Manitoba government falls behind on poverty commitments: no strategy in place for Budget 2017

Winnipeg, MB – February 21, 2017

During the April 12, 2016 televised election debate, Brian josh-brandon-feb-21-2017-press-conferencePallister stated that “poverty is the number one issue for us in our province.” (CBC, Manitoba Leaders Debate: at 35:50) In the new government’s budget, the government promised a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy starting in Budget 2017. But in a letter to Make Poverty History Manitoba in January, the Finance Minister and Minister of Families did not reiterate a commitment to reducing poverty in Budget 2017. Budget day is approaching there is no draft strategy for review and no community consultations on poverty are planned.

“Time is running out for the premier to live up to his commitment to put a plan for poverty reduction in place for Budget 2017,” said Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba. “Without a strategy, poverty in Manitoba will deepen leaving the most vulnerable Manitobans in poor housing, with higher incidence of poverty-related disease, and with inadequate incomes to purchase food and other basic necessities.”

Make Poverty History Manitoba launched a public campaign on November 16, 2016, calling on the province to work with the coalition to develop a comprehensive strategy including targets and timelines for poverty reduction and an increase in the EIA basic needs benefit. More than 100 organizations have endorsed this proposal.

In the letter to Make Poverty History Manitoba in January, the Province indicated its strategy for addressing poverty would focus on “harnessing Manitobans generosity through the development of Social Impact Bonds”. Elsewhere it has proposed tax cuts, and increasing the basic personal exemption, as measures for reducing poverty. Make Poverty History Manitoba has raised concerns to government that these measures are insufficient, lack comprehensiveness and do not meet the priorities already identified by people working with and living in poverty.

“Tax cuts and one-off programs that rely on the generosity of Manitobans are not enough to combat poverty. Government should maintain Rent Assist, provide an immediate boost to EIA to lift the most vulnerable Manitobans closer to the poverty line and implement a comprehensive plan with targets and timelines for cutting poverty. People living in poverty shouldn’t have to depend on charity and can’t wait for future budget cycles. Government needs to take responsibility and act” said Brandon.

Make Poverty History Manitoba has endorsed The View from Here 2015: Manitobans call for a renewed poverty reduction plan. This plan represents the priorities of Manitobans most closely linked to poverty. It calls for action on key priorities including housing, income security, childcare, education, support for community-based organizations, food security, transportation, disability supports, health, and child welfare. It provides a blueprint of what a comprehensive poverty reduction plan should contain. Implementing the View from Here is one of the recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry, to improve social conditions and prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future.

The Manitoba government is required under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act to implement a long-term strategy to reduce poverty and increase social inclusion across Manitoba. It is also required to report publicly on progress in its budget papers. A five-year review of the current strategy is mandated to be completed by May 2017.

Backgrounder: Manitoba Poverty Legislation Backgrounder