The New Democrats say they will tackle poverty by strengthening programs and reducing taxes for low and middle-income workers in the province if Manitobans choose them over the opposition this spring.
"We're rolling out a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty, a plan that tackles poverty from all directions," NDP Leader Greg Selinger said at a campaign stop in the West End of Winnipeg on Saturday.
An NDP government would institute an annual 50 cent raise to minimum wage across the board if elected, Selinger said.
Talia Syrie, owner of The Tallest Poppy restaurant, came out in support of the wage hike. One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is retaining staff, she said.
"The best way to keep people healthy and happy in their jobs is by paying them a fair wage," she said.
"People are always quick to say that [raising minimum wage] is going to hurt the restaurant industry. Studies have shown ... what it actually does is increase productivity."
Selinger repeated his promise to create 12,000 child-care space in Manitoba. The party would also focus on developing more preventative mental health resources in the province and beef up social housing by adding 300 units per year and more rent-assist programming, Selinger added.
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"When you put together more money in people's pockets, with a stronger minimum wage; when you ensure that they have affordable social housing; when you continue to make sure their basic needs are met and they have daycare ... you're building a solid, multi-pronged approach to tackling poverty," he said.
He said the commitments would build on past and current programs brought in under the NDP government, like the national child benefit — progress Selinger said would be put in danger if the Liberals or Progressive Conservatives end up in power.
The PCs have said they would reduce government spending increases to a maximum of four per cent year. Selinger said that would hurt education programming and equate to a loss of jobs and weaker essential services in Manitoba.
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"There is a global consensus that the most important thing to do for any economy in the world right now is to make sure that it keeps growing and to provide jobs. That's the No. 1 challenge around the world and Manitoba is leading in that," Selinger said. "That's all at risk with Brian Pallister's austerity approach, which has failed elsewhere."
The NDP is proposing to reduce taxes for low and middle-income earners and hike taxes on the rich, which the Liberals and PCs have opposed, according to Selinger.
Selinger went on to characterize the Liberals' overall vision as "incoherent" and unrealistic, adding their plan to privatize Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is also a sign that the party isn't fit to govern.
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"The Liberal plan just quite frankly doesn't make any sense," Selinger said. "Getting rid of $400 million of resources that will mainly benefit big banks and corporations will not put money in the hands of people."
Manitobans head to the polls April 19.