Rod Bruinoog- MP for Winnipeg South, Chair of the Conservative Aboriginal Caucus and Post-Secondary Education Caucus
Poverty affects all of us; it deprives us all of reaching our full potential. It limits individual growth and, in turn, the growth and development of strong communities. In order to effectively address and prevent poverty, Government has to provide people with reasonable opportunities to achieve an independent and productive life. Part of that means improving the conditions for which the private sector can operate. A low tax environment, for example, attracts business and provides economic opportunities.
Addressing poverty also means offering the tools people need to succeed, such as a quality education. As Chair of both the Conservative Aboriginal Caucus and Post-Secondary Education Caucus, I see a very real need in Manitoba to improve First Nations’ access to quality education.
Many Aboriginal students have to leave their communities for high school which causes an increase in drop-out rates. Graduation rates for kids on reserve are far lower than off and this results in relatively few First Nation students making it to college or university. We all recognize the strong links between access to high-quality education and success later in life. The current situation feeds a cycle of poverty that governments must better address.
First Nations education is a complicated and often inefficient overlap of jurisdictions. The federal government funds education for students on reserves and the provincial government funds most students off reserve. Historically, the federal government hasn’t done a very good job relative to the provinces in delivering K to 12 education. What I have proposed is more provincial involvement in administering education on reserves, and ensuring First Nation schools adhere to provincial standards while including cultural elements in their curriculum.
The federal and provincial governments, along with Aboriginal stakeholders, need to work together to develop a new model that will improve educational outcomes for First Nations. I have openly advocated for this type of model and recommended that some additional federal cash incentives should be provided for provinces that are willing to create a tripartite relationship.
Thankfully, there are examples of progress on this front. In 2008, The School Improvement Project was created to improve educational outcomes for First Nations children here in Manitoba. The project was led by the Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre which partnered with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, the Southern Chiefs Organization, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Province of Manitoba.
Participating schools received assistance in key areas, such as administration and professional development. Student achievement was monitored closely and the results will be used to decide future actions. INAC has expressed interest in continuing the project, and I would support a decision to do so.
Improving education outcomes is crucial to poverty reduction. All partners must work together to ensure that First Nations, and all of Manitoba’s young people, get the education they need to secure stable, fulfilling jobs and contribute to their communities. A successful poverty-reduction strategy is one that gives people opportunities to become self-sufficient and move out of poverty. We have to help people get past the welfare wall, help people build capital, and help ensure the next generation isn’t born into poverty. Without those types of interventions, the cycle will continue unabated.
Louise Champagne and Russ Rothney- Neechi Foods Co-Op
It is obvious that "we" have not adequately addressed poverty because it is widespread. For things to seriously change, as a starter, young people (especially) need to make sense of the poverty that they face and to understand how balanced economies have operated in the past. Both are needed to help restore dignity, self-esteem and self-confidence and to help figure out solutions. The following provides a basis for some of this understanding and renewal.
Prior to the arrival and advance of merchant fur trade companies in the 16th century, First Nations’ economies in Manitoba functioned in the context of communal “band” and tribal societies. Economic activity was tailored to seasonal rounds and migrations of animal, fish and plants. Decisions about production and distribution were based on community needs and goals, rather than on the pursuit and accumulation of privatized, commercial wealth. Accordingly, the concept of unemployment did not exist. Social relationships within communal band and tribal societies were egalitarian because the economy operated on the basis of community interest. Individuals acquired self-esteem by sharing and contributing to the well-being of others.
This all began to unravel after the arrival of the commercial fur trade in the 17th century. European trade goods had technological advantages over indigenous manufactures. However, reliance on these items soon led to a critical dependency on foreign imports. In turn this created a fatal imbalance, with production increasingly geared to the pursuit of commercial value rather than to meeting community needs.
Early roots of modern “welfare dependency” were planted rapidly in the late 1600s, when Cree families periodically had to rely on rations of oatmeal doled out to them by the Hudson’s Bay Company. This was because they had started wintering around desolate trading posts on the Hudson Bay coast as a direct response to commercial trade. They remained late in the fall, after freeze-up, hunting and fishing to supply the company with provisions. In so doing, they were cut off from the inland forest resources that had sustained people in the region for thousands of years.
The spread of insatiable merchant trade and foreign goods increasingly suppressed indigenous manufacturing and processing and undermined skilled, artisan craftsmanship. Region by region, commercial trade exhausted stocks of fur bearing animals and led to over-hunting of game and to other forms of resource depletion. In turn, this set the stage for widespread epidemics and food shortages in the 18th and 19th centuries, all of which laid the groundwork for the wholesale surrender of land, packaged by treaties.
On the plains, in the late 1800’s another shift occurred, this time from the commercial fur trade economy to a commercial agricultural economy and European settlement. Following the Indian Treaties, which were concluded with Aboriginal people who were under severe economic duress, opportunities for European peasants to acquire free land for agricultural pursuits were promoted throughout Europe. The result was large-scale immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Export agriculture was soon followed by commercial mining, forestry and fishing, all of which perpetuated the imbalance between resource harvesting and manufacturing or processing, continued the assault on community based production, and began sidelining Aboriginal labour. On top of this, residential schooling had a catastrophic impact on family and community integrity and cultural independence.
The future of Aboriginal communities, rural and urban, depends heavily on the extent to which Aboriginal young people develop confidence in who they are and where they come from, and on the extent to which community values can re-gain economic prominence. Examination and discussion of root causes needs to be promoted in schools, the media and elsewhere, and it needs to be done in a way that restores community solidarity and pride. There are no short-cuts to profound social and economic revitalization. As the understanding evolves then efforts at building solutions can follow.
Betty Edel- Executive Director of Mount Carmel Clinic
If we define poverty as the economic, social, physical, and psychological marginalization of individuals and communities, then we are definitely not adequately addressing poverty in Manitoba. In saying this, I lay no blame on any one political system or structure for the shape we are in; eradicating poverty is the responsibility of all citizens of the nation. We all need to work together, put aside our political ideologies, and take responsibility for the role we all play in perpetuating the cycle. Though it remains a perennial rallying cry, our drive to ‘pay less tax’ effectively contributes to the exclusion of people from participating in our society. With less tax comes the inability to build more housing, create more training programs, and have more childcare for our children, not to mention the implications for the sustainability of our public healthcare system. As a province and a nation, we need to decide where our collective priorities lie. By ensuring that everyone has access to housing that they can afford, that communities have recreation and employment opportunities for their residents, and that quality childcare is available for women who choose to participate in the labor market (as well as sufficient support for those who don’t), we can avoid the ballooning costs associated with the sicknesses that come from overcrowding in dwellings, having no home at all, stress-induced medical conditions and chronic illnesses, violence caused by lack of opportunities, and the long-term costs associated with a lack of investment in early childhood development and families.
My question to all Manitobans is this: what do we really want, more hospitals and jails, or a safe and healthy society where everyone is valued and participates in making this province a great place to live? There is a price to paying less tax: less programming and fewer services up front, and more (expensive) hospitals and jails in the end.
Stress from poverty leads to despair, the most visible of its symptoms including addictions, homelessness, suicides, broken families, and crime (without mentioning the invisible, often intergenerational scars). Poverty is not simply a provincial problem (nor a federal one), but a national problem, and everyone has a stake in solving this most solvable of issues. But first, we must demonstrate a will to tackle it in the first place. Canadians are not afraid to take on great works and have done so in the past. We have built a national railway, a seaway, not to mention our healthcare system, all for the betterment of Canadians and to produce an exceptional society. In an exceptional society, though, nobody should be forgotten or left behind; it is in everyone’s best interest not to do so.
Ron Evans- Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief
As the Social Planning Council reported last fall, Manitoba is the child poverty capital of Canada. It is no coincidence that 1 in 4 children in Manitoba are First Nation.
As reported in the press this week, Winnipeg is the aboriginal gang capital of Canada. According to the RCMP’s National Aboriginal Policing Service, that is because of poverty.
Over 70 per cent of children in CFS care in this province are Aboriginal, another consequence of poverty.
So I have to say no, that Manitoba is not successful at addressing poverty and I can honestly say that I think the reason lies not entirely in Manitoba but in Ottawa.
As First Nations, we signed Treaties with the federal government and our funding comes mainly from this source. Compared to all other Manitobans, the federal government provides us with one third less funding for our schools, 22 per cent less funding for our CFS services, and inadequate health care services which became very public in the H1N1 scare last spring.
Our children and youth are paying for Canada’s neglect. When our children end up unemployed or in gangs due to inadequate educations, Manitoba pays for it. The federal government offloads its expenses to Manitoba, no different than if Canada were to cut transfer payments to our province.
I must commend the Manitoba government for taking action where it can. Health Minister Theresa Oswald put people before politics last summer when she committed provincial money to prevention in First Nation communities during the H1N1 crisis, money that fell under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh has been vigorously lobbying for the federal government to equalize child and family services in Manitoba
Besides lobbying Ottawa, we all must do more. In 2001, one in five children in Manitoba was First Nation. In 2010, that number has increased to one in four. At the rate our population is growing, it is not unlikely that one in three Manitobans will be First Nation in the next 25 years.
Manitoba must work with us to provide services and programs for First Nation people. That support should not be considered a financial burden but an investment savings account.
With better primary health care, our people will rely less on the Manitoba hospital system. With better education, our people will contribute more to this economy, especially as the rest of the population ages. And with better preventative services, our children will remain with their families and out of CFS care.
When we put away funds for future use, we think of it as investing in your future by making our money grow. Investing in First Nations will give Manitoba a successful future.
Dr. Jon Gerrard, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party
When presented with the question: "How successful is Manitoba at addressing poverty in Manitoba" I must answer: "We are not even remotely successful at addressing poverty in Manitoba."
Eight times in the past 20 years, Manitoba has earned the title of ‘child poverty capital’ and has never had a better ranking than fourth place. Our repetitive failure to improve our national child poverty ranking has earned us few accolades and solidifies our position as an effective creator of child poverty.
In November 2009 I attended a press conference organized by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (SPCW) to launch their annual Family and Child Poverty Report Card. The statistics issued were disturbing. Yet again, Manitoba was leading the country in the number of children under the age of 18 who were living in families with income below the low income cut-off point.
Immediately following this press conference, the Manitoba Government released their spin machine and claimed that the SPWC report card was inaccurate because it did not use the same indicators that the provincial government used to grade itself.
Currently, our provincial government is still trying to develop a set of indicators that all parties can agree on. I say stop wasting time and money on developing new indicators when proven ones already exist. To solve the poverty issue in Manitoba we need to take the politics out of poverty. Poverty policies that are going to have results are the kind that cannot be changed when a new political party takes power in our province. Although some issues can be corrected within a government’s four-year term , a large scale issue like poverty cannot.
I believe that the problem of poverty in Manitoba will never be solved if it is left to the good intentions of politicians looking to be re-elected every four years. Permanent solutions to poverty involve long-term policy and programming in health care, education, housing, and employment. Maintaining the focus and direction of a well-planned anti-poverty strategy in Manitoba, while taking into account the normal changes in political leadership, is nearly impossible.
The Manitoba Liberal Party supports implementing legislation whereby a central strategy to combat and eliminate poverty will be followed no matter what political party is in power. On December 2, 2009, I introduced Bill 201, The Social Inclusion and Anti-Poverty Act, for first reading in the Manitoba Legislature.
This proposed legislation requires the government to annually announce its progress on reducing the number of people living in poverty in Manitoba and designates the SPCW as the minister’s advisory council on poverty and social exclusion.
Bill 201 will soon come forward for second reading and if our current NDP government does not support this bill’s passing, poverty will continue to be an issue that government approaches with the next election in mind.
To solve poverty in Manitoba, we must put aside political banners and join together to follow the long-term strategies needed to take our province from a creator of poverty to a leader in solving and preventing poverty.
Wayne Helgason- Executive Director, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg
Somehow we (as a community) have allowed poverty to establish insidious roots in the basic structure of our society. It is an indictment on the state of our “collective” in tolerating the increasing numbers of those among us who are faced with inescapable poverty that is both deep and persistent. Between the cyclical fiscal belt tightening by all levels of government and the seemingly politically popular tax-cutting platforms of all parties appealing to our individual and corporate needs, we have created, as a consequence, a structural segment of our society that has been relegated to unavoidable poverty and social exclusion. Therefore in the last 25 years we have seen the creation and exponential growth of Winnipeg Harvest as an unfortunate necessity in the lives of so many. Additionally Siloam Mission has, in the last decade, gone from an occasional Main Street meal program to a multimillion dollar 24/7 homeless shelter in the face of a predictable housing crisis. There are many other examples.
In our history there have been a number of progressive societal advancements toward ensuring that all were included. When we fashioned out a public education system it was meant for all children; when universal health care was introduced (Canada 1966) it wasn’t for only some of us. So why then do we allow the blight of poverty to continue to befall so many of our fellow citizens? Where is our collective will to insist upon social fairness and some basic equity from those representing and nurturing our collective interests? Ironically we actually create mythology to protect us from understanding the reality and caring enough to do something. The welfare stigma is alive and well and few people know that the majority of children who are poor live in a family in which at least one of the parents are working full time. Shouldn’t working full time be a guarantee of freedom from poverty? There was a time, 30 years ago, when a job at the minimum wage actually allowed one to escape poverty. We seem to be all too distracted in our aspiration to be Donald Trump’s apprentice or pleasing the rest of the dragons as the measures of success. In fact the fine and generous people working in community organizations attempting to alleviate the damaging effects of poverty, voicing concerns and calling for change are often scornfully referred to as the “poverty industry”. The real poverty industry might well be described in great measure as our jails and the justice system generally.
We desperately need inspired leadership to make the commitment and to hold to all that matters to accomplish the task of the elimination of poverty. The best crime reduction plan is poverty elimination. The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg’s long stated vision is for a “just, caring, inclusive and responsive society”. It is encouraging that a broadened segment including leadership in the business community of our conspicuously caring city has joined with long time advocates on the front lines of poverty to do battle with the current situation. The stated aspiration of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council for a “city where everyone belongs” resonates well with our history. Winnipeg has always had a special place in the context of our nation and many believe that it has a lot to do with our heart and our spirit. We’ve got the goods – now it’s up to all of us.
Shauna MacKinnon- Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- Manitoba
Statistics tell us that we have had some success in addressing poverty in Manitoba in recent years. This is in part due to a strong economy beginning in the latter part of the 1990’s that has only recently taken a downward turn. Gains made can also be attributed to targeted government policies aimed at poverty reduction.
In 1997, 15.8 percent of Manitobans lived below the Low-Income Cut Off -after tax (LICO-AT). By 2007, this rate had decreased to 9.8 percent. Some groups have done better than others. For example, while women continue to be over represented among those who are poor, we have seen some improvements in Manitoba that suggest Manitoba’s tax and transfer system has helped. The rate for female lone-parent families fell from 57.9 percent in 1996 to 23.6 percent in 2007.
But we have failed to improve the depth of poverty for those living below the LICO and the rate of poverty for Aboriginal Manitobans is staggering -- 29 percent -- three times that of non-Aboriginal Manitobans. And this does not include those living in First Nation communities. The median annual income for Aboriginal workers aged 15+ was $15,246 -- 63 percent of the median income of $24,104 for the overall population.
Income trends such as those noted above provide a picture of our progress, but there are many other factors that tell us something about how effective we have been at improving the social and economic conditions of Manitobans. For example, we know that children living in poverty are more likely to do poorly in school and are at greater risk of becoming poor adults further increasing the risk of intergenerational poverty. Research shows that for a host of reasons, this deeply entrenched poverty is particularly difficult to escape.
While poverty exists in pockets across the province, rates are highest in northern Manitoba, in First Nation communities and in the inner city of Winnipeg. This geographically concentrated poverty is particularly challenging.
Aboriginal children comprise upwards of 70 percent of those living in foster care in Manitoba. A key conclusion emerging from external reviews of the child and family services system is that “factors such as poverty, poor housing and addictions, as well as the lack of effective responses to these by other systems, are root causes of family breakdown and the growing demands on the child and family services system” (Child and Family Services Standing Committee, 2007).
The use of food banks and soup kitchens is another important indicator of our progress. Many Manitobans generously donate to food banks. But the fact that this charity-based model of intervention, introduced by anti-poverty advocates in the 1980’s as a temporary measure, has become a permanent institution tells us that we have yet to ensure that Manitobans have sufficient income to meet their basic needs. We will know we have made significant progress when we are able to close our food bank’s doors.
In many ways we have become desensitized to poverty. We accept it as a reality. Governments can do much better. But it is also our responsibility as citizens to tell our elected officials that we want them to make poverty reduction a priority and that we, citizens and businesses alike, are willing to pay our fair share in taxes to reach our poverty reduction goals.
Gord Mackintosh- Province of Manitoba, Minister of Family Services and Consumer Affairs
We all know the obvious signs of poverty -- homeless people living on the streets, squeegee kids at downtown intersections, lineups at food banks and soup kitchens, boarded up houses -- all are tragic reminders that poverty continues to drag down the lives of too many Manitobans.
Poverty’s causes are complex, but underlying most poverty is a lack of opportunity stemming from inadequate education, poor physical or mental health, disabilities, and frequently a lack of support from families during the formative years.
We know that those who live with poverty have reduced access to so many of the basics most Canadians take for granted. Poverty can reduce access to health care, dental care, medication, education, transportation, good quality housing and leisure activities.
Poverty can reduce a person’s ability to fully participate in their communities. That’s more than an individual problem. When poverty drags down one person, we all lose.
Poverty, particularly deeply entrenched poverty that affects generations of families, kills hope. It’s hard to have hope when your stomach is empty and your clothes are tattered.
When we work hard to help people out of poverty we are doing the humane thing. We are also helping ourselves. A society flourishes when everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
The government of Manitoba has a critical role to play in combating poverty and we recognize that no single initiative will work for every person. That’s why in 2009, we launched All Aboard, our co-ordinated poverty reduction strategy with an initial commitment of $744 million.
ALL Aboard unites under one plan all of our many successful initiatives, while creating new ones to build on that strong foundation.
One of those foundations is social assistance. We have increased low-income supports by $76 million a year since 1999. A family of four is now eligible for almost $1,800 a month, a 38% increase in the past decade.
But simply raising social assistance rates isn’t enough; the emphasis must be on helping Manitobans get meaningful work. This is the sustainable and dignified way to reduce poverty.
That’s why we introduced our Rewarding Work initiative, which helps move Manitobans from welfare to work by providing benefits to support the transition. Another is Rebound, a new two-year retraining and support strategy that helps low-income workers hurt by the economic downturn.
We have also increased annual basic income support rates for people with disabilities by $300; increased shelter benefits; increased earnings exemptions; and introduced the Manitoba Child Benefit -- the only provincial child benefit program in Western Canada.
Aside from a meaningful job, one of the best ways to help people move out of poverty is to ensure that they have good homes. Budget 2009 saw the largest ever investment in social housing, totalling $327 million. The HOMEWorks! initiative targets the construction or renovation of affordable homes for low-income Manitobans.
Other successful Manitoba initiatives include Closing the Gap, Neighbourhoods Alive!, Opening Doors, Healthy Child Manitoba, Family Choices: Manitoba’s Five Year Agenda for Early Learning and Child Care, and HOMEworks! Homelessness Action Plan and Mental Health Housing Initiatives.
These efforts help move Manitobans out of poverty. The latest figures show that we have cut the child poverty rate in half since 2000, lifting 28,000 children out of poverty. The poverty rate for all Manitoba has decreased by more than a third. Compared with other provinces, Manitoba has the second lowest rate of poverty for single-parent families and the third lowest for all adults and children.
We will only know if these and future initiatives are successful if we can measure the results. Therefore, we’re developing meaningful measures to track progress on our four priorities: Safe affordable housing in supportive communities; education, jobs and income support; strong, healthy families; and accessible, co-ordinated services.
Despite the successes so far, we aren’t celebrating. The improved poverty figures offer no comfort to those who are still living in poverty. For those people, we will continue to work as hard as we can to offer them hope and a real opportunity to escape poverty.
They deserve no less.
Hugh McFadyen- Leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party
The challenges we have in Manitoba are real. Currently, there are about 47,000 children who live in poverty. These are children who are often sent to school without a nourishing breakfast, who aren’t always certain of an evening meal, and who go to bed with the pain of hunger lingering as they sleep.
Child poverty is especially devastating because it robs children of the youthful experiences and innocent happiness we all want for our kids. It takes away hope and makes them vulnerable to continuing the cycle in their adult lives.
It is our job as legislators to find real solutions, bearing in mind that progress will take time.
What is needed is a vision for a future without child poverty, along with the leadership, innovation, and most of all, meaningful action, to achieve this important goal.
The Progressive Conservative Party believes that education and economic success go hand-in-hand. When we provide all young people with the opportunity to obtain a high quality education, we are enabling them to succeed in the broader economy.
Right now, Manitoba has the highest high school dropout rate in Western Canada, and until we address that, we won’t be able to combat poverty. Without an education, our young people will get stuck in the cycle of poverty.
To close the gap between children who succeed and those who disengage and eventually drop out of school requires an investment in early education.
Without a doubt, the Progressive Conservative Party believes that children need the tools to succeed from the very first day they start preschool. Small investments in the early stages of a child’s life will get kids off to a good start. As government, each day we would make commitments to achieve this goal.
We also know when a child goes to school hungry, or is tired, or is without stable housing, that child cannot learn. While the budget for housing and social welfare has grown tremendously under this NDP government, the services have not. That needs to change. Finally we will address the problem of FASD that exists in many communities. Children who are born with physiological challenges are struggling with school, with jobs and with being fully contributing citizens of Manitoba.
In closing, governments can and must commit to end the cycle of poverty, but a major part of the solution lies in the strength of our families and communities. Without the support of families and communities, government’s ability to effect change will be limited.
Let’s start working together to put an end to child poverty in our great province of Manitoba.
David Northcott- Executive Coordinator, Winnipeg Harvest
How successful are we at addressing poverty in Manitoba? What more needs to be done? While those questions could be answered in two or three words, or in a sentence or two, Winnipeg Harvest believes questions regarding poverty deserve a lot more explanation. Winnipeg Harvest began in 1985 with the hope that we would be out of business shortly thereafter. But over 25 years later, the need for the service Winnipeg Harvest provides, distributing surplus food to those in need, continues to grow.
Over the last year alone, the number of people Winnipeg Harvest shares food with has gone up by over 18%. Almost half of the over 40,000 people that Winnipeg Harvest shares food with each month are children. And the warehouse and training center, the hub for over 300 food banks, soup kitchens and food distribution centers throughout Manitoba, is undergoing a major capital expansion to meet the growing needs.
Who are Winnipeg Harvest clients? Not just people who are not working or unable to work. Over 19% of those reporting food bank use report incomes from either current or recent employment. Not just single parents either. The poverty rate for two parent families in Manitoba is at 15%, above the 11.2% national average.
And According to the Manitoba Social Planning Council 2009 Manitoba Child & Family Poverty Report Card, one in five children are living in poverty. That is the highest rate among major Canadian cities in Canada.
As an advocacy group, Winnipeg Harvest has helped to define poverty in Manitoba. By compiling the data of our clients, we have been successful in helping providing statistical data in Winnipeg and, through agencies outside the city, in Manitoba as well.
The approach to addressing poverty is a work in progress. The 2003 Acceptable Living Level (ALL) Report of 2003, which reviewed poverty in Manitoba, has some solid recommendations for eradicating poverty. The report also strives to break the stereotypes and the myths that are associated with people living in poverty in Manitoba.
The ALL Report suggests the first step is to embrace a much broader and inclusive standard when defining poverty. It suggests the definition of poverty should be more than the abject standard of living where only basic necessities are lacking.
The ALL Report also concludes that social safety net benefits and the minimum wage do not provide sufficient financial support for individuals and families to meet basic needs. The income provided by the social safety net and the income provided by the minimum wage are simply too low.
And finally, the ALL Report concludes all Manitobans need to be part of the solution toward eradicating poverty. Not just government, not just volunteers and not just food bank or social service agencies in Manitoba. While all three are key stakeholders, the ultimate solution is going to be one that involves business, schools and all Manitobans.
Floyd Perras- Executive Director, Siloam Mission
We have been successful in addressing poverty given our current resources. However, we know that the combined efforts of all organizations that focus on the issue only scratch the surface of what is needed. Progress has been seen, but we are continually learning and improving as we work toward greater success.
Many of the issues that affect Manitoba are the same across Canada and the world. The commonality is the lack of employment opportunities, affordable housing, and services that help people who struggle with mental and physical health issues, addiction, abuse, and other crises.
At Siloam Mission, we have the opportunity to address poverty first hand. We are able to not only meet basic needs, but to actually help the transition process in bringing people from poverty and homelessness to more self-sufficient lifestyles. Through the support of the community we are able to offer people meals, clothing, emergency shelter, health-care, employment training and transitional support. Every day, we see the difference this is making in reducing poverty.
A significant gap that must be addressed is the lack of affordable housing. The vacancy rate for affordable housing in Manitoba is extremely low. Some of the housing available is in unsafe areas and are unhealthy living conditions. Appropriate housing is crucial to helping a person develop as part of the community. Without adequate housing, little can be accomplished in the fight to end poverty – who can focus on their health or employment when they are not sure if their housing will be there tomorrow?
In conjunction with the need for housing, we require more programs and services that will address issues such as addictions, abuse, and unemployment. Each situation of poverty has a unique circumstance and therefore needs a unique set of solutions.
Every response to poverty and homelessness must be adaptable and flexible to meet an individual need. There is no "cookie-cutter" solution that will address and meet the diverse needs of those living in poverty. Communication and cooperation among service providers on a case by case basis would benefit those trying to move on from poverty and homelessness.
There is no one answer to addressing the needs of poverty. We are all responsible for finding solutions. There are hundreds of pieces that have to come together from each sector of the community. We can not say that it is too big of an issue to tackle.
If we are all willing to come together, solutions are possible. Manitoba is an incredibly generous province of people who care. Each year, thousands of volunteers and donors contribute to organizations like Siloam Mission to make a difference. This contribution should not be under-estimated. Our community will change if enough of us care to change it.
Chris Sarlo- Author of Measuring Poverty in Canada and What is Poverty?: Providing Clarity for Canada
I want to begin by wishing the people of Manitoba the very best in reducing (and hopefully eliminating) poverty. This is a critically important social and economic goal. It will, of course, be difficult to achieve. The plan to reduce poverty must begin with a clear understanding of the nature of the problem and an intelligent measure of poverty which corresponds to that understanding. Many well-intentioned plans have failed because no one bothered to determine with clarity what exactly it was that should be eliminated. Based on a review of the “All Aboard” program, I worry that Manitoba will attempt to use purely relative measures (MBM, LICO) which indicate the level of inequality in society and were never intended to be used as measures of poverty. If your goal is to eliminate insufficiency (hunger, inadequate housing, etc) then you will need a different kind of measure and a different plan. Again, I wish you well with this very worthy goal. I simply urge you to start with clarity.
David Seymour- Senior Policy Analyst and Director, Saskatchewan Office, Frontier Centre for Public Policy
By almost any measure, Canada has been one of the most successful countries in the world at reducing poverty, and Manitoba broadly shares in that success. Here are just a fewmeasures from the World Health Organisation, comparing Canada to a country that is poor but developing rapidly, and two of the most unsuccessful countries in the world today.
In the early 20th century, tuberculosis was a serious public health problem in North America. In 2006, there were five cases for every 100,000 Canadians, down from ten in 1990. That is an extraordinary achievement compared to Zimbabwe (557 cases per 100,000 people), North Korea(178), and Mexico (21). The WHO reports that all Canadian births are attended by skilled personnel compared to 97 per cent in North Korea, 94 in Mexico and 69 in Zimbabwe. The North Korean statistic for attending births sounds impressive—though one should take it with a large grain of salt— but even if true, North Korean children are still ten times more likely to die before age five than are Canadian children. Mexican children are six times more likely and Zimbabweans fourteen times more likely. Perhaps the ultimate measure is that Canadians born today can expect to live 81 years, compared to 74, 66, and 43 in Mexico, North Korea, and Zimbabwe.
No doubt some readers will find it harshly boastful to talk about Canada’s “extraordinary achievements” compared to the suffering in other countries. But the comparisons are necessary because we may be so used to being one of the world’s richest countries that we take prosperity for granted.
Poverty has been dealt a severe blow over the past centurythanks to extraordinary economic growth, and that has resulted in a poverty debate largely morphing into an income distribution debate. While there are certainly some in Canada who lack the means to physically sustain themselves, this group is significantly smaller than the various groupings that some commentators claim are in poverty. These latter groups are usually defined by having incomes some arbitrary amount less than the average.
Take this quote from another Canadian think tank: “it is inexcusable that 546,000 British Columbians, 13 per cent of the total population, live in poverty…” Really? The figure they quote (Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-off) actually measures the number of people who spend twenty percentage points more of their income on food, clothing, and shelter than the average similar household in a similar sized community. If that last sentence is a mouthful, then it’s easy to see why some say poverty when they really mean income inequality.
But people who propagate this confusion, whether it be out of ignorance, deviousness, or just sheer laziness, do a great disservice to the people who really do lack the ability to physically sustain themselves. If they want a debate about income distribution, they should have one, rather than hijack the poverty debate with relative measurements that reveal little about actual poverty and how to solve it.
The most urgent need in Canada’s effort to reduce poverty is to separate the debate on income distribution from the debate on how to help people who genuinely lack the ability to sustain themselves. We must focus on that if there is any hope of making more progress on poverty reduction.
Jim Silver- Director, Urban and Inner City Studies, University of Winnipeg
Poverty is a very serious problem in Manitoba. It is not just about a shortage of income, although income levels for many are terribly low. It is also about the cumulative impact of colonization and racism, and exclusion from the labour market and from other important institutions of society. These problems lead many in poverty to experience a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, and of hope about the future. The psychological impact of poverty is often particularly damaging, leaving people trapped and despondent.
The causes of this complex poverty are broad socio-economic forces over which any given individual has little control, and that have led to ever-widening levels of inequality. Poverty and inequality, in turn, play a major role in poor health, low levels of educational attainment, and various forms of crime. This is the case not just in Manitoba, but across the Western world. As a result, poverty imposes a cost on all of us, and we all therefore have an interest in solving it.
We have not been successful in recent decades in addressing poverty. In many important respects it has worsened over the past 30 years. The provincial government has invested in some sound anti-poverty measures in the past decade. They have not done enough, but they have been trying. The City of Winnipeg has done almost nothing to combat poverty. Their decisions over time to allow the deterioration of inner-city recreational facilities, for example, have worsened the problem. Most importantly, the federal government has failed Canadians miserably, and continues to do so, by promoting policies that worsen poverty and widen inequalities, and by eroding the universal programs that once supported people in pulling themselves out of poverty.
A great deal needs to be done to address Manitoba’s worsening levels of poverty. We need higher minimum wages, for example, so that those who work can live in dignity. We need to invest more in the creative educational and employment strategies that have been developed in Winnipeg’s inner city, that work exceptionally well but are at the moment under-funded. And we need to agree to raise taxes to enable us to make these investments in our collective future. Canadians have been led in recent decades to believe that taxes are a bad thing, and should always be lowered. But taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society. Taxes generate the revenue needed to invest in the anti-poverty strategies that we know are working well. Since we all benefit from reductions in poverty and inequality, we would all also benefit from judicious increases in tax levels and the investment of that revenue in anti-poverty strategies that we know work well.
Poverty can be solved. It cannot be solved quickly or easily, but it can be solved. To do so, and by doing so to significantly reduce the related ills that poverty brings upon all of us, we need to invest in solutions that work. Doing so will be a crucial investment in our collective future.