D- Manitoba Report Cards

Section 1: Experience of Poverty

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
People Feeling Worse off Compared to Last Year
39.2%
C+
C-
People Spending More than 30% of Income on Housing
40.1%
F
B+
People Having Trouble Accessing Health Care
26.9%
F
F
Government Support Recipients Who Say Rates Are Insufficient to Keep Up with Cost of Living
34.6%
C
D+
Percent of Income Spent on Fixed Costs beyond Housing
54.8%
C+
D
Overall
D+
C-

Section 2: Poverty Measures

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Poverty Rate (MBM)
11.5%
F
F
Provincial Welfare as a Percent of the Poverty Line (Singles)
37%
F
F
Provincial Disability Welfare as a Percent of the Poverty Line
52%
F
F
Unemployment Rate
5%
D+
C-
Food Insecurity Rate
26.8%
F
D+
Overall
F
D-

Section 3: Material Deprivation

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Inadequate Standard of Living
31.6%
C-
C+
Severely Inadequate Standard of Living
23%
C-
C-
Overall
C-
C

Section 4: Legislative Progress

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Legislative Progress
F
C
Overall
F
C
×

Manitoba was one of the better graded provinces in 2023 but it has since declined.

While it is understandable that a new government will need time to find footing, the clock is ticking and many people in the province are struggling with unprecedented rates of poverty and food insecurity.

Poverty overview

Manitoba’s poverty rate is 11.5 per cent, which is slightly above the national average (9.9 per cent). 

Manitoba is a province of contrasts, with high rates of both urban and rural poverty. As in the other Prairie provinces, a considerable portion of residents in Manitoba live in remote northern communities with inadequate infrastructure. This duality of high levels of both urban and rural poverty illustrates how important it is that all levels of government take concerted and comprehensive policy action. 

The top issues for residents across the province include reducing the cost of food, strengthening health care, reducing the cost of utilities, reviewing upper tax brackets for wealth redistribution, and providing better supports for people with mental health or addiction challenges. The later-most of these priorities comes as Manitoba has one of the highest rates of any province of people who strongly agree that addiction is an issue in their community that needs to be addressed—36 per cent compared to 27 per cent nationally—behind only BC and Newfoundland. 

Manitoba has historically grappled with entrenched poverty, especially among children (under 18). The provincial government’s 2015–16 poverty reduction strategy highlighted the urgent need to address the province’s child poverty rate of 19.3 per cent and aimed to reduce it by one-quarter by 2025. By 2022–23, the rate had been reduced to 10 per cent, which far exceeded the goal, despite the social and economic challenges the province faced through the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent high inflation. Much of the progress, however, resulted from federal support measures. 

Today, children (under 18) and youth (18–24) in Manitoba still experience heightened poverty rates (10 per cent and 15.9 per cent, respectively). In both cases, the rates are slightly higher than the national averages. Higher poverty rates make children more vulnerable to food insecurity, and despite making up only 23 per cent of the population in Manitoba, children represent 42 per cent of provincial food bank visits—the highest in the country. 

One group for whom Manitoba’s poverty rate is noticeably below the national average is seniors (age 65+). Just less than 4 per cent (3.9 per cent) of Manitoba’s seniors live in poverty. This is about 20 per cent lower than the national average of 4.7 per cent. The poverty rate among seniors who live alone is 8.8 per cent, compared to the national average of 10 per cent. 

In Manitoba, the poverty rate among people who lived alone was 21.6 per cent. Among men who lived alone in Manitoba, the poverty rate was slightly higher (24 per cent). Single adults who are caring for a child or children had a poverty rate of 17.2 per cent, which is higher than the Canadian rate for this group (14.1 per cent) and almost four times the poverty rate for couples with children in Manitoba (4.5 per cent). This disparity is reflected in the fact that nearly 1 in 5 food bank visitors in the province are single-parent families.

The cost of living and affordable housing

Between December 2022 and December 2023, the overall price of goods and services in Manitoba increased by 1.7 per cent, which is half the pace experienced in Canada as a whole (3.4 per cent). The province experienced a similar increase in the price of food to the rest of Canada, at 5.2 per cent. Food insecurity in Manitoba is increasing beyond the national average, with about 27 per cent of residents now living with food insecurity compared to 23 per cent nationally. 

Meanwhile, the overall costs of shelter in Manitoba increased by 4 per cent, which is significantly lower than the 6 per cent increase in Canada as whole. Rent increased by 6 per cent and the costs of owning a home by 5.4 per cent. Both increases are slightly lower than the increases in Canada as a whole during the same period. 

For the majority of people who are renting in the private market, core housing conditions in Manitoba worsened by almost 11 per cent. Manitoba is one of only two provinces where core housing need increased rather than fell during the 2018–2021 period. However, thanks to a growing social housing stock, renters who were able to secure rent-assisted housing saw their need fall by about 6 per cent, which is well below the national average of 14.3 per cent. 

Manitoba is home to Canada’s most effective rent assist program. It also has the lowest proportion of residents who strongly agree that it is difficult to keep up with rising rents—13 per cent, compared to 20 per cent nationally. While the number of people who agree that programs to help keep up with the rising cost of rent are important, the number who strongly believe this is 11 percentage points below the national average. This indicates that while people recognize the importance of assistance with shelter costs, there is a lower sense of urgency regarding the issue than the rest of Canada.

Poverty and Inequality in Manitoba

As in many other provinces, Indigenous and racialized groups are disproportionately impacted by poverty and low income. In Winnipeg, for example, the 2020 poverty rate among Indigenous people was almost twice that of non-Indigenous people (16 per cent compared to 8.4 per cent, respectively). 

The poverty rate among the whole Indigenous population in Manitoba was 14 per cent, which is higher than the rate for this group in Canada as a whole (12 per cent). The poverty rate of 20 per cent per cent for First Nations people in Manitoba was significantly higher than that for their counterparts in Canada (14 per cent); for Métis in Manitoba, the poverty rate was 10 per cent, which is also above the national average. 

Racialized Manitobans also experience high rates of poverty. According to the last census, in 2021, the poverty rate among immigrants overall in Manitoba was 7.6 per cent, and for recent immigrants it was 15.4 per cent, which is similar to the rate among recent immigrants in Canada as a whole. 

Non-permanent residents (people who have a work or study permit or have claimed refugee status) in Manitoba experience poverty rates of 47.2 per cent, which is significantly higher than the national average (41.8 per cent).

Labour and education

In 2022, 11 per cent of youth in Manitoba were not in employment, education, or training (NEET). This rate is the second highest in the country specifically among non-school age adults (age 20+). Among Manitoba adults aged 25–64, 13.9 per cent did not have a high school diploma or equivalent, which is slightly higher than the national average of 11.6 per cent. However, among Manitoba men only, the rate is 16.3 per cent.

Manitoba has a long history of social policy development that makes a real impact on resident’s lives. For example, successive governments have introduced innovative approaches to childcare and rent assistance along with a provincial poverty reduction strategy that subsequent governments have carried forward. A new provincial government under the leadership of Wab Kinew was elected in October 2023, making Manitoba the first province to elect an Indigenous Premier. Poverty and social policy issues did not figure prominently in any party’s election campaign last fall, but the newly elected government made a number of important commitments relating to affordability during its campaign, including:

  • Introducing stricter rent control provisions and restore the existing renter tax credit to up to $700, reversing the $175 per yet cuts made by the PC.
  • Removing the provincial sales tax on purpose-built affordable housing construction, in line with federal policy changes announced last fall.
  • Working with the federal government to help build hundreds of affordable housing units.
  • Expanding broadband access to rural and northern communities, where reliable Internet and communications services are more than 10 percentage points below the national average.
  • Fully indexing provincial tax brackets so that they keep up with inflation. This builds on significant tax relief put in place by the outgoing government in Budget 2023, which raised the basic personal tax exemption to $15,000, in line with federal measures.
  • Introducing a provincial school nutrition program so that all children have access to free breakfast and lunch. (This was since introduced in January 2024.)
  • Improving access to primary care and continuing to implement the provincial early-learning and childcare agreement.

It is important that we hold them to those commitments.

Budget 2024 announced $110 million in immediate investments for various housing-related measures. While only a quarter of this funding appears to support the construction of new units, and there has been some slowdown in funding to some non-profit partners, the increased focus and tempo of action is a step in the right direction. It remains critical for the province to lay out a longer-term plan, with more meaningful commitments and targets, particularly to address chronic homelessness and build new units, since this was not directly addressed in the government’s election platform.

The provincial poverty reduction strategy was last updated in 2023 as part of the outgoing government’s final budget. The update included changes to the design of disability support and the provincial rent supplement program for Manitobans with low incomes. While these modifications helped to introduce the partial indexation of crucial benefits, most of the province’s income security system is still not protected against inflation. Despite the new government’s categorizing poverty reduction as a major priority, overall benefits remain the third-least generous in the country, and there is no indication that it intends to make significant changes to the level of support. In its latest Budget the new provincial government has committed to renewing the poverty reduction strategy in 2025, with consultations and development work beginning later this year.

The new government has made no commitment, either before or since taking office, to increase the minimum wage beyond annual cost of living increases. It currently trails neighbouring Ontario by $0.75 per hour.

Also absent from the recent budget is any indication as to the government’s intention in how to close the gap in access to affordable and high-speed internet across the province. Hopefully this will be an important medium-term priority, given that Manitoba trails neighbouring Ontario by nearly 10 percentage points.

Like many provinces, Manitoba made a series of one-time affordability payments to households with low and mid-range incomes. A final round of payments, providing up to $375 per household, was issued last summer. No similar payments are expected this year, even though inflation remains high. The new government has emphasized that it remains concerned about the fiscal situation it inherited and will address it in the short to medium term with new investments.

Accountability

1. Present a poverty reduction strategy for all Manitobans, with a particular focus on single people and Indigenous peoples.
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

The newly elected NDP government has committed to bring forward a new poverty reduction strategy in 2025. The strategy must include measures to reduce poverty for groups who remain disproportionately affected by poverty, including single people and Indigenous peoples. It should also include a plan to address the calls to action issued by The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The legislature should require the government to update the strategy every three years to keep it relevant.

2. Convene an expert panel to develop a youth employment and training strategy, with the goal of reducing the proportion of young people not in employment, education, or training (NEET) by 25 per cent by 2027.
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

Manitoba has a relatively high level of youth who are not working, studying, (NEET rate). Without good job or educational prospects, there is a high risk that these young people will become trapped in a lifelong cycle of poverty. The provincial government must focus on ending this cycle before it begins. The strategy should be presented before the end of 2025 and include goals that form part of an updated provincial poverty reduction strategy.

Affordable Housing and Infrastructure

3. Strengthen rental assistance
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

While Manitoba’s rental assistance program is a promising model, the province has failed to keep up with the needs of Manitobans during the recent affordability crisis because of a lack of investments since the program’s inception in 2015. Unfortunately, the provincial government’s 2024 budget fell well short of expectations and need in expanding rent supplements. The average cost of rent in Manitoba has increased by 37 per cent since the program was introduced, but eligibility for rent assist has risen by only 4 per cent. To address this, shelter supports should be enhanced, with all eligibility thresholds increased by 20 per cent of their current levels and indexed to inflation so that more Manitobans, particularly those who are working but struggling to make ends meet, qualify. An increase in the value of the benefit to a floor of 80 per cent of median rent should also be considered.

4. Establish a $100 million annual Manitoba Builds program modelled on the BC Builds program.
PRC New Policy

This program would include a mix of low-cost loans to help stimulate the construction of affordable market-rent units and provide capital to non-profit housing providers for the acquisition of land and subsequent construction costs. If well designed, this program would help stimulate significant new construction without putting new pressure on the province’s books.

5. Develop a broadband strategy with the goal of achieving province-wide access to high-speed Internet by 2028.
PRC New Policy

While Manitoba has made some progress in connecting rural and remote communities, rollout has been hampered by poor implementation and delays. Given the significant gap in access to broadband within Manitoba compared to the national average, there is a critical need for the province to step up and intervene. In setting this goal, the province should examine models recently deployed in Quebec, which has achieved 100% penetration.

Decent work

6. Raise the minimum wage to match Ontario’s.
PRC New Policy

Manitobans with low incomes deserve a more livable wage, especially when businesses just across the border in Ontario already operate quite successfully with a minimum wage that is $0.75/hour higher than in Manitoba. The extra $0.75/hour translates into an extra $1,500/year.

Income security

7. Expand the earnings exemption capacity and make the Rewarding Work Allowance more rewarding.
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

The Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) General Assistance benefit allows for an exemption on the first $200 a recipient earns plus 30 per cent of anything past this amount. This an effective 70 per cent clawback on benefits for every dollar earned and a clear disincentive for recipients to pursue decent work. The earnings disregard should be increased to 55 per cent so that every recipient retains a majority of every dollar earned. 

Further, to help individuals and households with low incomes gain financial independence, the province should also consider increasing the monthly benefit from the Rewarding Work Allowance by 50 per cent, from $100 to $150 for each employed adult who works full-time and from $50 to $75 for each part-time worker.

Childcare

8. Accelerate investments to create new affordable childcare spaces
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

In July 2023, Manitoba and the federal government announced investments of $180 million over three years to create 3,080 new childcare spaces. This investment was enhanced by Manitoba’s commitment of an additional $3.4 million to create another 615 spaces by 2026. While this is a welcome development, it accounts for only 11 per cent of the 23,000 new spaces the province has committed to achieving by 2025–2026 as part of the Canada-Manitoba ELCC (early learning and childcare) agreement. More recently, in the 2024 provincial budget the province announced an extra $21 million to support the roll-out of additional childcare spaces and higher wages for early childhood educators, although it is unclear of how this will be spent. 

Given the significant potential economic benefits, and the high levels of child poverty in some parts of the province, it is imperative that this plan be implemented quickly and with sufficient resources to achieve the intended goals. Broad and affordable access to early learning and childcare is imperative for families to have meaningful and equitable access to decent work.