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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

This new act builds on the Manitoba government's first Poverty Reduction Plan entitled All Aboard: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy launched in May 2009. 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.
 
Specifically, the responsibilities of the Committee will include;
(a) reviewing and providing advice to the Executive Council on (i) the content of the poverty reduction and social inclusion strategy, (ii) poverty and social inclusion indicators, and (iii) proposed programs, policies or initiatives; 
(b) monitoring the implementation of the strategy; 
(c) ensuring that programs, policies and initiatives of the government to reduce poverty and increase social inclusion are co-ordinated and consistent with the strategy; and 
(d) facilitating community involvement in the development and implementation of the strategy. 
 
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. 
 
According to the Act, for each fiscal year, the government must;
(a) take the poverty reduction and social inclusion strategy into account when preparing the budget for that fiscal year; 
(b) prepare a statement that (i) summarizes the strategy and sets out the budget measures that are designed to implement the strategy, and 
(ii) sets out the poverty reduction and social inclusion indicators prescribed by regulation that will be used to measure the progress of the strategy; and 
(c) table the statement referred to in clause (b) in the Legislative Assembly at the time of tabling the budget for that fiscal year. 
 
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. 
 
Progress Report

Currently, Manitoba has the third lowest poverty rate of all provinces for children and adults. However 125, 000 Manitobans still live in poverty, and 1 in 5 children live in poverty.

While the announcement of Manitoba’s plan is a good start, it has been critiqued for the fact that it was not based significantly on community consultation or input from those living in poverty, and its lack of commitment to specific timelines and targets. Manitoba has yet to develop and legislate a comprehensive and systematic action plan, with targets, timelines and indicators to measure progress, in order to effectively and significantly reduce poverty in Manitoba.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Manitoba in collaboration with Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) released a poverty reduction plan in The View From Here. This plan includes the essential components of an effective plan, including targets and timelines to provide an opportunity to reveal the progress that has been made and make the Province of Manitoba accountable.

MPHM is calling on the Province of Manitoba to implement this plan to ensure that present and future governments will be accountable to significantly reduce poverty in Manitoba.

Take Action

Learn more and get involved with poverty reduction initiatives in Manitoba

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Resources

Video

Poverty in Manitoba – Produced by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg's Poverty Advisory Committee, this short video details the state of poverty in Manitoba and discusses the need for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in Manitoba.

 

Target Poverty – A video produced by the Canadian Federation of Students and Make Poverty History in Manitoba for the Target Poverty: For a Poverty-Free Manitoba campaign.

Documents

All Aboard: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

The View From Here How a living wage can reduce poverty in Manitoba
by the CCPA Manitoba Office

Government Sites

Manitoba Government News Release on Adoption of Poverty Reduction Act

Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Online

Organizations

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg

Manitoba Office, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 

Canadian Federation of Students

 

Return and read more about a National Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada