New Legislation Strengthens Poverty Reduction Strategy in Manitoba

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Dennis Howlett is the National Co-ordinator for Make Poverty History Canada.

The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg has provided the following policy briefing on the new Manitoba Poverty Reduction Act:

On Friday, June 17th, the Manitoba legislature passed important legislation that will give some authority to the government’s poverty reduction strategy. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act will create the means to define, monitor and enforce what the government does to deal with poverty and social exclusion. This act was embedded in Bill 51, THE BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION AND TAX STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 2011.

In May 2009, Manitoba launched ALL Aboard: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy. While the strategy gave some substance to what the government thought was important to do to reduce poverty, it was seen as mainly a policy framework for action without implementation clout and substantive plans for action. The strategy identified education and 
employment as important parts of how poverty will be reduced, but it lacked further vision of what a government could do to prevent poverty as well as how to help people cope with poverty.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act establishes in law what the government will do to reduce poverty. In particular, it creates a monitoring committee of  government ministers and community members, to review and advise on the strategy. Three community representatives will be appointed to the committee. While this is an important administrative mechanism for government, it does not have the power to actually define programs or to hold government 
accountable if it does not implement programs. Also, there is still a need for external monitoring of government progress, which could be more comprehensive and critical.
The Act  requires government to take the poverty reduction into account when preparing annual budgets, to prepare a yearly statement, and to develop indicators to measure progress of the strategy. These are also important to strengthening what government does to reduce poverty. 
The government must still develop programs, plans, timelines and budgets for relevant action that will reduce poverty and increase social inclusion. It will be in these programmatic developments that the real strength of the strategy will be seen. 
For more information see Governmnet of Manitoba news release: