A few weeks ago the Winnipeg Free Press ran an article about churches using their signs to advocate for increased welfare rates in the province, featuring two members of the CCS community – Ken Delisle (Companion of the Centre) and Lynda Trono (CCS grad, currently at West Broadway Community Ministry). Since that article came out the provincial budget has been announces, and it looks like the advocacy has had some effect.
Lynda Trono, who also chairs the Making Poverty History steering committee, reports…
“Love your neighbour as yourself, support raising welfare rates.” If you live in Manitoba, you may have seen this message posted on church signs in the weeks leading up to the provincial budget. It was the final push in a two year campaign by Make Poverty History Manitoba to urge the government to raise the rental allowance for those receiving social assistance. The rental allowance has not been raised since 1992. Meanwhile, rent has gone up drastically, forcing people to spend their food money (which is only $3.96 a day) on shelter.
It was probably the two year effort that finally got the government to acquiesce and raise the rental allowance to 75% of the median market rate, but word has it that the signs were noticed. A government staff person who called my office on budget day specifically mentioned the sign at Broadway Disciples United Church right across from the government’s Finance Department. It wasn’t only Christian churches who participated in the campaign; the Sikhs and Muslims were also quite involved.
Perhaps the church doesn’t have the ear of government like we did back in the day, but we can take heart knowing that the words “love your neighbour as yourself” still resonate in the broader society. Our faith communities serve as a moral compass for society even today. I am hopeful that we will be able to continue our work of “mending the world” together.