Premier asked to hike social assistance

Multi-faith postcard drive requests more for vulnerable Manitobans

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What kind of Thanksgiving dinner can you afford to make with $3.96?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/10/2016 (2190 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What kind of Thanksgiving dinner can you afford to make with $3.96?

“Not much,” said Laura Shields. “I can’t afford a turkey,” said the 61-year-old with a disability. She was shivering outside the legislature Friday morning with a group that’s asking the province to increase the $3.96 social assistance allots for individuals’ daily basic needs including food.

Shields is featured in a multifaith Hunger Free Manitoba postcard campaign asking Premier Brian Pallister to increase the basic-needs allowance for the most vulnerable living in the deepest poverty. Representatives of the Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Unitarian traditions accompanied Shields to the legislature to deliver more than 300 postcards to the premier.

CAROL SANDERS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Laura Shields (left) and Manitoba Buddhist Temple’s Tanis Moore, holding what Shields could buy with her daily $3.96 from social assistance — a can of beans and a bag of coleslaw.

Every Friday throughout October, they’ll visit the legislature to deliver more postcards to the premier, said Lynda Trono, community minister at West Broadway Community Ministry.

The province has not increased the basic-needs allowance since 2004. If the $3.96 amount kept pace with inflation it would be worth $4.86 today, a 23 per cent increase, the Bank of Canada interest calculator indicates.

“It barely covers a coffee and a doughnut,” said Idris Elbakri, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association.

To show what $3.96 a day for basic needs including food looks like, Manitoba Buddhist Temple lay leader Tanis Moore shopped at a grocery store in West Broadway. She was able to purchase a can of beans and a bag of coleslaw for $3.68. It’s not exactly a healthy, balanced diet, and there was very little left for any other basic needs to be met, she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford bus fare,” Moore said.

To have enough to eat, Shields said she uses food banks and visits a lunch program where she volunteers. Hunger Free Manitoba estimates 63,000 Manitobans are on employment and income assistance.

One-third of those are on disability and not able to work. Another third are single parents who are caring for their children.

The final third are those who, for a variety of reasons, find it difficult to obtain or hold a job, it says.

No one in Manitoba should go hungry or have to rely on charity and handouts, said Thomas Novak, an Oblate brother whose ministry supports and advocates for migrant workers and social justice issues. Forcing Manitobans to scramble for enough food to eat every day isn’t doing them or society any favours, he said.

“That’s when you get social problems,” said Novak. People with a decent standard of living are healthier, happier and less likely to end up in trouble, he said.

“They’re feeling better about themselves,” said Novak, who pointed to the beneficial outcomes of the guaranteed income experiment in Manitoba 40 years ago. The Manitoba basic annual income experiment — Mincome — was implemented in Dauphin, Winnipeg and some rural communities in Manitoba in the 1970s. Researchers found high school graduation rates increased and emergency room visits decreased.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, Hunger Free Manitoba didn’t think it was asking for too much from the province.

“We’re taking a moral stand as people of faith so that every Manitoban has food on the table,” Elbakri said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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