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In 2016, Brian Pallister Said Poverty Is His ‘Number One Issue’. In 2019, He Didn’t Show Up to a Debate on Poverty.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Pallister government’s cuts to programs that fight poverty

August 26, 2019

Manitoba PC leader Brian Pallister failed to show up to a leaders’ debate on poverty last week organized by anti-poverty groups.

That’s quite the turn of events from 2016 when Pallister declared during a leaders’ debate that “poverty” is “the number one issue for us in this province.”

“We’d given them every opportunity to send a representative, the other parties were able to, debate organizer Josh Brandon told PressProgress.

“It certainly was disappointing that they didn’t,” Brandon added, noting that after declaring that “ending poverty would be a top priority, Pallister has demonstrated “it’s such a low priority, he doesn’t even attend a debate or send a representative.

Since 2016 there have been cuts each year,” he said. No new social housing units were authorized for construction. And at the same time we’ve lost social housing units. We’ve seen a net decline over the past several years and the need increased.

Brandon also noted that for three years straight, the Pallister government has cut social assistance programs and food bank use has risen.

For example, according to Food Banks Canada’s hunger report, Manitoba food bank visits totaled 61,915 in 2016. By 2018, they increased by more than 10% to 68,920.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and revisit the Pallister government’s cuts to Manitoba’s social safety net:


An estimated 150 households cut off from receiving Rent Assist.

Deductible for non Employment Income Assistance (EIA) Rent Assist jumped from 25% to 28% of income.

$150 million slashed from the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation (MHRC), the government body responsible for building affordable housing and maintaining the existing stock.


The deductible further increased to 30% of income, costing some families using the program nearly $200/month. Single full time minimum wage workers lost an estimated $112.92/ month, while a family of two parents and 3 children at the poverty line lost an estimated $190.30/month.

Another 150 Manitobans cut from the program.

$11 million slashed from the MHRC.

Rental Housing Construction Tax Credit eliminated, which was brought in to incentivize construction of affordable units.


Rent Assist Benefits frozen indefinitely for singles under 55. Increases indexed to inflation were halted, and individuals in this category lost a scheduled increase of $27/month.

Job Seeker’s Allowance cancelled, costing a further $25/ month for welfare recipients.

During the 2016 campaign, however, Pallister insisted he can “appreciate the reality that many Manitobans face” because “I grew up poor” ⁠— although he later admitted “we weren’t poor.”

In fact, he now spends a good deal of his time at his Costa Rican luxury villa.



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