TL;DR: A point form analysis by theme areas of the 2019 Manitoba provincial budget is below.
The storefront entrance of Mother Earth Recycling (MER) runs adjacent to my new favourite intersection in Winnipeg – the corner of Main Street and Sutherland Avenue. Freshly painted murals bookend the corner, featuring Indigenous imagery and symbolism in bold colour. The effect is dazzling. Slightly behind it sits Mother Earth, whose work is similarly energizing
When Jessica Floresco, MER General Manager, took me through their Indigenous-owned and operated social enterprise, I felt a rush of excitement. Extremely well thought out, MER provides meaningful training and employment opportunities to Indigenous peoples through environmentally sustainable initiatives – right now focusing on e-waste, mattress, and box spring recycling.
Simultaneously contributing to landfill diversion and sustainability, inclusive employment, economic development, and poverty reduction, all while being prominently led and owned by Indigenous peoples and communities: Mother Earth is (pun intended) electrifying.
MER’s model, like so many other members of Manitoba’s social economy and community economic development movement defines the problem and key challenges facing our communities, identifies root causes through an inclusive, equitable, and justice lens, and gets to work tackling them.
CCEDNet Policy Coordinator Michael Barkman (far left) atours MLA’s through Mother Earth Recycling (MER) with MER General Manager Jessica Floresco
My most recent tour was a group of five Members of the Legislative Assembly from the governing caucus. Bringing government to community economic developers is a crucial part of our advocacy work. Physically walking around and seeing skills and training in action in a supportive community – whether at Mother Earth, or at BUILD, or at Aki Energy, or at the multitude of other enterprises and organizations that are part of Manitoba’s social economy – set out a new paradigm to consider for our guests.
Members explained to the MLAs that our sector is well positioned to fulfill government’s economic development strategy, climate change strategy AND poverty reduction strategy, let alone other goals like reducing number of children in care. Taking a tour of Mother Earth, among others, proves exactly this.
On provincial budget day, I was shut in a grand room in the Manitoba Legislature to review the budget on behalf of members. During my hours there, I found it challenging to see the same support we heard for community economic development, and how our work can fulfill government strategies, reflected within the provincial budget. I was hard pressed to see key community challenges tackled at their roots with innovative, community-driven solutions.
This presents a challenge for our Network.
Clearly we need to bring more members of the government to see the social economy in action. But well beyond that, we must continue to collectively advocate for the web of policy and government interventions needed to tackle poverty and climate change, and to build an economy that works for everybody.
To achieve this, the other part of our advocacy is crucial: bringing community economic developers to government policy. A thematic analysis of the 2019 Manitoba budget is below. While it is not fully comprehensive, and though many questions remain, it is meant to provide a snapshot of what’s going on with this web against our Network’s policy mandate.
CCEDNet’s Provincial Budget Analysis
- It appears government is moving ahead with the planned change to a single window intake grant system, which seems to replace separate streams of funding for Community Places Program, Hometown Manitoba, Neighbourhoods Alive! Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, Neighbourhoods Alive! Community Initiatives and Partners 4 Growth. The government refers to this as “reducing red tape by streamlining community group grant funding processes.”
- This is now all reflected in one budget line: “Community Development Program”. Right now it looks like funding for these programs is stable compared to last year’s actual spending (Budget page 98, $23,459,000), although when comparing budgeted amounts, this is a decrease year over year, as in previous years. We do not yet know with certainty how much of this would be spent on current projects or be available for new initiatives.
- There is also a decrease in funding for Salaries in the Community Development department, continuing a trend of the government to reduce costs in administration and management.
- The government indicates that its new single window grant intake will help “support thriving, sustainable communities by:
- being client-focussed, streamlined and reducing the administrative burden.
- recognizing the diversity of Manitoba communities and encouraging partnerships and collaboration.
- broadening the reach of grant programming to communities and organizations that have not previously been funded.
- improving alignment of grant funding with provincial, regional and municipal priorities and plans.”
- The province released their long-awaited poverty reduction strategy in the same week as the budget. The strategy commits to a poverty reduction target of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent by 2025 according to 2015 levels, which according to Statistics Canada data, was already met in 2017.
- It also commits the provincial government to federal goals of reducing the national poverty rate by 20 per cent by 2020, and by 50 per cent by 2030.
- Thirteen indicators, including Canada’s Official Poverty Line will track the progress of the strategy.
- The strategy is organized around six priority areas—including priorities important to our Network, such as promoting economic inclusion through employment, education and training; facilitating partnerships and supporting community-based organizations; and making positive change through social innovation.
- The stated goal is that “all Manitobans have resources, opportunities and access to achieve a better quality of life”. Poverty erad