WINNIPEG — A child poverty report card says an increasing number of children live in poverty in Canada, but no where is the problem more desperate than in Manitoba.
The report by Campaign 2000 said almost one in five children across the country lives below the poverty line. That number is one in three children in Manitoba.
Sid Frankel, one of the report’s authors and a professor of social work at the University of Manitoba, said more children in Manitoba are slipping into poverty despite a provincial strategy introduced in 2009.
Their parents tend to have low-paying, precarious jobs and don’t get enough tax breaks to lift them out of poverty like they do in other provinces like Quebec, he said.
“Manitoba children are at a kind of double jeopardy,” Frankel said.
The report card found child poverty has increased since federal politicians committed to eliminate it in 1989. The national poverty rate has jumped by 20 per cent since then while it has increased by 26 per cent in Manitoba.
The report found 40 per cent of indigenous children live in poverty while one in seven of those sleeping in homeless shelters are children.
Children who live in poverty often go hungry, live in poor housing and don’t have the supplies they need to attend school or participate in sports, Frankel said. Study after study has shown living in poverty is a major determinant of health, he added.
“The typical child living in poverty is living far below the poverty line,” Frankel said. “We think this is pretty serious.”
The report is calling on the Manitoba and federal governments to make specific child poverty reduction targets, improve the number of well-paying, steady jobs while increasing affordable housing. The report also calls for the immediate boosting of the minimum wage to $15.53 an hour and a national childcare program.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the report only looks at income and not how far that income can go.
“How much you pay for something in Brussels is quite different than how much you pay for something in Winnipeg,” he said. “But whatever measure we have, we want people to be living less in poverty.”
The province is boosting rent-assist programs, building more affordable housing and has committed to increase the minimum wage every year, Selinger said. The province will not increase the minimum wage to $15.53 immediately as suggested, he said.
The minimum wage is currently $11 per hour.
“A minimum wage that’s very high at a time when jobs are shrinking is not really that helpful,” Selinger said. “A minimum wage that continues to go up and allows people to live outside of poverty while we create good jobs is the way to go.”