Recomendation: the Province of Manitoba immediately establish a bold target and timeline within a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy to reduce poverty and social exclusion in Manitoba.
Targets and timelines focus attention on what is to be achieved and by when. By setting goals, targets and timelines there is a better chance that a policy will succeed. This is a commitment that would establish outcomes within a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with associated policies and programs.
Setting targets to reduce poverty is good government planning. Targets focus policymakers on finding the mix of policies and programs required and the size of investments needed to meet the target. Governments, in turn, show the public where they are successful, and encourage careful, evidence-based planning.
Poverty is complex and requires a comprehensive response. In 2008 Make Poverty History Manitoba identified the need for a comprehensive provincial poverty reduction strategy. Through consultations and examinations of action in other jurisdictions, community organizations developed the View from Here: Manitobans Call for a Poverty Reduction Strategy. The provincial government responded with the “All Aboard Strategy” in 2009, which included community priorities but did not go as far as community members wished. Envisioning a more comprehensive strategy and to include emerging priorities, The View from Here was updated in 2015. The second edition has been endorsed by over 100 organizations, including Make Poverty History Manitoba. This comprehensive plan prioritizes the establishment of an overall target and timeline to aggressively reduce poverty in Manitoba.
Setting targets and anchoring them with timelines is an effective strategy to achieve poverty reduction. For example, the Labour government in the UK accomplished what analysts called a remarkable reduction in the rate of child poverty between 1998-1999 and 2007-2008. In one study, which examined the implementation of this strategy, concluded that targets “can be a very effective way to mobilize government and drive the development of specific strategies” (Waldfogel, 2010). The European Union has established poverty and social inclusion targets, and, in Canada, both Quebec and Ontario have now taken this route on child poverty.
Establishing targets is best-practice because it makes possible an evaluation of the effectiveness of a poverty reduction strategy. Without targets, there is no criterion to judge the strategy’s relative success or failure. Establishing targets allows the public to hold the government accountable, and it also allows the government to establish their credibility on poverty reduction. If a government cannot achieve the target within the timeline, it can explain the reasons why and its plans to improve.
The government should involve key stakeholders in setting targets. This could include people living in poverty, community organizations, the business community, labour, faith organizations and human service professionals. Involving stakeholders increases government commitment to poverty reduction strategy and motivates stakeholders to take action. Involving a range of stakeholders is necessary to ensure that targets and timelines are informed by affected groups and attuned to pressing needs, including the unique factors impacting poverty within particular communities.