Manitoba anti-poverty coalition calls for action to end poverty, not limit Charter rights

Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) is deeply concerned about the potential impact of Bill 24, the Social Services Appeal Board Amendment Act, on access to justice for low-income and vulnerable Manitobans, and instead calls on the provincial government to take comprehensive action to eliminate poverty in Manitoba.

Bill 24 effectively limits the scope of analysis of the Social Services Appeal Board, which oversees appeal cases of Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) recipients, to preclude hearing any arguments utilizing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The MPHM coalition strongly believes that Manitoba’s most vulnerable people should be able to access Charter rights when in front of the Social Services Appeal Board,” said Make Poverty History Interim Chairperson Michael Barkman, “The Charter belongs to all Canadians, and this bill would be a clawback of the rights of low-income Manitobans.”

The Social Services Appeal Board is an administrative tribunal that is charged with interpreting and considering the law, and as determined by the Stadler case in 2017, it has jurisdiction and an obligation to consider Charter issues. MPHM urges the government to consult further with impacted communities on this bill until it is heard again in November 2018 in the Legislature.

At a time when EIA recipients’ Charter rights are potentially being severely limited, 146 000 Manitobans continue to live below the market basket measure poverty line (1). MPHM renews its call for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy with targets and timelines, as well as comprehensive amendments to the EIA benefit, introducing a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit (2).

“The provincial government should take comprehensive action on eliminating poverty in Manitoba by introducing a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit, as proposed by MPHM, instead of proposing legislation that challenges EIA recipients’ access to justice,” said Barkman.

Make Poverty History Manitoba is a coalition of groups and individuals committed to changing public policy to achieve a Manitoba without poverty.

Michael Barkman, Interim Chair, Make Poverty History Manitoba

Note: There will be a special discussion of Bill 24 at Make Poverty History Manitoba’s general membership meeting, May 9 at 12 pm with Joëlle Pastora Sala, lawyer with Public Interest Law Centre. West End Cultural Centre, 586 Ellice Avenue.

(1) Statistics Canada’s Market Basket Measure (2015).
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Promise on poverty reduction unfulfilled

Finance Minister, Cameron Friesen, has called his 2018 budget “Keeping Our Promises: Real Progress for Manitobans”, but one promise that this government has not kept is the commitment to make ending poverty a top priority.

According to a budget paper on poverty and social exclusion, there are 146,000 Manitobans living in poverty. However, few of the priorities identified in the budget will help the people most in need. Despite once again committing to completing a poverty reduction plan, there are no new investments in Budget 2018 towards implementing it.

Employment, Income and Rental Assistance

Once again, there is no increase in the basic needs amounts that the lowest income Manitobans receive. Households on EIA will still only receive a basic needs budget that provides approximately 4 dollars a day for food. As Make Poverty History Manitoba has shown, current EIA rates leave recipients with income that falls as much as 47 percent below the poverty line for single individuals.

Rent assist will continue to be indexed in 2018, so at least households depending on rent assist will not fall further behind this year. However, the reversal of the changes made to Rent Assist in 2018 that cut eligibility from 25 percent of income to 28 percent continues to make life challenging for the most vulnerable Manitobans.


The budget promises new investment in housing to improve quality and supply of affordable housing. Manitoba Housing Renewal Corporation will receive an extra 9 million in budgetary expenditure. However, as Right to Housing has documented, this will be offset by a cut of $20 to capital borrowing and no increase in new supply.


Despite a fanfare announcement of a commitment towards restorative justice, there is a reduction in spending in crime reduction and spending on community safety remains flat.  Only new spending is two small restorative justice project with the Salvation Army and Justice Canada Victims Fund totalling $250,000. Meanwhile, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba faces a $2.7 million cut to program delivery.

Other areas:

  • Ambulance fees: The Province will reduce Ambulance fees from $425 to $340.
  • Childcare: The Province is offering tax incentives that could create as many as 700 new child care spaces in Manitoba.

Budgeting for low take up of benefits and hoping for the best?

Budget for Manitoba Child Benefit will shrink in 2018 from $4.2 million to $2.4 million.  This is a result of fewer low income Manitobans applying for the benefit.  While the Federal government sought to increase enrolment to Canada Child Benefit and the Working Income Tax Benefit in 2018, Manitoba is relying on the poorest families not applying for benefits to help them balance their budget.

Similarly, the Province is hoping that dropping EIA enrolment will provide relief to the overall families budget, as expenditure on EIA and Rent Assist is estimated to drop from $523 million to $510 million this year. That may be an over optimistic estimate.  Manitoba has increasing unemployment and still lacks an overall poverty reduction strategy.  Without key investments in training and education, and greatly scaled up expenditure on childcare, EIA rates could continue to grow in 2018.

Last year when EIA spending went up faster than budgeted, it resulted in cuts to the rent assist program that put affordable housing further out of reach for 7,000 low income families. Overly optimistic projections this year could put similar pressure on the department to reduce costs.

The one positive indicator is the commitment to reduce red tape in applying for EIA through streamlining the application process.  This is something that EIA advocates have been working towards since the EIA Ombudsman report in 2010. We look forward to working with the Province to implement a more streamlined system.

Energy and carbon pricing

Low income households will feel the brunt of rising electricity rates if Manitoba Hydro’s 7.9 percent rate hike is approved by the Public Utilities Board this year. They will also be hit by higher fuel and heating costs as a result of the $25 carbon tax increase.  While this carbon tax is essential to help Manitoba meet its climate change reduction targets, the current plan is neither effective nor sustainable. The carbon tax revenue should be directed funding for a transition to a low carbon economy, protections for low income households and help for workers in affected industries to train for and find new employment. Instead, the carbon tax will be directed towards broad tax cuts that do not do enough to offset the impacts for the lowest income households. Meanwhile, the Province has promised new legislation which will “return all revenue collected from the carbon tax” through various tax measures. None of the money collected from the carbon tax will be directed either towards green initiatives like transit, or relief for low income households who will be hit hardest by the tax.

Tax breaks a blunt instrument

Instead, the Province is promoting an increase in the basic personal exemption (BPE) as a poverty reduction measure. The BPE will increase by a little over $1000 in 2018.  This raises the threshold at which individuals pay tax to $10,392. This initiative will cost the province $78 million in 2019, but will save low and moderate income families only $9 per month.  By way of contrast, the cost of a monthly bus pass in Winnipeg increased by $10 this year. The lowest income families depending on social assistance or those with incomes already below the income tax threshold will receive no benefit at all.  Higher income households will receive the same benefit, but also receive as much as an additional $255 as a result of income Indexing. This is at best a blunt and expensive instrument for meeting the needs of low income families.

To achieve tangible results towards ending poverty, the Province will have to rely on the new poverty reduction strategy expected to be released this year.  Consultations on the strategy are currently being completed, but the Province needs to set firm targets and timelines for reducing poverty and providing relief for the 146,000 Manitobans who continue to lack sufficient income to meet their basic needs. It is also clear that investment in these priorities will be needed if this progress is to be achieved.  That means that future budgets will need to dedicate greater resources if this key promise is to be met.

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Join us for our 2nd annual fundraising concert

Make Poverty History Manitoba is proud to announce our 2nd annual awareness and fundraising event, Thursday March 22 at 8 pm (Doors at 7:15) featuring: Ridley Bent, Jess Reimer and Jermey Hamm, Tara Williamson and Kelly Bado. Tickets  $20 at:

Listen to some samples of their great music below:

Thank you to these great organizations sponsoring our event:


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Concerned Manitobans launch campaign for a Livable Basic Needs Benefit

                                                                                                             February 21, 2018

Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) and Basic Income Manitoba are launching a campaign calling on the provincial government to introduce a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit, replacing the existing Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) benefit. The new benefit, which should be part of a comprehensive plan to address poverty, should be set at a level to cover the actual cost of basic needs such as food, clothing, communications and transportation. The proposed benefit would be sufficient, when combined with other federal and provincial income supports, to lift all Manitobans to at least the poverty line.

“While 146 000 Manitobans live below the market basket measure poverty line, the EIA basic needs budget has barely increased in two decades,” explained Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba, “EIA incomes are so low that people are living in an ongoing state of crisis, making it impossible to pursue training and jobs leading to financial independence.”

Currently, the provincial government is undertaking a consultation process for a long-awaited poverty reduction plan. These consultations continue until February 23. In their recommendations, MPHM and Basic Income Manitoba call on the Province to ensure all Manitobans have a total income at least equal to the poverty line as part of a comprehensive plan.

This can be achieved by replacing the part of EIA meant to cover non-rent basic needs with a new, Livable Basic Needs Benefit for which all low-income Manitobans would be eligible, regardless of whether they receive other benefits through EIA. The proposed benefit would include some elements of a basic income including setting income supports at a livable level and making them universal for all low income Manitobans. The proposed Livable Basic Needs Benefit would not replace Rent Assist or other EIA benefits such as disability or employment training supports.

“Right now, all families on EIA are hundreds of dollars below the market basket measure of poverty,” said Basic Income spokesperson, Lorna Turnbull. “The livable basic needs benefit would allow these families to stand on their feet and make choices to meet their needs with dignity.  The elimination of the welfare wall will support that dignity and inclusion.”

Make Poverty History Manitoba is a coalition of groups and individuals committed to changing public policy to achieve a Manitoba without poverty.

Basic Income Manitoba is a volunteer-run organization, envisioning a society in which each individual lives with sufficient income for basic needs, health and social participation.

For more information, see our background document: A Poverty Reduction Plan for Manitoba


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Coalition uses music in the fight against poverty

Music has always held a key for social change. Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) is planning to unlock that potential with its second annual fundraising concert, Thursday, March 22 at the West End Cultural Centre. The concert will featuring prominent local artists including award winning songwriter, Ridley Bent. The purpose of the event will be both to raise awareness about poverty and to raise funds to support their efforts to end poverty.

“Music has a powerful ability to lift us up,” said Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba. “As anti-poverty advocates, we work with people who struggle every day to just get by. This event will give us the opportunity to celebrate our shared successes both with those everyday struggles and in our victories in changing policies that affect the root causes of poverty in Manitoba.”

Headliner, Ridley Bent is a six-time Canadian Country Music Association nominee. In 2009, his song, “Nine Inch Nails” won Best Song at the Independent Music Awards.

Photo: Ridley Bent

Other artists performing include Jess Reimer, Tara Williamson, and Kelly Bado. Winnipeg comedian and CBC Radio performer, Lara Rae, will host the evening.

Tickets for the event are $20 and available at or may be purchased at the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (432 Ellice Avenue). The event starts at 8 pm, with doors open at 7:15.

Make Poverty History Manitoba is a coalition of groups and individual working to end poverty in Manitoba.

Thank you so much to the sponsors for this year’s event!




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Participate in Manitoba’s poverty reduction plan consultation

Click the above image to sign our petition

Last fall, Manitoba launched a consultation for a renewed poverty reduction plan to address the critical realities of Manitobans living in poverty.  Send in your views to participate.  Sign our petition we are co-hosting with Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. The template is editable, so you can add your voice and share what you’d like to see in a Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Responses must be completed by February 23, 2018.

Read Make Poverty History Manitoba’s Full submission.

Poverty reduction in Manitoba: More than coins are needed

The Province is conducting consultations for a Manitoba poverty reduction plan. This is the first step towards implementing a new strategy, which the Province has promised since it was elected almost two years ago. With a strong plan in place, Manitoba could finally make headway in improving the lives of 146,000 Manitobans who suffer from poverty. Manitobans living in poverty don’t just need Band Aid solutions, they need fundamental change.

To facilitate organizations’ and individuals’ participation in the consultation, we are partnering with Social Planning Council of Winnipeg on an online petition tool (Sign the petition here). It helps you submit your priorities for what should be included in the Province’s poverty reduction plan. Just fill in your name and contact information below and edit the text to participate.

Investing in poverty reduction only makes sense. New health science research shows that spending to reduce poverty is effective in increasing life expectancy, reducing avoidable deaths and saves money in healthcare costs.

The good news is there is an opportunity to make headway in reducing poverty in 2018. The Province has recently launched consultations for a Manitoba poverty reduction plan. This is the first step towards implementing a commitment the provincial government has promised since it was elected in 2016. Wisely, the Province has started these consultations by listening to people with lived experience of poverty.

Manitobans who live with poverty know firsthand how decisions like freezing minimum wage, cutting back on Rent Assist or raising bus fares are harmful. They know that every increase means they will be that much more reliant on food banks to make it through the month, or worse yet, more likely to lose their housing altogether. People in poverty can speak eloquently on how their social and economic isolation wears on their physical and mental health and can become a barrier to reaching the training and employment they need to escape poverty.

Manitoba needs a comprehensive plan with targets and timelines to lift all households out of poverty. The Province should listen to the participants in its consultations, as well as take notice of the research that has already been done by community organizations and government alike of the steps it must take to end poverty. One such resource, The View From Here (2015), offers 50 community supported recommendations for action. Following this community lead, the Province should reverse the cuts it made in 2017, while investing in housing, quality employment, income supports, mental health and child care.

The Province is accepting submissions to its poverty reduction strategy consultation until February 23. Make Poverty History Manitoba has prioritized five policy areas that must be central to the renewed plan:

  1. Minimum Wage: Raise the minimum wage to a poverty line wage of $15.53 per hour in 2014 dollars.
  2. Social Housing: Build at least 300 net new social housing units annually for five years.
  3. Income Benefits: Introduce a new basic needs benefit to lift all Manitobans up to or above the poverty line.
  4. Child Care: Create at least 12,000 licensed and funded, non-profit childcare spaces with priority in low-income neighbourhoods.
  5. Mental Health: Double the funding allotted to community-based mental health services for low-income Manitobans beginning with an increase in mental health spending by 40 per cent over three years with priority given to community-based mental health services.

If you support these recommendations, or would like to add some of your own, fill out our submission tool below.

Only if Manitobans speak out about how poverty reduction is a priority will the government listen and enact change that offers more than coins.

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No Poverty Reduction Strategy in Speech from the Throne morning, I received a phone call from a Make Poverty History Manitoba member. He lives on a disability benefit that provides him only $180 per month for food and other basic necessities. He wanted to know if he can expect any change soon. I told him we would see in the Speech from the Throne that afternoon what, if anything, the Province has planned for its long-promised poverty reduction strategy.

I am afraid I will need to phone him back to say there was no mention of a poverty reduction strategy. Although the Province has promised to begin consultations soon, the government did not commit to timelines or targets as to how quickly it would end poverty. There were no commitments on increasing benefits for Manitobans in the deepest poverty who depend on social assistance, some of whom live on incomes as much as 47 percent below the market basket measure of poverty.

The working poor were also left out with no mention of a much-needed increase of minimum wage. At $11.15 per hour, Manitoba’s minimum wage is effectively a poverty wage. By contrast, other provinces, including Ontario, BC and Alberta, are moving towards a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

On the positive side, the “government recognizes that complex social problems like poverty, crime, homelessness, mental health and addiction are interconnected and that causal factors cannot be tackled in isolation.” All the more surprising then that the Province did not take the opportunity to launch a comprehensive plan with targets and timelines for ending poverty.

One area that did receive attention was the urgent need to reduce the number of children in care of Child and Family Services (CFS). We congratulate the government for identifying this difficult policy area as a key issue that must be addressed to significantly reduce poverty in Manitoba. As well as weighing heavily on our justice system as was noted in the speech, evidence shows that involvement in CFS one of the strongest predictors of youth homelessness.

Given that 90 percent of children in care are Indigenous, we urge the government to consult and work closely with Indigenous community. Manitoba must develop and implement effective policies that reduce the number of children in care while breaking the cycle of colonialism which has too long stained child welfare policies across Canada. We agree on the need for innovative solutions, but we are wary of government’s stated preference to rely on social impact bonds, which have demonstrated very limited effectiveness in the few projects where they have been tried elsewhere in Canada.

The Province also promised a strategy to improve access to addiction treatment and mental health. Here again, we are in agreement that this is a priority. Make Poverty History Manitoba championed improved funding for mental health in our Know Poverty campaign last year. However, the province is focused on providing supports in emergency rooms. We have argued we also need more supports upstream in community-based resources where low income people will have the best access.

The Province also announced that they would soon release a provincial housing strategy. Consultations were conducted last year, but we have still not received either a “what we heard” document or a draft plan. In this case, the lack of details is understandable. The Province is waiting on a federal National Housing Strategy released the day after the Manitoba Speech from the Throne. Nonetheless, it would have been useful to outline the direction the Province wishes to take in ensuring all Manitobans are adequately housed.

In order to end poverty in Manitoba, a stronger political will is needed than was demonstrated in the Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, the lack of political will crosses all party lines, and all levels of government. The alternative throne speeches by the Opposition Liberals and NDP offered few commitments directly related to poverty reduction. Numbers released by Campaign 2000 showed Manitoba has achieved little progress in reducing child poverty since its campaign started in 1989. Child poverty especially affects Indigenous children, one in two of whom in Manitoba live below the poverty line. It is difficult not to see a causal link between these data and the decades of underinvestment by the federal government in health, education, housing and basic infrastructure on First Nations reserves.

Noting the very high number of Manitobans, especially children in poverty, Make Poverty History Manitoba along with Basic Income Manitoba will soon launch a campaign calling for a shift away from EIA towards basic needs supports that are available to all low income Manitobans to lift everyone above the poverty line. This needs to be part of a comprehensive plan with targets and timelines for poverty reduction including housing, childcare, health, education and good jobs. We need all levels of government at the table to realize these plans.

Manitobans have been waiting for years for the Province to deliver on poverty reduction, something Premier Brian Pallister said said was his first priority after his government was elected last spring. The Make Poverty History Manitoba member who called me yesterday, along with 180,000 other Manitobans living in poverty, will unfortunately all have to keep waiting: how much longer remains to be seen.

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Reverse Cuts to Rent Assist and RGI Housing

Dear Supporter,

Earlier this month, we told you about a change in the Rent Assist program that would affect over 7,000 low-income households, reducing benefits by up to $100 month in some cases. We have also learned that thousands of households in subsidized rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing will be subject to higher rents. Both these changes will go into effect on July 1. There is little time to act.

We are asking you to help us reverse this cut in Rent Assist and the rent increases for RGI housing. Please send the attached letter to Premier Brian Pallister, adapting it as needed.

Letters can be sent to

or Phone: (204) 945-3714

And/or sign our petition

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Community Report Back on City Poverty Reduction Plan

Tuesday, June 27 at 5:30 PM – 8 PM
Winnipeg Harvest
1085 Winnipeg Ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0S2

We Need Your Input!
Join the discussion about what the City of Winnipeg needs in a poverty reduction plan.
Give your feedback on the draft recommendations for a community-led poverty reduction plan for Winnipeg guided by Make Poverty History Manitoba, a broad coalition of groups working to end poverty in our province.

The event is free and there will be light snacks and refreshments.
Contact us if you need childminding, bus tickets, or other accommodation by June 22nd. (204) 943-2561

The revised list of draft recommendations is attached and now available to the public to review.

Driving: Please park in the lot across the street from the Winnipeg Harvest front entrance on Winnipeg Avenue between Specialloy and the Jamaican Centre.
Bus: #19 Red River College via Notre Dame. Get off at McDonald’s (Ingersoll) and take the laneway to Winnipeg Avenue.
Guests in wheelchairs: Winnipeg Harvest is fully accessible by wheelchair through its front entrance.

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Province reducing housing subsidies for 7,000 low-income renters

June 6, 2017

Cuts to the province’s Rent Assist program will hit 7,000 households on July 1. Affected households include low-income renters not receiving EIA (Employment and Income Assistance). The changes will not affect EIA recipients. People who will be hurt by these changes include minimum wage workers, students, newcomers, families and seniors.

While the government has not released the full details of how much the cuts will affect households, calculations based on information provided by the department show that the impacts could be severe. An increase in Rent Assist is mandated under regulation for July 1 each year to account for rising rents. This year instead, families will experience either a cut in benefits or reduction in the planned increase.

For example, a minimum wage earner working full-time is currently eligible to receive approximately $106 per month. Under the existing regulation, this would increase to approximately $136 starting next month. After the anticipated changes take place July 1, the worker will have their benefit cut to only $62 per month.

A single parent with two children living at the market basket measure of the poverty line would see their benefit reduced from $119 currently to only $49 under the new regulation, even as rents have increased significantly.

A median one-bedroom apartment in Winnipeg increased from $806 to $852 per month last year and a three-bedroom apartment went up from $1133 to $1306 per month.

Rent Assist rates for minimum wage worker and families at poverty line

Family type Rent Assistance
Income Current July 1, existing regulation July 1, new regulation Change – new vs old regulation
Single minimum wage worker: (15 and 37.5 hours per week)
$8,580.00 $374.25 $404.25 $362.80 -$41.45
$21,450.00 $106.13 $136.13 $62.50 -$73.63
Single parent; 2 children, at MBM:
$31,611.00 $119.44 $148.19 $49.16 -$99.03
2 parents; 3 children, at MBM:
$35,342.00 $133.71 $263.71 $155.35 -$108.36

These cuts will put affordable housing further out of reach for low-income renters in Manitoba. Rising housing costs in Manitoba mean families have to put more of their money towards rent, leaving less available for food and other necessities. The short timeline for implementing the changes also leaves families with little time to adapt. The Province only informed affected recipients in a letter last week that there would be changes to the program, directing them to contact the department for more information about how these would affect their benefits. The impact of the changes will be reflected in the July Rent Assist cheques that are distributed in late June.

Rent Assist currently provides a vital support for low-income renters not on EIA. One of the goals of the program is to provide a bridge in supports for families and individuals leaving EIA and entering the workforce. Without Rent Assist, new workers risk facing a drop in income as other social assistance benefits decline. Economists have called this effect the “welfare wall”. The changes in the program will reduce the effectiveness of Rent Assist in addressing the welfare wall, making it more difficult for EIA recipients to enter the labour market.

The changes to Rent Assist also run counter to the Province’s long-standing position that Rent Assist is central to the province’s poverty fighting strategy. As recently as last month, Families Minister Scott Fielding took credit for the planned increases to Rent Assist, noting that they have “taken thousands of people, low‑income and vulner­able Manitobans, given them supports that weren’t there before.” Now his government is taking back some of those increases leaving vulnerable Manitobans without the supports they need.

The Province is not releasing how much it plans to save from the changes. In April, the Province estimated that it would cost $12 million to implement the July 1 Rent Assist increase.

Make Poverty History Manitoba is calling on the Province to rescind the proposed regulation change and implement the July 1 increase as currently scheduled.

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