Brian Pallister's PC win gives hope to anti-poverty advocates in Manitoba

Anti-poverty advocates say they're hopeful the new Pallister government will make positive changes for Manitobans in need.

New premier referenced investing in education to address child poverty in victory speech Tuesday

Anti-poverty advocates say they're hopeful Manitoba premier Brian Pallister will make positive changes for poor Manitobans. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

Anti-poverty advocates say they're hopeful the new Pallister government will make positive changes for Manitobans in need.

"I'm actually hopeful and excited," said Mitch Bourbonniere, a social worker who works mostly with kids who are born into poverty.  

"The inner city is going to be well-represented. We have Nahanni Fontaine, Wab Kinew and Kevin Chief elected — all indigenous, all folks I've worked side-by-side with in the inner city doing community activism, supporting people, getting out there."

Bourbonniere wants the PCs to commit to a guaranteed annual income, although there has so far been no sign that it's in the party's plans. 

Pallister made specific references to investing in education to address child poverty in his victory speech on Tuesday.

The PCs will invest in early-years reading, he said, and increase bursaries and scholarships for students pursuing post-secondary education.

"We will be, in our first term, Canada's most improved province in reading, in math," promised Pallister.

Bourbonniere said he's more interested in the people who get elected than the party. He's particularly impressed with PC MLA Kelvin Goertzen in Steinbach and PC MLA Ian Wishart in Portage La Prairie.

"These are good people, and I think that's what our province needs," he said. "Open your mind, open your heart. Let's see what this new government is going to be."

Wishart spoke on behalf of the PCs at a candidate debate about poverty organized by Make Poverty History Manitoba on March 23.

Wishart said he wants to improve the basic needs budget so people living on employment and income assistance have more money for food, clothes and transportation. 

Wishart also said the PCs are interested in creating new co-op housing.

"We didn't get specific commitments about a lot of the areas that we were pushing them on, so now that they're in government and the election campaign is over with, we're hoping to nail them down to some more specific commitments on those areas," said Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba.
PC candidate Ian Wishart, Green Party Leader James Beddome, Liberal candidate Althea Guiboche and NDP candidate Sharon Blady participate in the Make Poverty History Manitoba debate on March 23.

The coalition presented platform ideas to all the political parties during the campaign, including policies around affordable housing and minimum wage.

Brandon said the NDP was successful in speaking to the needs of people living in poverty in Winnipeg's inner city this election, which is why New Democrats won many constituencies in those areas.

Even so, Brandon said Manitoba still has high rates of poverty after almost 17 years of NDP government. 

"I think the election results are a reflection of that. People did demand change and part of that change is a concern that we haven't done enough to address poverty in this province," he said. 

"We'll be sending them a congratulations letter promptly. We'll try to set up a meeting as soon as possible."