Last Monday, November 21st, the Progressive Conservatives released their second Throne Speech, indicating the government’s upcoming priorities. CCEDNet Manitoba pays close attention to this document, as it outlines the government’s direction, and reveals where there will be opportunities and challenges for furthering our membership’s policy priorities.
In June of 2016, we wrote about how Budget 2016 responded to our membership’s priorities. The following is a similar analysis of the content in the Throne Speech.
The Province committed in the Throne Speech to increasing access to early learning and childcare through:
- Support for licensed family child care spaces
- Reducing barriers to creating new child care spaces in home-based facilities
- Expanding programs for Early Childhood Educators
- Working with the federal government, as well as provincial and territorial jurisdictions, towards a national Early Learning and Child Care Framework
Access to child care is essential for poverty reduction and important for our local economy. It is particularly important for addressing women’s poverty. As such, we welcome the Progressive Conservative’s commitment to increasing access. However, the focus on home-based facilities is inconsistent with CCEDNet Manitoba’s recommendations, which call on the Province to prioritize and set targets for quality and affordable licensed not-for-profit child care spaces. The child care system cannot be expanded quickly enough to meet the needs of the more than 15,000 children on the waitlist if we only rely on home-based family child care. Furthermore, the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care Commission Final Report only briefly outlines a role for home child care (which may or may not be licensed) within a universal system while noting concerns such as higher turnover rates, higher fees, and varying levels of qualifications.
CCEDNet Manitoba will continue to call upon the government to set a target of at least 12,000 new licensed not-for-profit child care spaces, and will support the government’s commitment to increasing the number of Early Childhood Educators.
The Province has committed to creating a strategy to address homelessness, housing affordability, and needed repairs to the existing housing stock, and to increase home ownership amongst Manitobans in need of adequate housing. In the meantime, efforts to complete Manitoba Housing’s plan to create 500 each of new social and affordable housing units has been put on hold.
CCEDNet Manitoba is working with Right to Housing to ensure that the new strategy will build off the best practice that has emerged out of the strategy it is replacing. This includes setting targets and timelines for funding new social housing built by the public, non-profit and co-op sectors; continuing and enhancing Rent Assist; investing to ensure there is no net loss of social housing due to expiring operating agreements; contracting with social enterprise to do maintenance work and capital refresh projects; and investing in housing with comprehensive tenant-driven supports (For more details see Right to Housing’s submission to the provincial housing strategy consultation).
The Province did not make any reference to creating a comprehensive plan to address poverty, despite having made a commitment in its first budget to deliver such a plan in 2017. While the Throne Speech highlighted some key areas that must be included in a plan, there was little indication that action in these areas will focus on reducing poverty. If a poverty reduction lens is not applied to these policy areas, government action may end up exacerbating poverty.
CCEDNet Manitoba has been working with Make Poverty History Manitoba on a campaign calling on the government to create a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines for reducing poverty, based on the community-designed plan The View from Here. The campaign also calls for the Province’s plan to feature an increase to the EIA basic needs budget for Manitobans in deepest poverty – single individuals without children and persons with disabilities who live with incomes that are 47 and 32 per cent below the poverty line, respectively.
The Throne Speech has prioritized EIA reforms “that will improve the circumstances of our youngest citizens.” While much needs to be done to reduce child poverty, single adults and persons with disabilities who live in the deepest poverty must not be left behind. We must close this gap now.
The Throne Speech reaffirmed the Progressive Conservative’s commitment to implement social impact bonds to explore “new and innovative solutions” to social challenges like poverty and crime. Some of our members have concerns over this mechanism but our membership also has the experience and know-how for reducing recidivism through employment and wrap around supports, and as such we are closely following the development of this tool. CCEDNet Manitoba will engage with the government regarding the design of any SIBs and will also urge the government to consult with our members and other stakeholders to explore the full range of social finance options.
Community organizations in Manitoba have a long history of investing now to reduce the need for government services later. They have been reducing social problems like poverty, social exclusion, unemployment and crime. The issue is not a lack of effective and innovative solutions, rather it is that these solutions are deeply underfunded compared to the amounts of money that go toward addressing the associated problems.
The Non-Profit Organization Strategy, which provides multi-year funding agreements to non-profits, has played a vital role in recent years by reducing red tape and freeing up time to focus on delivering valuable and consistent services and outcomes. CCEDNet Manitoba will continue to reinforce the value of multi-year and enhanced funding to community organizations.
The Throne Speech referenced northern economic development. The “Look North” initiative will “create jobs, increase investment and ensure long-term stability for the region’s people and economy.” As the Northern Economic Development Strategy begins consultations, CCEDNe