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Census change makes it hard to track progress on poverty: New Brunswick premier

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FREDERICTON - The premier of New Brunswick and a Crown agency mandated to reduce poverty say the demise of the long-form census has made it difficult to measure whether the province is making progress on the issue.

The comments from David Alward and the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation came as a new five-year plan for poverty reduction was released Friday in Fredericton.

"One of the challenges that we're facing today is with the change to how census data is collected," Alward said, referring to the elimination of the mandatory long-form census in 2010.

"It is more complex to be able to evaluate the effects, so that's why we're looking at new strategies on how we can better measure as we go forward."

Brian Duplessis, the co-chairman of the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, said the agency is now looking to other sources of data, particularly information gathered by the New Brunswick Health Council.

"They released local data on the social determinants of health which are very implicated in poverty, that give us real data on things such as literacy rates and obesity rates," he said.

Duplessis said a full report assessing the success of the first poverty reduction plan, which expires at the end of November, will be released next year.

Still, Leo-Paul Pinet, the president of the agency, said he believes there have been significant improvements in its efforts to reduce income poverty by 25 per cent, though he added that details will have to wait until the release of the assessment next year.

The poverty reduction plan for 2014-2019 contains 28 recommendations including indexing the minimum wage, improving public transportation and child literacy programs. Alward said his government will review the recommendations.

The recommendations come from a series of public meetings held in September and October. Almost 5,000 comments were received.

According to Statistics Canada, New Brunswick had the second lowest poverty rate in Canada in 2012 at 5.5 per cent.

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