Progress on eliminating child poverty moving at ‘glacial’ pace in Manitoba, report says

A new report says Manitoba has made little progress on ending child poverty, and that life for low-income families was actually getting harder even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The progress on this issue since 1989, when the federal government pledged to end child poverty by 2000, “has been nothing short of glacial,” according to the 2021 report from anti-poverty group Campaign 2000.

The report released Wednesday, titled Manitoba: Missed Opportunities, says 28.4 per cent of Manitoba children lived below the poverty line in 2019, or 88,840 children in total. 

That’s a increase from the previous year’s rate of 28.3 per cent, the report says. In 2018, there were 87,730 Manitoba children living in poverty, up from 85,450 in 2017, past reports said. 

Between 1989 and 2019, the Manitoba child poverty rate decreased by less than one percentage point, according to the latest report. In 1989, Manitoba had a child poverty rate of 29 per cent. 

The annual report is based on income tax data compiled by Statistics Canada, with 2019 being the latest data available. 

The data also shows that between 2016 and 2019, families with incomes below $25,000 actually saw their incomes drop, and that poverty rates rose in that time period after an initial decrease in 2016, the researchers say. 

That decrease was attributed to the introduction of the federal Canada child tax benefit and provincial rent assist programs, the report says. 

The group is worried the issue has escalated with the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling on the provincial government to revise its poverty reduction strategy immediately. 

3 of 5 highest poverty rates nationwide in Manitoba

The northern Manitoba federal riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski continues to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada, with the majority of children, or 64.4 per cent, living below the poverty line, the report says. 

The federal ridings of Winnipeg Centre and Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa are also among the five ridings with the country’s highest child poverty rates, at 39.6 per cent and 37.2 per cent respectively.

Among other recommendations, the report says the province should increase the minimum wage to $16.15 per hour, from the current $11.95, and increase employment and income assistance benefits to help people afford basic needs.

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