Political, Economic and Cultural Environment
In 1995 the McKenna Liberal government was engaged in a restructuring of New Brunswick’s economy embarked upon eight years earlier. A series of initiatives was aimed at eliminating the Province’s budget deficits and reducing its debt, then approaching $6 billion.
The situation facing the Department of Income Assistance (later to become the Department of Human Resources Development, HRD-NB) reflected general economic conditions in the Province. With an annual budget of $285.7 million, the Department was running a deficit of approximately $40 million a year before the project. At the time it also faced a series of chronic problems: outdated work methods, steady increase in the number of income assistance cases, overworked employees, and obsolete technology. Employees found it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of clients, whom the system kept in a state of psychological and economic dependence, in due time. Lastly, public opinion complained about the escalating costs and tax burden of social assistance.