Budgets are not simply financial documents. They are clear statements of values and priorities. Some people and communities benefit, while others do not. Particular outcomes for society are pursued aggressively, while some are ignored. With this in mind, we eagerly await the Government of Manitoba’s 2014 “Statement of Values and Priorities” to be delivered on March 6th at the Legislature.
As a network led by its members, CCEDNet – Manitoba works with over 100 community-based organizations to identify what government could do to best support their work, or even to reduce the need for our work at all. The members have identified a number of impactful ideas, which we have worked with them to advance.
For example, our members know that access to safe and affordable housing is essential for creating individual, family, and community stability. This is why we need more social housing units in Manitoba. For those who are renting in the market, they need enough money to be able to pay for a safe place to live. The problem is that rent costs have continued to rise over the years, while the allowance provided for renting has not.
|“Budgets are not simply financial documents. They are clear statements of values and priorities. Some people and communities beneift, while others do not.“
As housing costs increase, people are forced to spend food money on rent, making personal debt and food banks sad necessities for survival. When housing needs are met, children do not need to move from school to school, parents have reduced stress and the means to provide the necessities for their families (food, winter clothing, transport, school supplies, etc.). People must have their basic needs met before they can pursue economic opportunities such as employment and education.
For this reason, the members of our network worked with over 150 organizations last year through Make Poverty History Manitoba to raise the issue with Manitobans and to push the provincial government to increase the EIA rental allowance to 75% of the median market rent. While still inadequate, this would at least give people some hope of finding some kind of safe place to live.
It was a fantastic campaign! Non-profits, businesses, unions, municipalities, and citizens joined together in a dedicated, creative, and well organized effort that got significant media attention and caught the attention of everyone at 450 Broadway – with the Twelve Shoes of Christmas and the “Have a Heart” Valentine’s Day rallies on the steps of the Legislature, how could it not! It was a simple ask that simply made sense.
|“People must have their basic needs met before they can pursue economic opportunities such as employment and education.“
While Budget 2013 yielded a modest yet inadequate result, it seems that all that hard work just might pay off. The Minister of Jobs and the Economy, Theresa Oswald, recently signaled in a Winnipeg Free Press interview that the province is ready to meet the demands of the campaign. An editorial by Molly McCracken of the CCPA – Manitoba also highlighted that this policy measure was one of the recommendations in the recently released Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.
And so we await Budget 2014, knowing that the choices made in it will impact the lives of all Manitobans to some degree, most significantly those with the least. If the province comes through on this increase, it will signal a win for the campaign, a win for those living in poverty, and demonstrate that this budget prioritizes and places value in reducing poverty in Manitoba.