MANITOBA Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has provided a boost to anti-poverty advocates who have long lobbied for an increase in the social assistance housing allowance.
On Monday, he called a news conference to admonish the NDP for failing to boost the basic rental allowance for Employment and Income Assistance recipients during its time in office.
He vowed that, if elected, he would peg the rental allowance at 75 per cent of the median market rent in Winnipeg. It means a single person on welfare would receive an estimated $375 to $385 a month for rent instead of the current $285.
Pallister describes himself as an "unapologetic fiscal conservative," but he said there are plenty of other places the government could cut costs to be able to afford the $18 million it would take to meet the new target he's suggesting.
Pallister's proposal is identical to the one being proposed by the coalition Make Poverty History Manitoba. Some 150 groups, representing anti-poverty activists and business leaders alike, have supported the coalition's call to boost the welfare allowance.
"I think it's fantastic," Brendan Reimer, a spokesman for the coalition, said in reaction to Pallister's stance. He said he hoped Opposition support for the cause would help spur the government to act.
Government officials said Monday the NDP has made several targeted improvements to social assistance. "A family with two kids ages 4 and 6 receive $1,909 a month now. That's an increase of $621 per month, or 48 per cent, compared to the $1,288 they received in 1999," a government spokeswoman said in an email.