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Manitoba Liberals have a bold plan to address poverty in Manitoba - as part of a plan to improve health, to reduce the need to put children in care and to decrease crime

Earlier today, Dougald Lamont announced the Manitoba Liberal approach to restoring dignity to those on low incomes and to addressing and working to eliminate poverty in Manitoba.  The announcement and Dougald Lamont's speech are below. 

Lifting People out of Poverty: The Manitoba Liberal Plan for Jobs & Fair Incomes 
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont announced a major plank in his party’s platform to end decades of neglect and inaction on poverty in Manitoba under the PCs and NDP alike with a series of measures designed to ensure all Manitobans receive a livable income by 2024.
For many years, Manitoba has had some of the deepest poverty in Canada and the number of people on welfare has been rising steadily since 2008 to an all-time high of over 71,000 people. 20% of Manitobans have not seen an increase in their incomes in 40 years.
Many basic income supports have not increased since 1993, when Brian Pallister voted to roll them to 1986 levels. Under the PCs and NDP alike, the social housing allowance stayed frozen at $285 a month for over 20 years. Lamont said the Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) system in Manitoba is sadistic and ineffective because it seeks to punish people out of being poor, whether they are young, old, have children, or are disabled.
 “This is a province with enormous opportunities and resources and there is no need for anyone to be living in poverty when there is so much work to be done,” said Lamont. “We have an opportunity and an obligation to end poverty in Manitoba and to provide people with tools and opportunities to lift themselves up.”
In addition to reforming EIA, Manitoba Liberals will introduce three complementary programs to help lift people out of poverty that provides individuals with choice as well as job opportunities:
-        A minimum basic income based on a “negative income tax” model, that tops up income 
-        Raising minimum wage to $15 within two years of being elected
-        A voluntary “Manitoba Works for Good” jobs program that would pay individuals who find themselves out of work with to do jobs in the public interest, as an alternative to EIA or basic income.
Liberals say there is abundant evidence showing that these measures will not just hugely improve lives, but benefit the economy.  
“It’s time to put an end to the failed 40-year experiment in trickle-down economics that both the NDP and PCs have pursued and invest in grassroots economic growth,” said Lamont. “We’re all better off when we’re all better off, and this plan gives people dignity and opportunity they have been denied for years.” 

Livable Incomes and Basic Income Project 
The Manitoba Liberal Party intends to implement the minimum basic income plan for all Manitobans.   
Certain aspects of the plan – implementation in First Nation communities for example – will be negotiated in partnership with the federal government and First Nation’s leaders.  
The evidence from the Dauphin experience, under the Federal Liberal Government of Pierre Trudeau, shows this plan will give greater individual choice and will improve the education and the health and health care of Manitobans.   
It is also expected, based on the findings in Dauphin, that this minimum basic income approach will, by providing basic minimum income support and job opportunities, 
-        decrease the extent of mental illness, 
-        decrease crime and addictions in Manitoba, and 
-        make it easier for individuals to transition to work or to start a business.  
By providing three choices for individuals, this plan will give greater individual choice and greater individual opportunity as well as enhance the ability of individuals to find employment.  The dollars provided in support for those who are in poverty will help more people to achieve success and move above the poverty line. These provisions will help individuals and families.   
One of the most important benefits of the Manitoba Liberal Party basic income system is that it will allow people to take control of their own lives instead of having decisions dictated to them.  We support people and families. Under the Minimum Basic Income, people can make decisions which are in their best long-term interests instead of having to choose based on the short term thinking which is often forced upon them by those running the EIA program. The Minimum Basic Income will also lift the welfare wall – the barriers that exist for people on social assistance who want to start earning money and to get off income assistance.  No longer will people who earn a few hundred dollars have 70% of it clawed back and taken away from them. Under the Manitoba Liberal minimum basic income system, they will be treated like all other taxpayers instead of being taxed at this extraordinary high level.  As Evelyn Forget says, “We all benefit from a basic income in the form of a more stable, prosperous and inclusive society, whether or not we receive a stipend.” 

1)     Staying on the current support system: Some individuals currently receiving EIA (Employment and Income Assistance) may choose to stay with the current system which they know.  This could apply, for example, for some adults with intellectual disabilities.  It could apply to some who know and appreciate the current system.   The opportunity to stay on the current system will allow a more gradual transition to the minimum basic income, rather than an abrupt changeover.  It will also allow the current system to be a backup should there be difficulties in the transition for some.  To avoid the problems which have occurred under NDP and PC governments of no increase in the amount individuals receive over time, the overall support under this program will be increased annually at the rate of inflation. 
2)     A minimum basic income:  Anyone whose income is below the minimum basic income will be eligible for a top up to achieve the minimum basic income.  To receive the minimum basic income, they will be required to file a tax return, to have a bank account and to be a resident in Manitoba for 1 year.   The amount received will increase annually at the rate of inflation.  In recognition that those on a minimum basic income will need to receive some supports currently received by those on our current system, a sliding scale for such supports (medications, bus passes are examples) will be implemented based on income level.  The minimum basic income is not intended to replace current income supports (Old Age Security for example), but rather to fill in gaps so that every Manitoban can have a minimum basic income.  The minimum basic income will be unconditional, so that people are free to decide how to use their time. This reduces the need for a costly and intrusive bureaucracy to ensure that people comply with an extensive list of regulations. 
3)     Manitoba Works for Good Program: This program is modelled after the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program under Franklin Roosevelt, and discussed in modern form by L. Randall Wray and others. It makes productive use of people who are unemployed, as an alternative to EI or to EIA. People are paid to do work in the public interest, which can take many forms and is a reflection of the principle that there is a right to work. They could either work directly for government or for an approved non-profit. A job guarantee program hires people who otherwise cannot find employment. Once implemented, a job guarantee would be a permanent program, operating during good times and recessions alike.
4)     Livable Wages for All: Part of ensuring that all Manitobans earn a livable wage is by raising to minimum wage to a livable one. Manitoba Liberals will increase the minimum wage to $15 in two years and keep it going to the rate of inflation. 

Manitoba Works Program 
The Manitoba Works Program is a critical component of the Manitoba Liberal Party basic minimum income program because it will provide the certainty of a job and the certainty of gaining the skills and experience to get back into the labour market.  Such employment is known to protect individuals against depression and to reduce psychological stress – and will be an important factor in improving mental health.  The overall impact of this program can be expected to result in fewer children in poverty and fewer children being taken into the care of child and family services.  This will mean happier families and a happier society.  It will also mean that provincial costs in certain areas – child and family services, health care and justice will be less (or will not grow as fast) as the demand for these services will be reduced.  

Cost of Program  
There were 70,000 people receiving EIA from the province of Manitoba in 2017/18 at a cost of $600 million annually. On top of that, there are approximately 139,000 adult Manitobans who live in poverty. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the cost of a basic income at $9,598 per capita.   
The Basic Income Project would cost approximately 1.3 billion to cover all Manitobans experiencing poverty, this would remove a lot of costs from the former EIA program, as well as reducing costs across Child and Family services, Justice, Education and Health Care. There are also the reduced use of EIA under a $15 minimum wage. 
There is also a need to calculate the return on investment. While higher income individuals would save or invest, lower income people spend new income directly back into our local economy. 

Dougald Lamont's speech on announcing the Manitoba Liberal Party plan to address poverty

We’re on treaty one territory, homeland of the anishnaabe and the birthplace of the M├ętis.

This is a very important announcement to me.  I ran for Leader, and I am running for Premier, to change the status quo, and because, for too long and for too many Manitobans, life has been getting harder bit by bit. 

We want to do things differently. And if you want an idea of how we are different, and the other parties are the same,  we are the only party that is not relying on trickle-down economics for our platform. 

And if you want proof of that, the Manitoba Liberal Party is the only party that is not offering Brian Pallister a tax cut.  I don’t have a rags to riches story. I was born in a loving, supportive family. I am a generation Xer and 30 years ago it was said we would be the first generation ever to be poorer than our parents.  And as a Gen Xer, I’ve worked multiple jobs as a student and as a parent to put food on the table.

When you compare our promises of the other two parties - the PCs and the NDP - you see they are offering little incremental changes. Tweaks here. A change there.  A boutique tax cut for 8,000 people here. They’re tacking a post-it not onto old platforms, or old idea, that hasn’t been working for decades. On jobs, on climate, on infrastructure, on justice, and on education. 

I talk to people across this province who tell me systems are broken. And many of those systems have been broken so long, they people they serve are likely to have given up hope. 

And the other two parties are offering the same piecemeal ideas.  They have post-it-note platforms, because they take it for granted they are the only choice.  The same-old-same-old is not going to do it. 

Today we’re talking about how a Manitoba Liberal government will work to eliminate poverty in our province in a first term.  Manitoba has some of the deepest pockets of poverty in Canada, and the large numbers of both seniors and children who are living in poverty. 

In Manitoba, there are tens of thousands of children each month who go to Winnipeg Harvest, and many of them are from families where both parents are working.  Since 2008, the number of people on EIA has risen to 71,000, a record high. 

I will repeat that - there are 71,000 people in Manitoba living on EIA. That is more than 10% of our workforce.  And it is not an exaggeration to say the EIA system in Manitoba, under the PCs and NDP alike, has been sadistic to people living in poverty. 

Many basic allowances are at 1986 levels, because in 1993 Brian Pallister, as a member of the PC government, voted to roll back support levels to 1986, and froze them there.  They stayed frozen for decades under the PCs and the NDP, even as anti-poverty activists pleaded with the NDP to change them. It didn’t happen. 

We have an EIA system that is designed to try to punish people out of poverty. Poverty is is its own punishment.  It’s also been said that poverty is the greatest censor. It’s been said that a society should be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable. And by that score, the Manitoba NDP and PCs alike should be condemned. 

All provinces receive transfers from the Federal Government, and no province has done a worse job of lifting people out of poverty than Manitoba. 

A Manitoba Liberal Government will set out to eliminate poverty in Manitoba in four years by: 

  • Reforming EIA and change the mandate of Employment and Income Insurance to lifting people out of poverty
We will also introduce three complementary programs to help lift people out of poverty, that provides individuals with choice as well as the opportunity to work 

We will introduce a minimum basic income, based on a “negative income tax” model, that tops up income. This sets a floor for income.

  • - Currently in Manitoba, it is not possible for many people to pay their bills on minimum wage. We will raise the minimum wage to $15 within two years of being elected. The NDP platform is $15 by 2024, which is no commitment at all.

  • - One of the most important new changes is that we will also create a a voluntary “Manitoba Works for Good” jobs program that would pay individuals who find themselves out of work to do jobs in the public interest, as an alternative to EIA or basic income. They may work either directly in a program or with selected, qualified not-for-profits 

We will work with First Nations leadership and the Federal Government to make sure that these programs are available on Reserve.  

We know that there will be questions about costs to the public purse.   But to do that we also have to look at the costs of poverty, and they astronomical. 

We know, from the evidence of the Mincome experiment that ran in Dauphin Manitoba, that mincome reduced health care costs. People were mentally healthier. There were fewer visits to the ER. It gave parents the opportunity to look after their kids. It means kids could stay in school instead of working to support the family. 

Manitoba has the highest number of children in care almost anywhere in the world. It costs over $500-million a year. The number one reason children in care end up in care is because of reasons related to poverty. 

The reason Manitoba has such a costly health care system is that we have people who are poorer and sicker. They can’t afford medications, and they may not be able to afford healthy food - even working full time. 

Spending on social services is always, always, always more effective and less expensive than spending money on crises, whether it is in health care, the justice system or the child welfare system. 
After the initial investment, we expect that by the third or fourth year, the Mincome project will pay for itself. 

The funds that go into this program will directly benefit Manitoba and the Manitoba economy, because the people who get it will spend it locally. It will go straight to local businesses in the form of revenue. So that is $700-million more in revenue every year.  It will be good for the economy and good for local business. 

Over the last twenty years, the NDP and PCs alike reduced taxes by about $2-billion a year, often while running deficits. Brian Pallister has cut his own taxes by about $500 a year.  

They practiced trickle-down economics - giving more to people at the top with the hope they would invest back into Manitoba. If the Premier is any example, people take that money and send it to the tropics. 

Mincome is not a right-wing idea or a left-wing idea. It is a recognition that each of us deserve to be treated with basic dignity.  Manitoba Liberals are offering a new way forward for all manitobans on working and living in dignity. 


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