MONCTON – Opposition parties joined the chorus Thursday demanding the government make changes to the Voices of New Brunswick Women Consensus-Building Forum.
“We call upon the Alward government and Marie-Claude Blais, to reinstate the independence that the women in New Brunswick used to have under the advisory council on the status of women,” said Liberal Leader Brian Gallant at a media appearance inside the Capitol Theatre in Moncton. “We want to make sure that it’s also properly funded.”
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The provincial government has been facing criticism about the group after opponents said the forum is facing a lack of resources and government interference.
The forum was announced in 2013, two years after the government cut funding to the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. But the members of the group were appointed in February.
Critics say the forum has only met once since that time, and it’s received about $200,000 in funding, less than half the funding of the advisory council.
Gallant said that if his party formed government on the Sept. 22 election, they would provide $400,000 to fund the group.
Wendy Robbins, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of New Brunswick and a member of the forum, said the group was suffering from structural problems.
“An arms-length agency that’s supposed to advise the government, can’t have the government sitting right on it. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not independent,” she said. “As it stands, the structural problems are huge and perhaps unsolvable and the other major issue is the budget. This budget is actually a third of what it was in its heyday.”
In an interview with Global News, Marie-Claude Blais, the Minister responsible for Women’s Equality called the timing of the criticism political.
“I’ve been very clear to say that if more funding is needed, certainly then as the woman responsible for women’s equality, as a woman myself and as one of the few women that has a seat in the legislature, certainly that would be my role and I would bring this question forward,” she said.
Of the 55 current MLAs in the legislature, seven of them are women.