Anti-poverty advocates respond to November 2018 provincial Throne Speech

The Speech from the Throne delivered by the Province of Manitoba on November 20, 2018 includes small steps toward addressing the consequences of poverty, but spoke little about real action to address root causes of poverty.  There was little to no mention of the growing addictions and meth crisis rooted in systemic poverty and social exclusion, a rapidly widening gap between the highest and lowest income earners, and child poverty rates that remain abysmal.

“This throne speech does not recommit to a poverty reduction strategy, which is very concerning. We are hopeful that in the upcoming legislative session, the provincial government will get serious about confronting the challenge of poverty in the province of Manitoba,” said Michael Barkman, Chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba, “We need real commitment through a strategy, resources, and budgetary measures in order to lift the nearly 146,000 Manitobans who live below the Market Basket Measure line out of poverty.”

Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy

The government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy is now a year and a half overdue according to provincial legislation, and we are expecting the government to release it within the next two months. Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) greatly looks forward to the strategy, as government needs to focus resources and services to ending poverty. The Throne Speech ought to have put more emphasis on the need for a comprehensive strategy to end poverty, and we remain uncertain about its release date.

Employment and Income

Social assistance incomes have barely increased in two decades. They are so low that many people end up living in an ongoing state of crisis just to meet their basic needs, which makes it next to impossible to pursue training and jobs that would lead to financial independence. MPHM strongly recommends the government move toward a Livable Basic Needs Benefit that would lift Manitobans up to at least the poverty line. This would eliminate the welfare wall toward meaningful employment for Manitobans who are able to work, while ensuring that those who may not be able to work, including some Manitobans with disabilities, are not condemned to a life of poverty. All on social assistance should have enough benefits to live in dignity.

We commend the government for taking action on linking Manitobans on social assistance who are able to work with meaningful employment.  Government efforts to support people on social assistance to secure employment should be done by breaking down barriers to employment, providing seamless supports and benefits from assistance to work, and continue to be available if a job is lost for whatever reason. Programs must be voluntary and have utility for the participant, otherwise we risk returning to repressive “workfare” programs of the 1990s. Low income people are often doing precarious work (i.e. part time or seasonal). Asking people to find work requires good jobs to be available, but notably this government has no jobs strategy. More work needs to be done to support training, workforce development for people with barriers to the traditional labour market, and social enterprises – all important aspects of linking people on welfare who are able to work to meaningful employment.

To ensure a job is a pathway out of poverty, we need a minimum wage set at a living wage in our province at $15/hour, and commend the work done by $15 and Fairness Manitoba to move Manitoba in the direction of other jurisdictions across North America.


A lack of rent-geared-to-income  and affordable housing remains a serious issue in our province and an ongoing barrier to reducing poverty.  The provincial government must capitalize on the opportunity to bring money from the National Housing Strategy to Manitoba to build more housing. These dollars can be used to respond to our ongoing call for an increase in the supply of non-profit, rent-geared-to-income  housing by a minimum of 300 newly built units annually – the most sustainable housing option for groups the throne speech identified as having unique housing needs.

Mental Health and Addictions

The growing epidemic of meth use and crime is rooted in poverty, social exclusion, trauma, and inadequate  mental health supports for marginalized communities, particularly Indigenous people in Manitoba. It is encouraging to see support within the throne speech for acute mental health and addictions treatment through community-based mental health services but the ongoing lack of treatment beds remains an issue. The government must ensure that investments within the budget are made to support these services within communities, while not at the expense of other key health expenditures.


Childcare is in critical need for families across Manitoba, remaining particularly costly for families with single parents and otherwise marginalized people. Our province needs nearly 17,000 new licensed and funded not-for-profit childcare spaces. Our coalition is concerned about the introduction of a Childcare Centre Tax Credit, as investment is needed right now for more not-for-profit spaces for Manitoban families.

Final Thoughts

The government should endeavour to meet with anti-poverty advocates through the Make Poverty History Manitoba coalition throughout the upcoming legislative session, as well as organizations, families, and individuals impacted by poverty on a daily basis. It is essential that the government be open to considering and evaluating the effects, both positive and negative, that are a result of the policies they implement.  We would be happy to share common concerns, as well as solutions developed by the community through the View From Here 2015.

The Throne Speech conclusion was correct – we must not run from challenges facing our province, we must confront them. Brighter days are ahead, but only if the government takes action on solutions addressing the root causes of social exclusion and poverty in Manitoba. Economic, social, and community development must be for all Manitobans. Poverty is too dire to leave anyone behind.

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

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Your Winnipeg in 2030: Making Poverty History

VS1920x1080The Winnipeg Without Poverty campaign during the municipal election was a great success. What next?

The Winnipeg Foundation, in partnership with Make Poverty History Manitoba, invites you to join a dynamic and interactive Vital Conversation about envisioning a city without poverty.

DATE: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018
TIME: 7 – 9 p.m., doors at 6:30 p.m.
LOCATION: The Power Corporation Atrium,
University of Winnipeg
Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex
599 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg

All welcome. RSVP by Wednesday, Nov. 28 to save your seat.
More information or RSVP at

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No. 1 is No Poverty by 2030. Ending poverty is no small task. We must recognize poverty is complex, multi-layered, and interconnected. We can be successful when all citizens can see humanity in the face of poverty.

Hear about the progressive actions of End Poverty Edmonton, from its Co-Chair Bishop Jane Alexander. Discover the collaborative efforts of the anti-poverty movement in Winnipeg. Share your ideas about making poverty history.

Bishop Jane Alexander, Co-Chair End Poverty Edmonton

Kirsten Bernas, Make Poverty History Manitoba
Al Wiebe, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
Jackie Anderson, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre



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Candidate Responses

We asked Mayoral Candidates and City Council Candidates four questions on a Winnipeg Without Poverty. Read their answers!

If elected:

1. Will you be a champion for a Winnipeg Without Poverty and commit to leading the development of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for Winnipeg with progress indicators that have targets and timelines?

2. What specific actions will you take to reduce poverty in Winnipeg via the City of Winnipeg?

3. How will you work with community groups and people with lived experience of poverty?

4. Anything further to add?

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Anti-Poverty Advocates, Community Rally calling for Municipal and Provincial Poverty Reduction Plans

Make Poverty History Manitoba, along with community organizations, members, and people with lived experience of poverty, will be hosting a rally and march on Thursday, October 11th. We are calling on both levels of government, municipal and provincial, to take serious action NOW to end poverty.

All are welcome to attend!


When: Thursday, October 11th, 2018 | 12:00 – 1:30
Where: Media should meet at Winnipeg City Hall (510 Main Street) at 12 Noon
Details: At 12:25, we will march from City Hall to the Manitoba Legislature, where will attend Question Period at 1:30pm.

We support:
-Adoption of Municipal AND Provincial Comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategies.
-Mayoral and Council Candidates to be Leaders of Poverty Reduction in Winnipeg, in collaboration with community
-Adoption of a provincial Livable Basic Needs Benefit

According to polling by Probe Research in Spring 2018, we know Manitobans support action from our government for poverty reduction. On October 11, we will demonstrate to candidates in the municipal election and provincial MLAs that we need meaningful action now.

Up to 107,000 Winnipeggers live in poverty. Some 39,000 more across Manitoba are living in poverty. Across the entire province, we know that crime, addictions, poor health and social conditions, and other social issues stem from ongoing poverty in our communities.

We need commitments from mayoral candidates to be champions of poverty reduction in this campaign. We have developed Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead that serves as a blueprint. Link at

We need the Province of Manitoba to release their poverty reduction plan, now a year and a half overdue, in violation of provincial legislation. We have also released a blueprint for a provincial plan, The View from Here: Manitobans call for a renewed poverty reduction plan. A priority must be overhauling Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) to create a Livable Basic Needs Benefit, detailed at

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New polling on support for poverty reduction

Nearly 60 percent want province to spend to lift all Manitobans above the poverty line

WINNIPEG, MB – As the Province prepares to release its comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, new polling shows solid public support for increased provincial government funding to lift all Manitobans above the poverty line. Nearly three-in five Manitobans support spending $670 million more to accomplish this goal.

Probe Research conducted the polling on behalf of Make Poverty History Manitoba, surveying 1000 adults between March 12 and 29, 2018. Respondents were asked if they support or oppose the provincial government providing increased income assistance to raise all Manitobans above the poverty line. 59 percent either strongly or moderately supported the idea, compared with 36 percent who strongly or moderately opposed the plan.

“These poll results show that Manitobans expect action from the provincial government,” said Michael Barkman, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba. “Nearly 150,000 Manitobans are socially excluded through poverty. Increasingly, Manitobans recognize that we are failing when people in Manitoba don’t have enough money to afford basic necessities.”

Earlier this year, Make Poverty History Manitoba, in partnership with Basic Income Manitoba, initiated a campaign calling for a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit that would lift all Manitobans to the poverty line. This policy recommendation was submitted for inclusion in the province’s new poverty reduction plan, slated for release this year. The benefit should be part of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy including affordable housing, mental health care, childcare, and $15.53 minimum wage. It would cost $670 million to the raise the incomes of all Manitobans to the poverty line.

Within the polling, there was less consensus on how poverty reduction should be funded. Manitobans in favour of the provincial government taking action to reduce poverty were supportive of re-allocating spending from other areas; a select number favoured a tax increase or deficit spending.  When asked how much in increased taxes they would personally be willing to pay, 40% of Manitobans would willingly pay an extra $50 or more in taxes, and 22% would spend $200 or more. As well, 32% of Manitobans, mostly comprised of those living in low-income households, stated they could not afford any new taxes. The tax revenue collected to pay to address poverty should be progressive: based on people’s incomes. The poll did not examine support for other means to pay for addressing poverty, such as closing tax loopholes or corporate tax.

“Clearly, there is a strong desire for immediate action on poverty reduction from the provincial government,” continued Barkman, “We must also have a conversation as a province about how resources are distributed across society to ensure no Manitoban lives below the poverty line. We know that implementing a Livable Basic Needs Benefit would see cost savings in multiple areas like health, justice, and Child & Family Services, and allow greater access to education and employment. Manitobans are demanding the provincial government show leadership.”

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

Download report: Probe-MPHM Report FINAL

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Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead

Report Launch – Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead

Who: Make Poverty History Manitoba
What: Launch of Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead, a community-based poverty reduction plan for Winnipeg
Where: Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre, 430 Langside Street, Winnipeg
When: Wednesday, May 2, 9:30 am to 11:00 am

Media Release – New report calls on Mayor to take the lead in efforts to reduce poverty.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE [May 2, 2018]: Make Poverty History Manitoba will launch its city poverty reduction plan Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead at a community event May 2nd 2018 at MERC 430 Langside St at 10am.

This report, endorsed by more than 90 organizations, calls on Winnipeg’s Mayor to be a champion for poverty reduction and commit to leading the development of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan. Up to 107,000 Winnipeggers are living in poverty.

The community-based plan offers fifty recommendations that the City can implement as part of its own plan in policy areas such as housing, transportation, food security, policing and safety.

“Our Mayor has spoken out publicly in support of reconciliation and has embarked the City of Winnipeg upon a ‘Journey of Reconciliation’, said Lorie English, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba’s city working group. “However, the Mayor has not yet fully acknowledged the link between reconciliation and poverty reduction.”

Indigenous people are over-represented in poverty-related statistics. The poverty rate among Indigenous Winnipeggers is 35% compared to 14% of non-Indigenous Winnipeggers. Reconciliation will require closing the gap in social and economic outcomes that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The City can do its part by implementing a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with progress indicators that have targets and timelines as a key piece of its “Journey of Reconciliation.”

To date, the City’s poverty reduction initiatives have been implemented on an ad hoc basis, rather than through a strategic plan that guides priorities and planning. The report reviews poverty reduction efforts in other Canadian cities and concludes that Winnipeg is lagging far behind places like Calgary and Edmonton, which both have comprehensive plans. The report also concludes that the most successful municipal plans are those that are championed by the Mayor. Hence, today’s call to action.

As we head toward the next municipal election in October 2018, Make Poverty History Manitoba will lead Winnipeggers in a campaign calling on our next Mayor to be a champion for poverty reduction and commit to developing a comprehensive plan.

Combating poverty in Winnipeg will require the coordinated efforts of all levels of government. While the report’s recommendations focus on actions to be taken by the City, it is not intended to absolve other levels of governments from responsibility. The report calls on the City to be held primarily accountable for the success of its own plan, while advocating to other levels of government to do their part.

This community-based poverty reduction plan for Winnipeg consists of 50 policy recommendations that the City of Winnipeg can implement. The plan has been endorsed by more than 90 organizations from across the city.


If you would like to add your organization’s name to the list of endorsers, please contact
Download and share our poster:

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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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