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Manitoba worst province in Canada for child poverty: report

An annual report has found that Manitoba remains the worst province for child poverty in the country.

At 20.68 per cent, Manitoba has the worst childhood poverty rate of any province, 7.21 per cent higher than the national average.

"This means that 64,670 Manitoba children are poor. That is 13,357 more than the entire population of Brandon," said Sid Frankel, a member of Campaign 2000 and the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba.

The statistics are in a new report by Campaign 2000. It used tax data from 2020, the most recently available numbers, to look at family and child poverty.

It found the overall poverty rate decreased substantially in 2020 but finds it's due almost entirely to federal COVID-19 aid.

"CERB is a great example of how governments can work together to successfully end child poverty. And if we can do it in a pandemic, we should be able to do it today," said Michael Redhead Champagne, a poverty advocate.

The report found those experiencing child poverty are at a higher risk for negative health outcomes like pre-term birth, child mortality, dental extraction surgery and suicide.

The report also found children facing poverty are far more likely to experience poor educational outcomes, an issue the Manitoba Child Care Association says starts with a lack of access to early education.

"That foundation is birth to age five, and there're so many families and children that aren't getting that support," said Kisa MacIsaac from the MCCA.

Minister of Families Rochelle Squires said reducing poverty is a focus for the government.

"And that's something that we are certainly committed to. You'll see many investments in budget 2023 that will help Manitoba families and will help pull children out of poverty," she said.

The report looked at the province's Family Affordability Package released in August last year - which included $63 million to provide families with a net income of less than $175,000, $250 dollars for their first child and $200 for every other subsequent child.

The report found the package reduced poverty by just 2.6 per cent.

It said if the province spent the same amount but delivered it to just those below the median family income, it could have reduced poverty by 9.74 per cent.

Squires said the province is looking at more targeted initiatives like raising the minimum wage and the general assistance rate.

"We know that the solutions are there. The resources are available. We're just not targeting them well, and as a result, children are falling through the cracks," said Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

The report gives three pages of recommendations.

The biggest one - is to end family poverty in Manitoba in the 2023-2024 budget. To achieve the goal, it said Manitoba must use federal and provincial transfers to bring all families above the census family low-income measure.

Other recommendations are broken down into eight categories: employment support, income support, health, early learning and child care, housing, transit, older youth-specific and measurement.

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