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, CCEDNet Manitoba will work to ensure our members working in northern Manitoba, in particular social enterprise and cooperatives, are included as promising and sustainable economic opportunities. Another project of particular importance is the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative, which works to promote local food self-sufficiency in northern and remote communities.
The Throne Speech also references continuing to “engage Indigenous communities from the east side of Manitoba and Shoal Lake with the ultimate goal of building roads and ensuring that communities actually benefit from training and capacity building.” CCEDNet Manitoba will encourage the Province to integrate local hiring and training into these and other provincial infrastructure projects. This is consistent with our members’ desire to see government spending leverage economic, social, and environmental opportunities through tools such as Community Benefit Clauses.
Demand Side Management
CCEDNet Manitoba’s membership is supportive of the Progressive Conservative’s commitment to introduce legislation creating a stand-alone energy efficiency agency to reduce energy consumption in Manitoba. Our membership has identified the opportunity to mandate and resource the demand-side management entity to develop and implement strategies to create job opportunities through energy efficiency efforts in low-income neighbourhoods and in First Nations. CCEDNet will advocate for this mandate, as well as targets and timelines for a) the amount of work to be done through social enterprise, b) the amount of energy efficiency work done in low-income neighbourhoods, and c) amount of energy efficiency work done in First Nations.
At CCEDNet Manitoba’s most recent policy summit (where our membership democratically defines our policy resolutions and mandate), our membership passed a resolution in support of a carbon levy complemented with a strong set of regulations for emissions reductions. Furthermore, the resolution calls on the Province to use the revenues to provide a tax credit for low-income Manitobans, and then recycling the remainder of the revenues to deploy low-carbon technology and energy systems.
The Progressive Conservatives committed in the Throne Speech to introduce a “Made in Manitoba carbon pricing and climate change plan,” including investments in “clean growth opportunities.” As details on this plan emerge, CCEDNet Manitoba will bring forward our member’s policy priorities.
What was missed?
At CCEDNet Manitoba’s recent Policy Summit, members committed to urging the government to adopt a gender based analysis framework. Evidence of the use of this lens is missing in the Throne Speech, making it unclear whether or not this government is considering how policies, programs and legislation specifically impact demographics who are often left behind including women, trans, Two Spirit, and gender non-binary individuals.
The Throne Speech also did not indicate any activity or interest around local and sustainable food, food security, co-ops, social enterprise. CCEDNet Manitoba will continue to advocate the importance of our members’ work in these areas as part of our broader efforts to advocate and hold government accountable to supporting inclusive and sustainable communities and local economies.
Kirsten Bernas is Research and Policy Manager with CCEDNet in Manitoba. She has also been employed by the Province of Manitoba to work on CED and social policy. Kirsten represents CCEDNet on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives‘ Alternative Federal Budget Steering Committee, Make Poverty History Manitoba‘s Steering Committee, and the Right to Housing Coalition‘s Provincial Committee. She received a BA (Honours) in Economics from the University of Manitoba as well as an MA from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Darcy Penner has been working in community economic development since graduating from the University of Winnipeg with a BA (Honours) degree in Politics. Starting at CCEDNet in 2013, his role has seen him work with member-organizations to pursue a broad policy agenda through workshops, presentations, budget submissions, policy papers and community-organizing, while specializing in supportive social enterprise policy and research – including being the Project Manager for the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy being co-produced with the Province of Manitoba, and coordinating the Manitoba Social Enterprise Sector Survey.