April 19, 2019

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Funds won't allow for quick fix: Carr

Long-standing issues will be dealt with at a pace the economy can support, minister says

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>MP Jim Carr is hopeful the Liberal’s anti-poverty strategies will have a real impact.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

MP Jim Carr is hopeful the Liberal’s anti-poverty strategies will have a real impact.

OTTAWA — Manitoba’s federal cabinet minister says his government understands many of its investments will only chip away at long-standing issues that affect Winnipeg.

“Though we may all want to be in a big hurry, and get to the finish line fast, we can’t always afford it. So we have to choose the pace that the economy and public opinion can support,” International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said.

The federal budget, unveiled last week, includes spending on various programs, from air ambulances to high-speed internet to skills training. Many will only kick in after the October election, while some aim to partially alleviate issues such as poverty, costly drugs and the shortage of affordable housing.

“There are always people who think that you’re going too fast, too far. There are those who think you’re not going fast enough or far enough,” Carr said.

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OTTAWA — Manitoba’s federal cabinet minister says his government understands many of its investments will only chip away at long-standing issues that affect Winnipeg.

"Though we may all want to be in a big hurry, and get to the finish line fast, we can’t always afford it. So we have to choose the pace that the economy and public opinion can support," International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said.

The federal budget, unveiled last week, includes spending on various programs, from air ambulances to high-speed internet to skills training. Many will only kick in after the October election, while some aim to partially alleviate issues such as poverty, costly drugs and the shortage of affordable housing.

"There are always people who think that you’re going too fast, too far. There are those who think you’re not going fast enough or far enough," Carr said.

He said pacing came up numerous times in a recent town hall with his constituents in Winnipeg South Centre.

"These are balancing decisions that governments have to take, because you have to be able to put the importance of an issue against your capacity to resource it properly," the MP said, giving the example of pharmacare.

The budget commits to the federal government negotiating drug prices, instead of the provinces, and harmonizing the list of drugs that are covered.

The government has hinted it may top up insurance schemes rather than usher in universal prescription drug coverage.

"The government says in this budget that it sees the need; it sees the importance and it is taking the first steps," Carr said.

The Liberals will wait for an expert panel to issue a report about drug coverage this summer before rolling out their full plan.

That’s not good enough for Winnipeg NDP MP Daniel Blaikie, who argues the issue has been studied thoroughly and is popular with Canadians.

"They tend to assume that once they’ve talked about a problem and made a flashy announcement that somehow the problem is solved," Blaikie said.

Carr spent last week touting a one-time doubling of the federal gas tax — a long-standing levy collected at the pumps — for cities so they can maintain roads and transit. In Winnipeg’s case, it amounts to $43 million. Ottawa has also put up $1 billion for municipalities to undertake environmental retrofits.

Blaikie dismissed this as "a flashy announcement in the lead-up to the election," instead of making direct spending to cities a regular policy.

"What the Liberals have come up with is an end-of-year bonus, as opposed to a salary increase," he said. "It’s really nothing to brag about."

Last week’s budget aims to improve the plight of Indigenous people who live in cities through upgrades to friendship centres and possibly places such as Thunderbird House. But it did not renew funding for programs such as the volunteer Bear Clan Patrol or after-school mentorship.

Carr said he’s hopeful that the government’s anti-poverty and housing strategies for all of society will have a real impact in the lives of such families. He noted the massive Canada Child Benefit has resulted in poverty decreasing in places such as Winnipeg’s North End, and that a federal reform of child welfare is underway.

"We’re meeting the demand as fast as we can, through a wide section of issues," he said. "It’s having an important impact in Indigenous communities in the cities.

"It’s a question of pacing, and some think we should be going faster. I think many Canadians will see that the road to reconciliation has been further travelled with this government than at any other time in Canada’s history."

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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