Back in October 2018, community builders, advocates, and activists from across Manitoba joined together for the annual Manitoba Gathering of Community Builders, hosted by the Canadian CED Network at St John’s High School in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End. The theme of the Gathering this year was The Edge of Change. Plenary panelists Elder May Louise Campbell, Abdikheir Ahmed, and Uzoma Asagwara, along with moderator Molly Dunbar started our day exploring this concept.
The Gathering is a large event that brings together over 500 people from a range of sectors - focused on meaningfully strengthening our communities. Since my first time attending in 2012, I have heard many people refer to the Gathering as being like a family reunion. This is a sentiment I absolutely agree with. A diverse family, certainly, but one united with a vision that is hopeful and resolute, while tempered with understanding the interrelated crises of poverty, housing, addictions, employment, oppression, and more. After an hour of deep, critical, and crucial conversation, the panelists finished off by offering a single idea for this “family” to take with them. We heard “solidarity”, “vote”, “bolder” and while not one word: “We the people, we find our voices, and start speaking out … use our spirit to change the world”. The panelists helped bridge movements and reminded us of the solutions and wisdom that exists in our communities, effortlessly connecting the past, the present, and the edge of change where we find ourselves.
A few weeks later, I found myself at the State of the Province address with CCEDNet Regional Director Sarah Leeson-Klym. The State of the Province is also an important community event, hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and attended by over 1000 community and business leaders. Here, we heard from Premier Brian Pallister about his vision for Manitoba. Economic development in key industries and work were top on his agenda. He reaffirmed his assertion that the resulting GDP growth and reduction in government deficits and spending will lead to a ‘better Manitoba tomorrow’. While the speech was certainly positive in tone, it felt distinctly different than the community vision I saw at the Gathering that works directly on some of the key economic and social challenges we see on the streets of Winnipeg and across Manitoba communities.
On November 28, members of the Canadian CED Network - dedicated community developers, advocates, and activists - came together to democratically decide the policy mandate of our Network. For me, the policy mandate emerges as a bridge between these two worlds - community members on the edge of change at the Gathering and a provincial government prioritizing economic development and work. Our Network’s policy mandate makes no bones about the challenges our province faces, while asserting proactive and innovative ideas for economic and social development that are sustainable and inclusive, all while resisting the idea that reduced government spending in key areas will lead to prosperity. Despite the juxtaposition of these community events, it is clear that in Manitoba, the power of communities working in solidarity, working boldly, working to change the world, with solutions at the ready is abundant.
With multiple strategies at both the federal and provincial level being developed or implemented and the release of several recent provincial statements that give us more information about the government’s priorities (not to mention this being my first fall with CCEDNet), this is an apt time to take stock of our mandate as we face the edge of change in our governments . The following thorough (but potentially not comprehensive) analysis will focus on the state of CED within the provincial government context, although there are of course many instances where intergovernmental relationships are essential. To do this, we’ve compared our mandate against the newly shuffled Cabinet Minister Mandate Letters, the November 20th Speech from the Throne, the recently released Economic Growth Action Plan, and the December 6th State of the Province address by Premier Brian Pallister.
Foremost among the provincial government’s announcements this season has been a focus on economic development and employment. The Economic Growth Action Plan establishes regional and strategic partners to help deliver the economic development strategy. All Ministers in their mandate letters are tasked with “implementing our economic development strategy”. At the same time, the provincial throne speech set out a course to have “more employable Manitobans … transition from welfare into the workforce”. A general summary includes the primacy of economic growth, a need for fiscal restraint, and a belief that an improved Manitoba is one where more people are working overall.
This government also maintains its interest in measuring success using a variety of barometers, including Social Return on Investment, and showing particular interest in comparison against other provinces.The focus tends to be on improvement, regardless of the measure or the focus.
We know many members find alignment and common thinking with elements of these priorities. The community understands the value of meaningful work in local enterprises with wrap-around supports as a key way of ending poverty and spurring local economic development. Certainly government systems working effectively for community members is key. Measuring our progress to know that our interventions and enterprises are working is essential. But, overall, the development strategy for Manitoba feels like ‘growth for the sake of growth’, without taking into account social equity, the pressing need to address climate change, and sustainable economic growth for all Manitobans. Economic development in Manitoba should benefit all Manitobans, including those unable to participate in the mainstream labour market, and keep future generations in mind.
The economic development plan, as well as movement toward transitioning from “welfare into the workforce”, presents an opportunity for members to forward our Community Economic Development vision, detailed in the Network’s Manitoba policy mandate. When our mandate is taken together, it offers a cohesive vision of community-led, inclusive, and sustainable economic development that aligns with government priorities. It commits deeply to prosperity for all, taking care of all community members, valuing social equity and environmental sustainability, as well as community leadership and ownership. The sections following offer a deeper analysis of some thematic areas that are a key part of our Network’s holistic mandate.
With a throne speech, economic development strategy, and new mandate letters under our belts, indeed Manitoba is on ‘the edge of change’. How we stimulate economic growth to benefit all Manitobans, now and in the future, presents a key question for community developers, advocates, and the government itself. I believe the government will have an easier time measuring success and achieving positive outcomes in our province through enacting the community agenda found in the Canadian CED Network’s policy mandate, and in the ideas and vision of the community assembled at the Gathering.
Click on the links below to find more information about key Canadian CED Network member priorities. Watch in 2019 for a new annual report designed to more clearly articulate our Network’s vision for a Manitoba where there is inclusive, sustainable, and equitable prosperity for all. In the meantime, visit our Manitoba Policy Page to find all our current policy resolutions. Find the Provincial Throne Speech in full here. The Ministerial Mandate letters here. The Economic Growth Action plan here.
Accessibility and inclusion for Manitobans with disabilities are essential for full participation in the economy and to create thriving, strong communities. The Manitoba Legislature passed the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act in December 2013 by an unanimous vote of all MLAs. The Act provides a comprehensive platform toward prevention and removal of barriers.
Enshrined in the legislation is a four-year review of the Act, which according to the Throne Speech, is nearing completion. The Network has supported community-led contributions to the government review. Only one of five promised accessibility standards, the Customer Service Standard, has been in force after almost five years of implementation. The pending Accessible Built Environment Standard will likely not consider buildings, but rather focus on areas outside the Building Code. Many of the date targets for progress on the accessibility standards set out by the province have been missed.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Families):
“Completing the review and implementation of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act to ensure its effectiveness in removing barriers to Manitobans with disabilities.”
Barrier Free Manitoba will continue its advocacy for timely and effective implementation of the AMA, and members are encouraged to support and lend solidarity to the movement through BFM. CCEDNet staff will also be examining our own practices of accessibility in 2019, hoping to create inclusive programming and welcoming space for all Manitobans, and encourage our members and partners to do the same.
Community-led social and economic development is a pillar of CED and stronger communities. Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations are found across Manitoba in urban and rural communities, characterized by high levels of poverty, and a number of other factors associated with older neighbourhoods and municipalities in need of revitalization. NRCs have collectively engaged 560,000 community members - nearly half the population of Manitoba, while achieving a high economic impact through employment, housing, and community safety.
The province acknowledged the contributions of the non-profit and community-led development sector in the throne speech. The government is “determined to sustain and strengthen [the non-profit] sector”. Details are not yet clear save for the streamlining of provincial financing to “better address community needs, reduce red tape, and leverage matching funds”. CCEDNet’s Policy Resolution 2018-4 is a framework for community-led development and strengthening the non-profit sector, while 2019-2 on NRCs provides a more detailed framework for funding of Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations.
The Throne Speech acknowledged that “regional approaches to development help reduce duplication and make better use of municipal and provincial resources”. Members agree that responses to complex community challenges are most effective and sustainable when community-led. The provincial government ought to further consult the non-profit and community-led development sector on implementing their vision going forward.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Municipal Relations):
“Renewing the delivery of our community development programs to ensure to promote community capacity and sustainability, focus on outcomes, and enhanced community partnerships that best serve the needs of neighbourhoods, communities, and vulnerable Manitobans.”
“Establishing a single point of access for grant applications across government, which will reduce red tape for the non-profit sector.”
CCEDNet and relevant members will be following up to understand the scope of program renewal and advocate for strongly community-led development, funded with stable, long-term, and flexible investments.
There are more than 400 cooperatives, credit unions, and caisses populaires in Manitoba, comprising of over 900,000 memberships and more than $22 billion in assets. Cooperatives create economic democracy, root ownership locally, distribute profit equitably, and contribute to sustainable economic development and job growth across the province. Supporting and strengthening the cooperative sector should be a key element of any economic development or jobs plan.
There was no mention of cooperatives in the Throne Speech this fall, meaning no response to the clear call from the sector for partnership on mobilizing existing and developing new resources. At a minimum, our Network urges the province to fill the vacant co-op developer position within the Cooperative Development Services branch of Growth, Enterprise & Trade and return grants provided to third party not-for-profit business and enterprise support services to 2016/17 levels.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Growth, Enterprise & Trade):
“Completing and delivering our economic development strategy, including Look North”
“Working with the Premier’s Enterprise Team to create new jobs and economic growth in the province”
Members are encouraged to support the collaborative efforts of the Manitoba Cooperative Association in strengthening the co-op sector across the province.
Climate Change is a defining issue of our time, imposing high and escalating costs on society over the coming decades. Manitoba is not yet reducing emissions, with greenhouse gas emission approximately 15% higher today than they were in 1990. Addressing climate change through community-owned green energy projects presents an alternative that also meets social and economic development goals. This should be an essential part of Manitoba’s Climate and Green Plan, and offer the path toward transitioning to a sustainable, green, and just economy.
The Throne Speech had little mention of the issue of climate change. The Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan is “an important part of our province’s economic strategy”. While some programs and projects to reduce emissions have commenced, little investment in transitioning to a green economy has started, and the province did not mention investing in community-owned renewable energy projects.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Sustainable Development):
“Work with the federal government and other jurisdictions as we develop a made-in-Manitoba climate action plan containing the following elements:
-Carbon pricing that fosters emissions reduction, keeps investment capital here and stimulates new innovation in clean energy, businesses and jobs.
-Land-use and conservation measures that sequester carbon and foster adaptation to climate change.
-Reduce emissions from commercial buildings through building codes and other measures putting government operations and infrastructure on a path to carbon-neutrality.
-Encourage the adoption of fuel saving technologies and measures within the transportation sector.”
The Network will work toward addressing negative impacts of hydro development through Wa Ni Ska Tan: An Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities, as well as transitioning to a more sustainable future through environmental and socially-focused non-profits, social enterprises, and cooperatives. A key point of advocacy is how action towards more energy efficient homes and buildings, as well as major reductions in organic waste at landfill, can happen through social enterprises that not only make environmental impact, but also create local jobs for a wide range of job seekers. Our Network asserts that partnership with community economic development initiatives can create major value for money in this area.
Many Manitobans continue to experience an affordable housing crisis. Far too many households spend 50% or more of their income on rent, putting them at significant risk of losing their housing, their health, and their spirit. Affordable housing is a key piece of neighbourhood renewal, and a necessary foundation for economic development, accessing a good job, and family stabilization.
The Throne Speech pointed to “the need for a flexible approach that delivers cost-effective housing programs that can better meet local housing needs”. Gaps in housing options for marginalized Manitobans with unique housing needs were identified. At the same time, the province has not committed to new housing units, and has sold off some social housing units. As well, the deductible under Rent Assist for low-income Manitobans in private housing not on social assistance rose to 30 percent of their income from 28 percent. Rent Assist recipients on social assistance got a small increase in benefits.
The provincial government intends to work with the federal government on a renewal framework for housing needs. In April 2018, the province signed onto a Multilateral Housing Partnership Framework. It remains to be seen if budgetary commitments will be made to match federal funding.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Families):
“Reviewing our public housing programs to look for ways to get better value for the money we spend providing needed shelter for low income Manitobans”
The Right to Housing Coalition is a key group supported by the Network to champion affordable and social housing policy at all three levels of government. Key to watch will be how the provincial government partners with the federal government on leveraging funds within the National Housing Strategy.
A comprehensive and integrated approach must be taken to effectively address the multiple and inter-related causes of poverty and social exclusion. Tackling poverty through a whole of government approach, co-constructed and carried out in partnership with community, is an essential part of a CED agenda.
A plan for a renewed provincial poverty reduction strategy was not mentioned in the throne speech. The government indicated a key part of their work on poverty reduction will be working to transition employable Manitobans from welfare into the workforce. The province should look to successful workforce integration social enterprise models for success within the community for this priority, among other key community-led training programs and initiatives that reduce poverty through meaningful, supported, and culturally appropriate training and job opportunities for Manitobans.
The government intends to create a new approach to assessments of employable Manitobans on employment and income assistance, featuring “more timely and holistic assessments, based on more accurate data as to individual need, and more rapid connections to support to rejoin the workforce sooner”.
Accessing birth certificates and other documents through the Vital Statistics Agency remains a challenge for low-income Manitobans due to cost and administrative burden, and the government intends to “implement changes that will connect individuals with to the agency directly, instead of through third-party vendors”. In implementing change to Vital Statistics, the government should waive fees on birth certificates for low-income Manitobans, and provide more support for those released from incarceration or youth who are leaving care.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Families):
“Working with your colleagues to release an updated strategy to reduce poverty in Manitoba”
The Make Poverty History Manitoba coalition continues to be a leading community movement and voice on poverty reduction priorities, including calling for a renewed provincial poverty reduction strategy. Members should stay tuned for a strategy release in the coming months. As well, MPHM’s Livable Basic Needs Benefit campaign presents an opportunity for a new approach to EIA, including movement away from the welfare wall that often adds another barrier in the effort to link Manitobans to meaningful employment.
Social Enterprises, with a social, economic, and environmental triple bottom line, offer a tested alternative to homelessness, poverty, and social exclusion for marginalized people, including low-income Manitobans, individuals who have been in the Child and Family Services care, and many others. The Manitoba government has already been successfully partnering with social enterprises by purchasing renovation and maintenance services for Manitoba Housing, showing a well-defined community benefit. We’ve been pleased to see this practise maintained through this government’s mandate and suggest that there are many more opportunities present to increase procurement from social enterprises within various departments and institutions.
While social enterprises were not mentioned directly, many key social or economic issues that local social enterprises are trying to address are, including reducing recidivism rates, reducing the number of children in care, and supporting economic development for all Manitobans.
The government committed to “modernizing its procurement practices”, including that “evidence-based decision making will be applied in order to shop smarter on behalf of Manitobans”. The government ought to further investigate procurement through social enterprise to meet their defined targets, including through all government departments and institutions, as well as instituting community employment benefits in infrastructure projects funded through federal-provincial agreements.
The government also argued that education and training can “transform our province … to meet the challenges of the global economy today and in the future”. Workforce integration social enterprises and businesses have the tools to offer supportive training environments, reach social and environmental goals, and spur economic development for Manitoba.
Mandate Letters (Minister of Education & Training):
“Ensuring our apprenticeship program provides access to training, supports and certification of skilled workers to help meet the needs of Manitoba industry”
“Working with your colleague, the Minister of Families, to reduce the number of employable Manitobans on welfare and instead connect them with training and job opportunities”
New opportunities for social enterprise are arising constantly. CCEDNet and its former Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy partners will be urging the Province to leverage every opportunity for growing this innovative sector. This will include fully engaging with the new Community Employment Benefits reporting requirement for federally funded infrastructure projects as well as continuing to deepen the Manitoba Housing experience and exploring its replication across government. We will also continue to assert the potential of social enterprise in the Look North strategy. As well, it will be crucial to engage with the implementation of the federal Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy including the proposed investment of over 50 million dollars for readiness and 700 million dollars for investment in socially innovative initiatives.
Gaps, challenges, and opportunities exists in financing the social economy in Manitoba, which includes non-profits, cooperatives, and social enterprises. Access to the appropriate capital and financing is essential to the sustainability of any organization. The Province of Manitoba can play a role as a market enabler and developer, and can co-design policy and models with community stakeholders to ensure investments and policy target strategic priorities and provide for a fair sharing of risk and return. Although the Province is exploring the Social Impact Bond model, they have also defunded the Cooperative Development Tax Credit, and haven’t improved the CED Tax Credit model. At the same time, new opportunity is on the horizon with the Federal government’s expected Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy.
Many social financing and tax credit tools are not specifically mentioned in the Throne Speech, save for reviewing of tax increment financing process, with a new process being launched in December 2018. The government ought to work with the Winnipeg Social Finance Working Group on knowledge sharing, information, and resources toward better social finance success throughout the province. The federal government announced a $755-million Social Finance Fund in its fall fiscal update that the provincial government ought to tap into.
As well, the government should increase the grants provided to third party not-for-profit business and enterprise support services to 2016/17 levels so that low-income and rural Manitobans can receive robust and timely access to accessible business, cooperative, and enterprise development training and consulting supports.
Mandate Letter (Minister of Families):
“Enhancing the services you and your Cabinet colleagues provide throughout government with innovative business, social and community partnerships financed by Social Impact Bonds”
Mandate Letter (Minister of Municipal Relations):
“Implementing a new, transparent framework for Tax Increment Financing that reduces risk and liability for Manitoba taxpayers and advances economic development”
Much of the focus on social finance will likely be directed at the federal government’s proposed investment. With $50 million included for readiness, CCEDNet and our partners will be suggesting the Province leverage whatever is allocated to our region so we can ensure local social enterprises can benefit fully. We’ll be continuing our collaboratively offered social enterprise development services and looking at ways to more deeply focus on financial and operational readiness for investment. We’ll also be watching the rollout of the first Social Impact Bond, considering how their model may leverage new resources but also whether it integrates learning about the potential pitfalls of SIBs so we can better advocate for models our members support going forward.
Michael Barkman is the CCEDNet Manitoba Public Policy Coordinator. He is a life-long Winnipegger, based in Treaty 1 Territory. Michael cares deeply about social, economic, and environmental justice, and believes in collective movements and solutions rooted in the knowledge of local communities. At CCEDNet, Michael’s role focuses on membership policy resolution and taking action to advocate to the provincial and local government for positive policy change. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Winnipeg and is the current Chair for the Make Poverty History Manitoba coalition.
He has participated and collaborated on numerous community events and actions for public education, anti-poverty and economic justice, LGBTTQ* rights, and the environment. He served previously as the Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students - Manitoba, and the Interim Executive Director of the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, working on wide-ranging policy areas in public policy, human rights, and community development. In his spare time, he is an improviser, sometimes combining his love of the arts with social justice initiatives.
You can reach Michael at: m.barkman at ccednet-rcdec.ca | 204.943.0547