Op-Ed Confirms Wisdom of MCC Policy on Poverty

Dec 6, 2009 | Government News


While the MCC may have earned its reputation for insightful analysis on issues like tax reform and balanced budgets, a recent column in the Winnipeg Free Press shows the MCC also knows what it is talking about in relation to poverty. 

The column, entitled “Poverty statistics misleading”, was written by Harvey Stevens, a retired civil servant who worked for 18 years as a senior policy analyst with Family Services and Housing. His area of expertise is poverty measurement and income assistance policy.   

Stevens makes the case that low income cutoffs, (a set of low-income lines which reflect that level of pre-tax family income at which, on average, 55 per cent of the income is spent on the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter they are also known as LICO’s), also known as LICO’s, are a faulty measure for the rate of poverty. He argues instead for a market basket measure, which is based on the actual cost of basic necessities priced annually in each province and areas within each province. 

The MCC has been advocating for market basket measures as a true measure of poverty since its Pre-Budget submission of February 26, 2006. 

It debuted as part of the MCC’s Great Jobs Agenda, an eight-point plan that seeks to build the bridge between individual prosperity and economic vitality. Part of the eight- point plan calls upon Manitoba to “Identify and Remove Roadblocks for Those on Low-income.” 

To see the general principles of the Great Jobs Agenda click here. To see the specific recommendations coming from the Great Jobs Agenda, including the recommendation for market basket measures, click here. 

Stevens’ piece concludes by noting: 

For social advocacy groups in Manitoba, embracing the MBM as the measure of poverty has two advantages. First, it will give their reports credibility with the policy makers who are squarely behind the use of the MBM as the yardstick for measuring progress in reducing poverty. Second, it enables them to assess the adequacy of the welfare budgets set out in legislation.

Not since the 1970s has the province priced the cost of the basket of goods and services they guarantee in the Income Assistance Act. The value placed on the cost of the basic items like shelter, food, clothing and footwear, household supplies and personal needs is completely arbitrary and the amount has not been indexed since 1993 and are sorely in need of adjustment. 

The MCC is proud to have been part of the Raise the Rates campaign, the only business organization to do so, which targeted the folly of assistance rates that had not been indexed since 1997. See “Chamber calls for welfare hike” in the Winnipeg Free Press online archives here.   

It should be noted that the Manitoba Government has made some strides with its “All Aboard” initiative (click here for details) although all agree that more needs to be done. 

Stevens’ article appeared in the December 5, 2009 edition of the WFP and can be read in its entirety here.     

The MCC will continue to advocate for its Great Jobs Agenda, including its focus on poverty reduction.

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