New Brunswick D-

New BrunswickReport Card

Section 1: Experience of Poverty

Indicator Data Grade
People Feeling Worse off Compared to Last Year
46.3% D-
People Spending More than 30% of Income on Housing
40.2% F
Government Support Recipients Who Say Rates Are Insufficient to Keep Up with Cost of Living
42.2% D+
People Having Trouble Accessing Health Care
20.4% D-
Percent of Income Spent on Fixed Costs beyond Housing
59.9% D-
Overall D-

Section 2: Poverty Measures

Indicator Data Grade
Poverty Rate (MBM)
6.7% C
Social Assistance as a Percent of the Poverty Line (Singles)
31% F
Disability Assistance as a Percent of the Poverty Line
43% F
Unemployment Rate
5.8% D
Food Insecurity Rate
22.7% F
Overall D-

Section 3: Material Deprivation

Indicator Data Grade
Inadequate Standard of Living
28.7% D-
Severely Inadequate Standard of Living
17.3% F
Overall F

Section 4: Legislative Progress

Indicator Data Grade
Legislative Progress
Overall D

The combination of low wages, high living costs, extreme housing conditions, and the lowest social assistance rates in Canada places New Brunswick behind most other provinces in the elimination of poverty.

Survey respondents reported that they are struggling across the board with all issues related to and measures of poverty. Despite having an economy of natural resources, the province continues to struggle with unemployment and low economic opportunity.

New Brunswick’s rising poverty rates can be attributed to a high cost of living and low wages. Additionally, certain groups—for example, Indigenous peoples and immigrants—may face systemic barriers that prevent them from accessing the same opportunities as other residents, exacerbating cycles of poverty and inequality. Recent surveys reveal that almost half (46%) of residents in the province feel worse off than they did a year ago.

The Cost Pinch

The coupling of a high cost of living and low wages is impacting provinces across the country, but New Brunswick is particularly affected. More than one-third of all residents find that low wages are impacting their ability to make ends meet, and nearly 2 in 5 people report that they are struggling to access fresh and affordable food.

Difficulties Navigating Crucial Systems

As more people struggle, more will turn to the inadequate social safety net for help. Unfortunately, 27% of New Brunswick residents struggle to access social services and 50% have difficulties navigating the tax system, which means they may not collect benefits they are eligible to claim. Even once benefits are collected, New Brunswick has the worst social assistance adequacy in the country. Assistance amounts only provide enough to bring people one-third of the way to the poverty line.

The Worst of the Housing Crisis

An examination of the policy issues that are top of mind for New Brunswick reveals a lot about how people are struggling: 51% say affordable housing is needed, 52% say reduce rent, 65% say reduce utilities, and 51% say increase the minimum wage. Looking at the results of the provincial report card, one can see that 40% of people in the province are spending more than 30% of their income on housing (the highest of any province), and households with low incomes spend an additional 60% on other fixed costs.

Between 2016 and 2021 there has been an estimated 8,600 fewer housing units with monthly costs below $750. With 25,585 renter households in New Brunswick earning below $30,000, it is imperative to have affordable housing options.

Furthermore, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) contains ambiguities that can lead to the exploitation of renters and more unaffordable housing conditions. For example, under the current RTA, the amount by which a landlord can increase monthly rental costs is undefined, and only a tenant of five years or more is eligible to dispute rental increases. Since 2015, the average rent paid by New Brunswick households has increased by 42%, nearly 10% more than in Canada as a whole (34%).

Housing is certainly playing a major role in the struggles of most New Brunswickers. Wages are too low and inflation too high for many to cover the high costs of housing and still have enough money to pay for other basic necessities.

The current provincial government, led by Premier Blaine Higgs, has claimed that the challenges of housing affordability and the cost of living are a top priority. Since 2021, the government has introduced two key policies to address these issues:

  • Social assistance reform and inflation indexing
    • A reform that indexed all social assistance rates to inflation, with rates increasing each year on April 1 based on the change in the New Brunswick Consumer Price Index. To date, New Brunswick and Quebec are the only provinces that index social assistance to inflation.
    • In 2021, wage exemptions increased from monthly earnings of $150 plus 30% of each additional dollar for single people and $200 for households to $500 for both.
  • Cap on rent increases
    • Until 2022, New Brunswick had no cap on rent increases. In March of 2022, the government changed that when they introduced a 3.8% cap.
    • The cap expired at the end of 2022, and several rental residents across the province began seeing uncapped rental increases immediately after.

New Brunswick has a poverty reduction strategy, which was reviewed in 2022. The province is making progress toward achieving its set goals, but things are moving slowly. Moreover, the goals set within the strategy are modest and do not provide a clear strategy for a pathway out of poverty.

The New Brunswick government has a daunting task ahead of it as it seeks to make significant progress in addressing poverty. Key priorities should include ensuring wages in the province meet a living wage standard and addressing the ongoing housing crisis. The government must prioritize policies that focus on young people, seniors, single parents, LGTBQ+ people, people with disabilities, and people living with addictions and mental health issues.

The 2023–2024 New Brunswick budget shows that the province is making some effort to reduce poverty, but there is still more to be done. The government announced a 7.3% increase to social assistance rates under the Transitional Assistance Program and the Extended Benefits Program and $37 million in funding to improve access to affordable childcare.

When it comes to making housing more affordable, the New Brunswick government did not make significant additional investments beyond the previously announced $100 million to build 380 new public housing units. While the government has committed more than $100 million toward building these new public housing units, that is still far below the amount required to replenish the affordable housing stock.

Affordable Housing
  1. Create enhanced protections for renters

To remedy the lack of protections provided by the Residential Tenancies Act, New Brunswick should, at a minimum, adopt a rent increase guideline policy to better control the rent increases that tenants are exposed to and to ensure that tenants have a robust ability to challenge the rate.

  1. Replenish the affordable housing supply, which has decreased by 25% between 2016 and 2021

We recommend the government:

  • accelerate its objective to increase the number of new public housing units and step up its targeted investments, by aiming to build a minimum of 500 units this year, rather than 380 as originally planned, and
  • create a plan to build at least 2,500 more by 2025.

Should New Brunswick not demonstrate faster progress in addressing this major barrier to poverty reduction, the federal government should examine the tools it has at its disposal to adjust federal transfers to the province, particularly those under the Canada-New Brunswick housing agreement and the province’s access to the federal Housing Accelerator Fund.


Decent Work and Education
  1. Develop a youth employment and training strategy

New Brunswick has one of the lowest levels of post-secondary education attainment in Canada, and the second highest rate of youth aged 15–29 who are neither in education or training nor looking for work/working (NEET). The provincial government must work to change these realities, starting with the development of an ambitious youth employment strategy that will set the goal of reducing the NEET rate by 25% within the next three years. This would bring New Brunswick closer into line with neighbouring Quebec and PEI.

  1. Focus on making work pay better and connecting youth with skilled trades opportunities

As part of the proposed youth employment strategy, New Brunswick should consider adopting a version of a refundable tax credit for households with low incomes, modelled on the enhanced LIFT credit we have proposed for Ontario.

Similarly, New Brunswick should take advantage of the growing demand for skilled trades and introduce an apprenticeship award that would provide several thousand dollars in bonuses to youth who were not previously working or in training and have returned to school to learn a trade. This should also be made generally available for provincial social assistance recipients transitioning into a trade, and would provide a top-up equivalent to approximately six months on benefits.


Income Support
  1. Further increase the wage exemption from its 2021 increases

The provincial government should continue its efforts to help single people and households deal with the issue of affordability by further enhancing wage exemptions for people who receive financial assistance. We recommend allowing for a monthly earnings exemption of $500 plus 55% of the remaining balance monthly for single people and a monthly exemption of $800 plus 55% for families. This benefit’s initial exemption should be increased to $700 for single seniors, and $1,100 for senior households.

  1. Transition the one-time Emergency Food and Fuel Benefit into a recurring benefit

The Emergency Food and Fuel Benefit provides assistance to individuals, families, and seniors with low incomes. The provincial government should make this a recurring annual benefit instead of a one-time benefit. Additionally, the payment should be increased to $300 for eligible individuals or $500 for eligible families.