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Groups call on Manitoba to release poverty-ending plan, bolster EIA

With the throne speech fast approaching, a campaign launched Wednesday demands the government increase EIA as part of a plan to end poverty in Manitoba.

Make Poverty History chair Josh Brandon.

Braeden Jones/ Metro

Make Poverty History chair Josh Brandon.

A coalition of more than 100 social organizations is calling on the province to boost social assistance rates as part of a plan to end poverty.

During a well-attended Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) campaign launch on Wednesday, chairman Josh Brandon set the stage for the group’s expectations of the provincial government.

“We have the resources to end poverty, it’s just how we set out priorities,” Brandon said.

Honing in on the Speech from the Throne coming later this month, Brandon said he’d like to see details of a plan that aligns with priorities previously set out by the community groups behind him.

“The provincial government, in its spring budget last year did promise that it would work on a comprehensive poverty reduction plan and that (it) would be implemented by next year’s budget,” he said. “We want to see some details of the plan… so we can begin working together towards ending poverty.”

More than 50 recomendations the government could choose from were documented in "the view from here 2015," which was a call for a renewed poverty reduction plan issued last year.

By MPHM’s calculations, there are 130,000 Manitobans living below the poverty line, and many live “very far below the poverty line.”

Single adults living on employment income assistance (EIA) are only about 53 per cent of the way to the poverty line, and people on social assistance with disabilities are just 68 per cent of the way there.

As part of the campaign launched this week, MPHM is looking for the province to get all Manitobans within 25 per cent of the poverty line, as Brandon said anyone much lower than that 75 per cent mark has “impossible choices” to make.

He said it may be hard for many to imagine, but thousands of people are faced with decisions “like going without food at the end of the month” or “turning down the heat” when bills are too high.

“Those are the impossible choices people living in poverty have to face… it means people are having to make sacrifices that a lot of us don’t think about,” he said. “Collectively as a society we need to think about choices as well… we have a choice here to make in Manitoba.”

To him, and the organizations joining the MPHM campaign, the province made its choice, and is bound to work towards their shared poverty reduction goals “in next year’s budget.”

MPHM believes the government should increase the basic needs benefit and release a full plan to reduce poverty with “targets and timelines.”

“Unless we have a plan and unless we know where we are going and when we’re going to get there, it’s very easy to go off course,” Brandon said. 

Throne Speech Day is Nov. 21, 2016. 

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