When Shelley Sauve’s youngest son was in Grade 5, he refused to tell his mother for weeks that his shoes no longer fit. It was his teacher who finally gave Sauve a heads-up.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2015 (2131 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Shelley Sauve’s youngest son was in Grade 5, he refused to tell his mother for weeks that his shoes no longer fit. It was his teacher who finally gave Sauve a heads-up.

"I bought shoes on sale at the end of the last season, and by the time school started, his feet had grown two sizes," said Sauve.

Winnipeg Harvest's David Northcott

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Harvest's David Northcott

The Christmas of 2013 was a particularly lean one and Sauve’s two boys didn’t ask for anything. They haven’t asked for much this year, either, because Sauve is back on employment insurance after she gave up a beloved part-time job as an educational assistant for a full-time gig as a grocery store manager that fell through.

"It’s so frustrating," said Sauve, a trained teacher who has spent years subbing and juggling education assistant jobs while trying to manage two autistic boys. "You have to give up your dreams. Then you think, ‘We’ll manage, we’ll be OK,’ and then something comes along and kicks the feet out from under you, and you land on your butt... The kids get worried. Kids get scared."

Sauve’s sons — Gary, 19 and Miguel, 13 — are among the roughly 84,350 Manitoba children living in poverty.

The latest annual child poverty report card, released Tuesday, shows nearly a third of Manitoba children are poor, the highest provincial rate of child poverty in Canada.

It’s a number that’s been stagnant for the last three years and on the rise over the long term.

In 2013, 29 per cent of Manitoba kids lived below Statistics Canada’s low-income measure. That’s a full 10 points higher than the national average and six points higher than in 1989.

"Manitoba children are failed both by the labour market, which leaves more of them in poverty than in any other province or territory, and by government income transfers, which lift fewer children out of poverty than in any other province or territory," wrote Winnipeg Harvest director David Northcott and University of Manitoba social work Prof. Sid Frankel. "Since 2009, Manitoba has had a poverty reduction strategy. Unfortunately, the rate of child poverty has been higher than in 2008 in every year since announcement of the All Aboard strategy."

Frankel said this is the 26th Manitoba Child and Family Poverty Report Card.

"I’m getting kind of tired and increasingly angry and upset about what we have to report," said Frankel at the report’s release at Freight House. "You might think governments might say there’s something that’s not working here."

In advance of April’s provincial election, Frankel and Northcott recommend a new poverty plan with hard targets. And they called for more social assistance to poor families, including doubling welfare’s "basic needs" allocation.

Frankel said Manitoba’s social assistance rates are so low they amount to "legislated poverty."

Frankel and Northcott also called on the Manitoba government to immediately raise the minimum wage to $15.53 per hour from $11, noting small, regular increases to the minimum wage in recent years haven’t decreased poverty or boosted the number of decent-paying, full-time jobs.

Frankel noted one reason for Manitoba’s sky-high child poverty rates is the plethora of temporary, part-time, low-wage work.

Tuesday’s child poverty report used the low income measure, one of three commonly used measures of poverty and the one used most frequently internationally. It pegs the poverty line at half of the median income, which is about $29,500 for a family such as Sauve’s with one parent and two children.

The Selinger government prefers to use the market-basket measure, another poverty rate indicator that better reflects the local cost of living.

Later this week, the province will release an annual update on its poverty reduction strategy, which is expected to show there were 4,000 fewer children living in poverty using the market-basket measure in 2012 than in 2013.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca