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Bowman urged to copy other mayors who work for poor

Coalition of organizations create report with recommendations on making change

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/5/2018 (698 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the lead-up to the municipal election, Winnipeg’s anti-poverty groups are calling on Mayor Brian Bowman to step up and champion the fight against poverty.

A coalition of 90 organizations Wednesday endorsed a report titled Winnipeg Without Poverty: calling on the City to Lead.

Activists Lorie English, (from left) Michael Barkman, Kirsten Bernas and Al Wiebe launch the report Wednesday. They say the city can do many things to make life easier for the poor. (Boris Minkevich / Free Press files)</p></p>

Activists Lorie English, (from left) Michael Barkman, Kirsten Bernas and Al Wiebe launch the report Wednesday. They say the city can do many things to make life easier for the poor. (Boris Minkevich / Free Press files)

It contains 50 recommendations for actions the City of Winnipeg could take toward reducing the number of its residents who live in poverty, which is estimated at 107,000.

"We ask our mayor to step up and lead," Lorie English, chairwoman of the Make Poverty History Manitoba’s city working group, told a crowd of close to 200 coalition members at the report’s launch.

Two years ago, she said she attended a national conference and learned that other cities, such as Edmonton and Calgary, have mayors who have championed the cause in setting municipal policies that target poverty reduction and pushing provincial and federal governments to do likewise.

"I left a little bit frustrated that I wasn’t seeing that in Winnipeg," English told the crowd at Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre.

Two years later, after reviewing poverty reduction reports and research, studying other jurisdictions, and consulting with community groups throughout the city, the Winnipeg group prepared a 60-page report that has 50 recommendations, including: provision of anti-racism training; job creation for low-income people; improvement of rooming houses; the offering of a low-income transit pass; and replacing the Winnipeg Police Board with a community safety board (for a stronger focus on crime prevention).

Poverty is a life-or-death situation for many, said Al Wiebe, a member of the coalition with lived experience. Wiebe, a diabetic, said he nearly died in September from a heart attack linked to not being able to afford the healthy diet recommended by his doctor.

"I’m one of the casualties of poverty," said Wiebe, who would like Bowman to be a champion for reducing its prevalence.

"You can’t raise the minimum wage, but you can lower transit rates for those living in poverty," Wiebe said.

"The city has the power to develop training programs and give those people jobs at a fair and equitable wage. It has the power to engage a task force to attack poverty and reduce its effects."

If Bowman truly is committed to his stated goal of reconciliation with Winnipeg’s Indigenous community, he should take charge of a poverty reduction action plan, said Kirsten Bernas of the Right to Housing Coalition.

Close to 35 per cent of Winnipeg’s Indigenous community lives in poverty, compared to 14 per cent of non-Indigenous Winnipeggers, according to the coalition.

"He’s yet to make a connection between reconciliation and poverty reduction," Bernas said of the mayor. "Reconciliation is going to require closing the gap."

Bowman said he was open to ideas.

"We have been taking some pretty substantive steps to dealing with reconciliation, to dealing with economic development, as well as poverty reduction," the mayor told reporters Wednesday.

"There’s always more to do, and we’re going to do that by doing what we do best in Winnipeg, and that’s by listening and collaborating."

He encouraged more Winnipeggers to sign on to the Indigenous accord he introduced in 2016, committing local organizations to reconciliation efforts. He said he has been working on poverty reduction at the federal level with other Canadian mayors — including Calgary’s and Edmonton’s.

"We’ve not only lobbied, but successfully delivered results when it comes to affordable housing at the national level," Bowman said.

"Mitigating and reducing poverty is something that is going to take a long-term effort. It’s going to involve a number of organizations and orders of government."

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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Updated on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 10:06 AM CDT: Typo in cutline fixed.

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