Winnipeg public service asked to develop poverty reduction strategy

The mayor's inner circle supported a motion Tuesday asking the city's public service to create a poverty reduction strategy. 

Roughly one in eight Winnipeggers live in poverty: Statistics Canada

The vast majority of homeless Winnipegers are Indigenous, statistics show. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

The mayor's inner circle supported a motion Tuesday asking the city's public service to create a poverty reduction strategy for Winnipeg. 

The strategy will be led by the city's new housing policy co-ordinator. That position is currently vacant — the city says it plans to hire someone to fill the position soon. 

"We want to see greater co-ordination," Mayor Brian Bowman said after the executive policy committee meeting. "I think there's a lot more that all levels of government and all stakeholders can do."

Roughly one person in eight in Winnipeg live in poverty, according to an administrative report by the community services department using 2016 Statistics Canada data.

For Indigenous peoples and newcomers the situation is more grim — one in four people belonging to either group live in poverty. Among those Winnipeggers without a home, the vast majority — 66 per cent — are Indigenous.

Damon Johnston, president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, is calling on the city to produce a poverty reduction strategy with a special section devoted to Indigenous Winnipeggers.

"I would suggest that you engage in a more real way with Indigenous leadership in this city," Johnston told members of the executive policy committee Tuesday. "We have the solutions — we're doing these things — we just don't have the scale."

Johnston also advocated for greater inclusion between Indigenous Winnipeggers and the rest of the city.

"The creation of the reserve system was segregation," he said. "It kept us apart from other Canadians, and when you're apart you can't get to know each other. We have to talk to each other."
(City of Winnipeg)

Strategy due by spring 2020

As part of the detailed report on the state of poverty in Winnipeg presented to the committee on Tuesday, the public service provided descriptions of anti-poverty measures currently in place in the city as well as four new recommendations to improve services without spending more money.

The measures include:

  • Raising public awareness of current supports for low-income residents.
  • Developing a housing strategy.
  • Changing zoning rules to force developers to build low-income housing.
  • Hiring more Indigenous people in city government.

The executive policy committee's motion asks the new measures to be included in the poverty reduction strategy. The public service has until spring 2020 to report back with the strategy. 

In a separate motion Tuesday, the executive committee also voted to spend $25,000 on hiring a part-time external co-ordinator to work for the Winnipeg Food Council to promote services such as community gardens.