which the federal government has scandalously left at a pitifully low rate), allowances for the blind and for those invalided, pensions for war veterans and allowances for needy mothers, these latter benefits coming from the province.
But outside of these categories there remains a vast number of needy citizens who receive no_such aid. Their situation has not been provided for by the law of the land. When things get too desperate they have no recourse but to beg from such benevolent and private organizations as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or to go to their local, municipal welfare office. Unfortunately such organizations all too often are short of funds and can do little to alleviate the misery of the poor.
The new legislation brought in by the Ministry of Health would plug the gaps in the social welfare scheme of New Brunswick.
For the social legislation under the jurisdiction of the province of New Brunswick, namely, the aid to needy mothers, the government at Fredericton is increasing the rate to $90 a month. This is a generous increase.
Now the legislation introduced on the 15th of March takes into consideration the lot of the needy who have not been provided for by previous social legislation. Up to this date, the municipality had borne the load of providing for the poor. Ottawa, by virtue of the law concerning federal aid to the unemployed, had defrayed about one half of the municipality's expenses for unemployment. The provincial government contributed not a cent.
The new law over and above the increase in the allowances to needy mothers, will result in Fredericton's adding to the municipal funds allocated for public assistance. In sum, this will come to close to 3 million dollars which the provincial government will add to the $730,000 of the municipalities.
At the time of the writing of this article we do not have before us the text of this new bill. However, the report given in L'Evangeline concludes in this fashion::
This law will increase the benefits of social assistance three times over what they were for those citizens benefiting from them and with no appreciable increase in cost to the municipality.
The movement's part
Our movement, the Union of Electors, through its French-language publication, Vers Demain and through the thousands of its French-speaking members, has striven unceasingly to expose the plight of the poor of New Brunswick to the world. It has set in motion all the forces at its disposal to plead and argue and urge the case for these people, so long forsaken, with the local, regional and provincial authorities. The movement is happy to see that its work has not been in vain.
Vers Deinain and the French-speaking members of the Union of Electors have made themselves the voice of these poor ones, too poor to have any voice that might impress those in power or stir the sympathy of the rest of their fellow citizens. But the movement has succeeded in giving to a great number of these destitute, a strong voice of their own. The government in Fredericton could no longer help but hear their voice, joined as it was to ours. This government has finally bent its ear to the cry of distress. And we heartily congratulate it for having done so.
Just a few weeks ago we learned that in the county of Gloucester, N.B., families which are unable to pay their taxes regularly will no longer be afflicted by the harrassing visits of tax collectors who along with what they collected for the municipality also collected money for their own expenses.
Vers Demain in numerous articles hit hard at this vicious and basically unjust practice. It exposed the miseries which such visits wrought upon a poor people, utterly unable to meet the public taxes let alone the added sums extorted by these creatures of bureaucracy to cover their own "expenses". The disappearance of this abuse can be hailed as another victory for Vers Demain and the movement of the Union of Electors.
The validity of our formula
All of which goes to prove the validity of the Union of Electors formula for accomplishing something in the field of politics, namely: unite the citizens in demanding the passage of those measures most likely to conduce to the common welfare, instead of dividing the citizens still further by attempting to get another political party into power. Unity strengthens; division weakens.
It is not only in New Brunswick that we are getting results. But since we have been dealing with this province in this article, let us add here the testimony of a Minister of that same government in Fredericton on the efficacy of the method formulated by our movement to get results. This Minister is the Hon. Edgar Fournier — and let us state here and now that we have not always used kid gloves when dealing with Mr. Fournier in matters which we were pressing upon his government. On March 8, Mr. Fournier stood up in the New Brunswick legislative assembly and publicly made the following statement during the debate on the Throne Speech:
These people (the members of the Union of Electors) are honest, respectable ratepayers and good citizens. One of the purposes of the Union of Electors is to aid in assuring a better form of government. We approve of this end and are in complete agreement. The Union of Electors is right in demanding the reform of our monetary system which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. We shall continue to have good relations with the Union of Electors in getting together with them for a better government.