We must end the normalization of the unconscionable - Manitoba's high child poverty rate is not acceptable.
Under the former NDP government and now under the current PC government in Manitoba, our province has an extraordinarily high child poverty rate. On November 21, Campaign 2000 released its latest report which showed that Manitoba has a child poverty rate of 27.5% - that more than a quarter of Manitoba children live in poverty. We have, sadly, the highest child poverty rate of all provinces. The average across Canada is 17.5%, a full ten percent below Manitoba. The high rate of poverty has continued for so long that it is now expected. The unconscionable has been normalized. This in not acceptable.
While federal policies are important to our national effort, the fact that Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate shows that Manitoba, compared to other provinces has poor policies with respect to reducing child poverty. I have spoken out many times about the need for better efforts to reduce poverty in Manitoba. In 2008, Kevin Lamoureux and I introduced Bill 226, the Social Inclusion and Anti-Poverty Act. The NDP followed with a poverty reduction plan but it was not effective. I have also promoted a basic income program for Manitoba.
On November 22, I asked the PC government why they had been so slow in acting on their commitments to make poverty reduction a priority. My question and the government's response can be seen clicking on this link - Gerrard question on poverty: - or in the text from Hansard below.
It needs to be noted that while Scott Fielding, in his answer, claims he has expanded the rent assist program, in fact funding has been reduced - see this link. Further his claim to have helped reduce poverty by increasing the basic exemption has done little to address poverty - indeed, the reduction in tax is much large for high income earners than for those on low incomes.
It does, however, need to be mentioned that in response to Campaign 2000's report and my questions in the Manitoba Legislature, the government has announced consultations which are promised to lead to a plan to reduce poverty, and a committee meeting is being held Dec 4 to look at poverty reduction. However, words and intentions will mean little until we actually see a significant reduction in poverty in Manitoba.
FROM HANSARD - Nov 22, 2017
Poverty Reduction - Government Plan
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Health is important, and poverty is a root cause of many health issues. Yesterday, Campaign 2000 reported that Manitoba has the highest provincial rate of child poverty. In 1992, the PC government rolled back the social assistance levels to 1986 rates, and PC and NDP governments in the years since have essentially left it there.
Since being elected, the Premier (Mr. Pallister) and his Cabinet changed the balanced budget law to give themselves a 20 per cent raise. Their changes to the basic exemption meant top earners got the biggest breaks.
Why has this government delayed, delayed and delayed some more in introducing a poverty reduction plan? Is this yet another broken promise?
Hon. Scott Fielding (Minister of Families): Addressing poverty is an issue this government takes very seriously. We know that the previous NDP government got it all wrong. In fact, they were leading the nation in terms of child poverty for many, many years, and that's why we've taken some concrete action in terms of the amount of people that have access to the Rent Assist program. Over 2,200 more people are supported under the Rent Assist program.
We've also reduced the basic–we've also changed things in terms of the basic personal exemption, where over 2,100 individuals are off the tax rolls altogether.
These are some of the items that we think will help address people and put more money in people's pockets.