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Winnipeg needs a poverty reduction plan, advocates say

The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg is launching a series of public consultation sessions about the need for the city to adopt an anti-poverty plan.

Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and chairperson of Make Poverty History.

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Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and chairperson of Make Poverty History.

City hall needs to get serious about reducing poverty in Winnipeg.

That’s the message coming from the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, which will launch a series of public consultation sessions this week to draft a citywide poverty reduction plan.

Josh Brandon, a community animator with the council and chairperson of Make Poverty History, says cities like Edmonton and Hamilton have already adopted comprehensive anti-poverty plans to better assist low-income residents living in their communities.

He believes it’s time for Winnipeg to do the same.

“There are limits to what the city can do. I don’t think the City of Winnipeg on its own can solve poverty, but that doesn’t let the city off the hook,” he said in a recent interview.

A plan, he explained, would ensure that city staff and councillors consider poverty reduction when new policies are developed and decisions about spending are made.

Although the city is not directly responsible for files like social assistance, housing, and wages, Brandon said the city has to step it up when it comes to areas of civic life it does control.

For example, zoning rules could be amended to make it easier for affordable housing to be built, and more could be done to improve the safety and standard of living for those in rooming houses.

User fees could also be reduced for community centres and recreation facilities located in poorer neighbourhoods, while drop-in hours and programming could be expanded.

“It’s too often the lowest income Winnipeggers are left behind and excluded by city policies,” said Brandon.

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie said the city already has some initiatives underway to tackle poverty – like the William Whyte Neighbourhood Housing Plan, which sets out affordable housing goals – but he agrees a comprehensive plan is lacking. 

“That’s one aspect of poverty," he said, of the city's housing initiatives. "The other aspects are getting people out of poverty through good employment.”

Brandon hopes the consultation sessions will get the ball rolling in the public consciousness about the need for a plan and generate ideas.

A draft plan would be presented to the public later this spring.

After that, he said a final report will be published and the city formally asked to adopt the recommendations.

He said the council is welcome to the city getting on board earlier if they wanted more input in the plan. 

The first session will be Tuesday, March 21 in the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library from 6 to 8 p.m.

Dates and times for other sessions:

  • Thursday, March 23 in the Murdo Scribe Centre at the Aboriginal Education Directorate from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 4 at the Charleswood Library from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 6 at the Pembina Trails Library from 6 to 8 p.m.

– With files from Lucy Scholey

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