June 8, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following op-ed was released today by Social Development Minister Mary Schryer.
When we compare ourselves to others, we often better appreciate who and what we really are. This is certainly true when it comes to social policy. Over the past two years, a number of new initiatives and changes to social policy have been implemented in New Brunswick. When we compare this province to other jurisdictions, we see how truly unique it is in Canada.
As minister of social development, I recently attended the Canadian Social Forum in Calgary, where I shared our recent social policy developments with hundreds of participants from across Canada. The result was overwhelmingly positive. People from everywhere were very impressed by what we are doing in New Brunswick, particularly regarding the enhancements we have made to dental benefits in the health services program. In fact, when I explained these improvements, participants at the Canadian Social Forum responded with a standing ovation.
Here in New Brunswick, we can be proud of the changes implemented to ensure the dignity of individuals in need. We have reversed a long-standing inequity which prevented adults over the age of 19 from receiving restorative dental services. This inequity meant that in many cases tooth extraction was necessary, rather than restorative dental options such as filling cavities. To date, we have provided nearly 12,000 restorative dental services for over 9,500 adult clients who otherwise would not have been eligible to receive these services. This represents an additional investment of $1 million.
Forum participants also recognized New Brunswick as a leader in social development for the way we are developing our poverty reduction plan. From the outset, we decided that this should not be a simple government consultation process - as was done in other provinces - resulting in a plan that only government would create and implement. Instead, we chose to take a public engagement approach involving all sectors of our society: business, community non-profit organizations, and government. We are equal partners at the table, and are all tasked to produce a poverty reduction plan by the end of 2009. Our unique approach was very well received by those attending the forum.
Our government will continue to work to benefit of New Brunswickers. If we want all New Brunswickers to achieve self-sufficiency, we need to ensure that our social programs are responsive to their needs as we work toward our goal of self-sufficiency.
I am proud to be part of a government that does not hesitate to adopt important policy changes that directly affect the lives and future opportunities of New Brunswick residents. As a New Brunswicker, I am proud to see our province leading the country in social policy development and being an example for other provinces to follow.