Manitoba Budget 2017 is a Mixed Bag, with More Cuts than Increases to CED Priorities

April 13, 2017

MANITOBA BUDGET 2017Leading up to the first full budget by the new provincial government, there was a significant amount of apprehension among community groups around austerity and potential spending cuts.  With 15,000 children waiting for child care, 7,500 housing units needed to respond to homelessness in Winnipeg alone, and 132,000 Manitobans living in poverty, it would have been harmful to balance the budget on the backs of vulnerable Manitobans.

However, Budget 2017 is a mixed bag, with more program reductions than investments in CCEDNet-Manitoba’s member priorities, but more programs maintained than some had expected.

For instance, we are glad to see the government increase funding for Rent Assist and maintain funding for the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative while also giving a prominent role to social enterprise. However, cuts to community development, co-operative development and affordable housing, along with a stall on a comprehensive poverty reduction plan, will work against supporting inclusive communities and economies in Manitoba.

See Budget 2017 here.

As the provincial government continues to define its course, it will take some work on the part of community organizations, social enterprises and cooperatives to find their role in the path forward. The following analysis covers areas of provincial policy important to the work of CCEDNet Manitoba members. To see our submission to the Budget 2017 consultation process, visit here.

Community Development

Programs under Community Planning and Development in Indigenous and Municipal Relations have seen a significant reorganization, but some consistency in amounts. Funding for Neighbourhoods Alive! (NA!) will be maintained at the same spending level as the previous year but the Province underspent last year as a result of pausing NA! programs mid-year. Therefore, the NA! budget has been reduced by  approximately $900,000 (or 15%), from $5.97 M in Budget 2016/17 to $5.08 M in 2017/18. In speaking to a government representative, we learned that the department is establishing new program delivery processes, and anticipates further consultation with non-profit organizations. There is no stated commitment to existing multi-year funding agreements, and organizations funded under these programs should reach out to their department contacts for further information.

Included in the reorganization is the elimination of the Urban Development Initiative and Rural Economic Development Initiative. We learned that this funding has not been cut, but permanently allocated to departments with initiatives funded via these programs. Those departments now have discretion over their allocation. Funding initiatives through IMR have been collapsed into a new program called Community Development Initiatives. Intake and funding criteria for this fund have not been announced at this time.

Co-op Development

Cooperatives are hard hit in this budget, with the cancellation of the Co-op Community Strategy, and the elimination of the Co-op Development Tax Credit. While elements of the strategy are being maintained, accounting for $70,000 in spending, total spending on Co-op Development has gone from $601,000 to $456,000, which is a decrease of $145,000 or 24%. We hope that despite these changes, we will see a new way forward for cooperatives in Manitoba and will be asking the government to consider how they can support these inclusive, democratic community enterprises.

Social Enterprise

CCEDNet Manitoba called on the Province to grow its social procurement commitments to $10M (currently at $7M). Social enterprise was specifically highlighted in the Budget Paper “REDUCING POVERTY AND PROMOTING COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT”. In a section titled Front-Line Services Through Innovative Partnerships, this Budget Paper celebrates Manitoba Housing’s practice of social procurement, highlighting the five social enterprises that are providing services to Manitoba Housing (New Directions – Genesis, NECRC – Building Construction Mentorship Program, BNRC – Brandon Energy Efficiency Program, BUILD and Manitoba Green Retrofit) and the collective 220 jobs this provides for individuals facing barriers to employment. It also notes the training partnership with social enterprise Diversity Foods. We are glad to see this prominent mention of these CCEDNet Manitoba members. However, it is unclear if the government is planning to change the amount of procurement currently going to social enterprise, or expand the practice beyond Manitoba Housing.

Despite mentioning the significant social return on investment generated by the social enterprise strategy, it is also unclear if the government is planning to continue funding the sector-developing strategy in partnership with CCEDNet Manitoba.

One policy priority for CCEDNet Manitoba is to see the Justice department reverse its trend towards greater incarceration through prevention and reintegration by engaging social enterprises that support individuals involved with, or at-risk of involvement, with the criminal justice system. The Justice department’s operating budget has increased 2.1% (or by $12.2M), from $586.5M in 2016/17 to $598.7M in 2017/18 — these increases can be partially offset by more programming for prevention and reintegration to keep individuals out of the criminal justice system. The Community Safety budget, which includes funding for correctional services as well as crime prevention policies and programs has increased from $410.6 M to $420.5 M. However, there is no mention of social enterprise as a tool for crime prevention and reintegration.

Social Finance

The Budget reiterates the government’s commitment to launching a “made-in-Manitoba approach to Social Impact Bonds,” (SIBs) however it is not clear if there is any budget allocation for the development of SIBs, nor the fields they are planning to execute SIBs in.

The Neighbourhoods Alive! Tax Credit has been cancelled. While this program, which provided a 45% tax credit to corporations who donated $50,000 or more to a non-profit organization to establish a social enterprise, needed improvements (it had only been used once since its inception), CCEDNet Manitoba members still see potential in the opportunity to partner with corporations for social enterprise development.

The Community Enterprise Development Tax Credit is being maintained. We will continue to advocate that the Government of Manitoba improve the application process for this tax credit and better promote it to the community.

Northern Healthy Foods Initiative

CCEDNet called on the Manitoba government to increase funding to the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative (NHFI) to scale up healthy food production and consumption, in part through social enterprise, in northern and remote communities. Funding for the NHFI has been maintained at $1.2M for 2017/18. While we are happy to see NFHI funding maintained, this amount continues to be insufficient to address the challenges and costs of food insecurity in remote and northern communities. For instance, the economic burden of diabetes in Manitoba in 2010 was estimated to be approximately $86M in direct costs and an additional $412 M in indirect costs. Investments in healthy food is an important component in addressing this cost and we hope to see additional programs and investments to address this issue.

It is not clear at this time how much, if any, of NHFI’s funding will be earmarked for social enterprise development, or if there is any other funding specific to social enterprise development