A CED response to the 2012 Manitoba Budget

April 23, 2012

Manitoba Budget 2012 – A Missed Opportunity for Meaningful Investment in our Communities

Click here to learn how the 2012 Manitoba Budget relates to our member-adopted Policy Resolutions.

On April 17th, community organizations gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to hear the provincial government unveil its 2012 budget. CCEDNet staff and members were on hand to comment on the Province’s plans to support community initiatives that address the root causes of poverty, crime, and community decline.

The communities, organizations and individuals working to address these issues have demonstrated the benefits of innovative and preventative measures. What’s needed is more investment in: affordable housing units and Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) rental allowance rates; subsidized child care spaces; opportunities for education and training; jobs for people with barriers to employment; culturally appropriate, adequate, and accessible supports for those dealing with addictions and mental health challenges; and community-based initiatives that work with people and neighbourhoods in a way that builds capacity and hope, while creating meaningful opportunities for those who need them most. (For more information on these strategies, read The View From Here and Bill C-10: The Truth About Consequences). What we found last Tuesday was half-measures and frozen budgets. Manitoba Budget 2012 does not cut spending in key community initiatives – a choice that makes a muted commitment amidst pressure to reduce the deficit. However, it does little to increase support for these important actions, beyond incremental investments in child care. This year’s Budget outlines 21 indicators of poverty reduction and social inclusion, however they are not accompanied by targets and timelines. Furthermore, the Budget does not commit any new funds to help lift Manitobans out of poverty.

It appears that the relentless chorus calling for tax cuts has weakened the government’s resolve to invest in Manitobans’ well-being. NDP-initiated tax cuts since 1999 will result in $1.2 billion of lost revenue this year alone, which would have entirely offset this year’s projected deficit of $1.12 billion.

When we look at the areas driving government spending, it becomes clear that current investment choices are shortsighted and not cost effective. Manitoba Budget 2012 demonstrates that the Province will continue to spend on the expensive results of poverty, crime and poor health, rather than on the cheaper, more effective solutions addressing their root causes. For example, there is a 2.5% decrease in the Housing and Community Development budget while the Justice budget is going up by 8.1%. Freezing or cutting preventative, community-based initiatives will only balloon the resulting costs – an outcome that serves no one.

We know that $1 invested in food skills training and nutrition awareness results in $10.64 in healthcare savings. We also know that homelessness costs society nearly $100,000 per person meaning that it is cheaper to house people than leave them on the streets. Incarceration costs up to $130,000 per year while preventative programs cost much less. If we seek to contain rising costs of healthcare and crime, reactive solutions to poverty are misguided.

We all need to be more conscious of these realities when considering political and policy positions. The media also has to play its role in providing this context so Manitobans better understand the long-term consequences of short-term thinking related to government policy, investments, and taxation.

In the end, this analysis highlights the need for a deficit reduction approach that is not about spending less, but rather spending smarter. Not just for our collective well-being, but also for more effective government, a more sustainable fiscal future, and healthier, safer and happier communities.

How the Budget stacks up to CCEDNet-Manitoba’s member-adopted Policy Resolutions:

  • Housing: Importantly, and to their credit in the face of this intense pressure to drastically cut spending, the government’s existing commitment to build 300 new social housing units per year remains, although there is no new investment in housing, leaving the result far short of what is needed. There was no mention of co-operative housing.
  • Community-led Initiatives: Support for Neighbourhoods Alive! And the Winnipeg Regeneration Strategy has been renewed, but not increased. There was a modest increase in the Co-operative Development budget.
  • Social Enterprise: The Budget did not include mention of support for social enterprises or procurement policies that would recognize the high investment return for society that social enterprises have on reducing poverty by creating good jobs for people with barriers to employment. However, the Neighbourhoods Alive! Tax Credit for social enterprise development was renewed.
  • Poverty reduction: The government will not increase EIA rates and will not be extending the EIA training timeline. Although the Budget includes strategies to address poverty reduction and social inclusion, there are no new actions, funding or timelines for achieving results.

For more information, contact Kirsten Bernas, at , (204) 943-0547.