The recent death of former federal cabinet minister, and community activist, Claudette Bradshaw provides us with the opportunity to re-examine one of the very rare attempts at looking at the working conditions and benefits levels in the non-profit sector in New Brunswick.
The Bradshaw report is a forgotten legacy left to the people of New Brunswick.
The lack of access to some form of retirement income security through participation in a workplace pension plan has been a common problem throughout the country for those who work for small or medium-sized non-profit organizations.
This circumstance is due in part to the small size of most non-profit groups since they’re not large enough to justify the creation of an employer’s pension plan on their own.
The same is true (but to a lesser degree) regarding access to other benefits, such as supplementary medical benefits packages offering co-payment schemes for vision care or prescription drugs.
More than one province has considered establishing a sector-run platform to deliver supplementary health insurance and pension benefits to workers in the non-profit sector. This was the case in New Brunswick when the 2007 Bradshaw Report (Blueprint for action: Foundation for Self-sufficiency) recommended just such a measure, in the form of a sector-run organization to administrate a benefits and pensions plan for the sector, under the Liberal government of Premier Shawn Graham.
In the 2006 election that brought Graham to power, the Liberals’ electoral platform had shown some appreciation of the role of the non-profit sector by identifying it as the “third pillar” (with business and government) in building a vibrant and sustainable New Brunswick.
After the election, Graham created the Premier’s Task Force on the Community Non-Profit Sector, which undertook a process of consultation during 2006 and published its report. This, in turn, led to the development of a Secretariat for Community Non-Profit Organizations.
Unfortunately, the New Brunswick government moved slowly on the Bradshaw recommendations and with the election of the Progressive Conservative government of Premier David Alward in September 2010, all of its initiatives were quickly shelved, regardless of their merit.
While the Bradshaw Report expressed concerns about the retirement income of non-profit workers, it didn’t provide enough details on exactly how New Brunswick was to provide access to pension plans for non-profit staff. An option considered was to do this simply through employer contributions to individual employee RRSPs, as is the practice in some businesses.
The report was more specific regarding health benefits, providing an appendix prepared by Medavie Blue Cross (a non-profit insurance company that administers various government-sponsored health programs) that outlined a proposal for group benefits coverage for the non-profit employees throughout the province.
Regardless of any shortcoming, the Bradshaw Report was one of the very rare attempts at looking at the working conditions and benefits levels in the non-profit sector in New Brunswick. Many of its recommendations have not yet been addressed or implemented.
Luc Thériault, PhD, is a professor of sociology and chair of the Economics Department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
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