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Provincial debate looks at how parties plan to tackle poverty in Manitoba

From left to right, Dougald Lamont, Nahanni Fontaine, Janine Gibson and Rick Shone, sit at a provincial debate. The topic was focused on poverty, hunger and homelessness. (Sept. 12, 2023. Source: Devon McKendrick/CTV News) From left to right, Dougald Lamont, Nahanni Fontaine, Janine Gibson and Rick Shone, sit at a provincial debate. The topic was focused on poverty, hunger and homelessness. (Sept. 12, 2023. Source: Devon McKendrick/CTV News)

Another provincial debate was held in Winnipeg Tuesday, as the province inches closer to the Oct. 3 election.

Four parties were all represented at the evening event – Nahanni Fontaine with the NDP, Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Green Party Leader Janine Gibson and Progressive Conservative candidate Rick Shone

Make Poverty History Manitoba was the host of the debate and the candidates were asked about how their parties plan to address poverty in Manitoba.

All representatives agreed that poverty is a strong talking point ahead of election day and it's a situation they all want to see improve in the province, however, each believes there are different ways of fixing the problem.

The first question of the evening was focused on social housing and how the party plans to create new and protect existing housing supply.

Fontaine said this is an all-hands-on-deck approach and the NDP is elected is prepared to work with the federal government, as well as organizations and people on the front line to get the job done.

"We will establish a ministerial approval process to provide oversight over non-profit housing so that we don't get in a situation like we saw at Lions Place," said Fontaine. "We will introduce a $700 tax credit to make rent more affordable, we will maintain our social housing, we will establish more social and affordable housing for Manitobans."

Gibson said the Green Party would work to support the creation of 10,000 units so those needing social housing don't wait so long, and she called for more transparency for those on waiting lists.

"We also need the housing support workers to help get the right people into the right housing situations," she said. We think not only do we have to address this lack of appropriate housing, but we need to make sure that women and children are housed in emergency situations when they're subjected to domestic violence."

She also would like for there to be more housing, not just in large urban areas, but throughout the province.

For Shone and the PCs, one of the steps is making sure the housing that is available now is up to par for people, saying money needs to be spent on refurbishing, maintaining and rebuilding properties.

"We have a homeless strategy right now, it is $126 million to shift efforts from managing (homelessness) to ending (homelessness), truly ending homelessness. It was launched earlier than planned because of the urgency of homelessness," said Shone.

Lamont said his party would overhaul the rental tenancies branch so that it wasn't just a rubber stamp to evicting people and there could be an appeal process for tenants when there is a large jump in rent.

"We've also committed to the same date housing strategy. We can't do it overnight, but that's what we need to aim for. Currently, in Manitoba, when you're homeless, you have to be chronically homeless for six months to be able to have to be housed. That can be a very, very cold six months," said Lamont.

The candidates were also asked if their parties would commit to raising the basic needs budget of Employment and Income Assistance (EIA).

When asked in a, 'yes' or 'no' format, both Fontaine and Shone held up no to the question.

"We're committed to supporting folks that are on EIA. What does that look like right now? Right now, our commitments are universal meal programs for children, its supporting individuals with mental health and addiction services. It's supporting folks to access more affordable social housing. The reality is that we're not going to be able to have a full understanding of what's going on and what the PCs have done in the last seven years," said Fontaine

Shone said EIA is something that needs to evolve.

"We need to evolve by using tools to assess how everybody gets their income. So these types of tools would us to individualize support plans tailored to each person's complex needs," said Shone.

Lamont said EIA needs to change as people on the bottom end of the scale are only getting pennies and supports haven't changed in 35 years.

"It's really about making sure the people at the top pay more and making sure the people who really need it, get what they need. That's the opposite of what has been happening for the past seven years," said Lamont.

Gibson agreed that a basic income guarantee is important, but noted additional support would be needed to help people take the next steps.

"We need to have sufficient free mental health services and addiction support services to complement this. The healing from the stress that has been caused by intergenerational neglect and the long time that we have not had sufficient social housing," said Gibson.

Earlier Tuesday, the leaders of the NDP, Liberals and PCs were at a debate talking about their ideas on the economy and safety, which was hosted by the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association. Top Stories

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