Has government money bought silence at Winnipeg Harvest?

- October 31st, 2012

I remember when Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott used to tell me in the 1990s that Harvest didn’t accept money from governments because they didn’t want to be beholden to politicians.
They wanted the freedom to criticize government for what they identified as shortcomings in policies to help the poor without fear of financial reprisal. They used to rely 100% on corporate and individual donations.
I always respected that.
But that has changed. Winnipeg Harvest now does accept money from politicians. And I notice Northcott and others at Harvest aren’t as vocal as they once were in hammering governments for “not doing enough” to help the poor.
Winnipeg Harvest now gets a $50,000 a year grant from the city of Winnipeg. And recently, the provincial and federal governments contributed $1.66 million each to the newly expanded Winnipeg Harvest Community Food Distribution and Training Centre. Kind of sounds government-like.
I guess Harvest and Northcott are now beholden to government. It sure seems that way given their relative silence on public policy these days. At least compared to the old days in the 1990s when Northcott used to shout from the rooftops about government “ignoring” the plight of the poor.
We now hear that food bank use has shot up over 50% in Manitoba over the past four years. There was a time when Northcott and friends would have been holding multiple press conferences to deride government for its “attack on the poor.”
Not anymore.
Times have changed. Sometimes money can do that.

Categories: Politics

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8 comments

  1. Donna Morin says:

    Tom
    Your article on missing women missed one important point (or maybe I read to fast and missed it) The reason why Aboriginal People have been focussing on missing Aboriginal women is because the system does not take action in a timely manner when they go missing. This has happened in the past (I hope it is not happening now) but the system (i.e. police) say things like—well she is probably partying–dont worry she will come home after she is done.
    You say 3/5 are aboriginal well I say for the other 2/5 are the ones that get the results from the system. It is a sad world when there is preferential treatment for the 2/5 that go missing. Come on lets treat everyone fairly–I am with you on that.
    By the way, did you talk to any families that have a missing loved one. I know that putting a name and face the crime does usually bring out the compassion in people. Come on lets treat people fairly.
    Have a great day Tom

  2. Don Doherty says:

    The results of this poll are simply amazing to me. As I have walked this earth for more then 6 decades I have seen numerous attempts from the rightwing to do away with social programs. Everything from “workfare” to no safety net necessary. Your neighbours and church will look after you. Looking at the results of this poll and seeing 75% thinking the food bank is a bad idea; I could just imagine how these neighbours would help their fellow citizens in tough times. Sometimes, in some things, government is necessary.

  3. Kathy says:

    I am shocked to think there are still people in this society that think the poor are lazy and just want free food. Believe it or not there are some hard working individuals in this country trying to support their families who just can’t make ends meet on the wages they are paid or support the high cost of food, and rising rental costs. It sounds like the only people who would support a comment like that are people with money and don’t know what it’s like to have to work hard and not get anywhere. They are the fortunate ones who have a good paying job but just because someone doesn’t make the same wage as you doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard. It’s always about the rich. No one cares about the poor or they would be doing something to help instead of just talking about it. I think our federal and provinical government including the City of Winnipeg should be ashamed of themselves, when a working class man gives up the shoes off his feet to a man who has none and our governments sit by and spend millions on a new stadium or human rights museum. Has anyone ever thought that it is a basic human right to have food to eat and an affordable place to live. I wonder if the public know that it was the NDP party in the 1970′s who brought in Manitoba Housing so low-income families could have an affordable place to live but yet this same NDP government is now selling off most of the Manitoba Housing units to private companies to make in to condos. Sorry rich people not everyone has money you do or the audacity to criticize the poor.

  4. Gary p. Keam says:

    This is a problem that no politician has the balls to seriously address so. Usage will just continue to expand. Add to that the desire and intent of all levels of Manitoba’s governments to syphon more and more money out of people’s pockets and more and more people will end up at the food bank .
    It is frightening to realize the level of desire of Manitoba’s government to ensure the continued increase of the numbers of our population to be taxed into poverty.

  5. ctb says:

    Tom, you’re out to lunch, again. Seems newspapers have too few reporters, who ask questions to get answers, and too many contributors, who just give opinions with little knowledge or value.

    You’re actually holding Northcott to what he said over 12 years ago? Actually, could be over 20 years ago from the vague date you provided. When government wasn’t kicking in, Northcott spoke out. Now they are so he isn’t. What’s the problem?

    Ask some questions…

    - Are contributions from individuals and cooperations to Harvest increasing at the same rate as the need for Harvest? If not, why?
    - Why has need increased?
    - Who is using Harvest? Families. individuals, seniors, etc.?
    - What percentage of Harvest recipients are children?
    - What’s the average income of Harvest recipients?

    Finding answers to these questions might help explain why municipal, provincial and federal governments are contributing. That is, if someone wants answers.

    With household borrowing at an all time high, there are going to be a lot more people using services like Harvest when the repo man and the bank come to take it all away.

  6. Samaritan says:

    This means ‘Harvest is getting good support” If it gets any better Nortcott will be building a new structure. Which will mean he gets too much!

  7. James R says:

    The issue isn’t that Winnipeg Harvest isn’t holding Press Conferences to dig on the government for their “attack on the poor”.

    The issue is exactly the opposite.

    The government isn’t “attacking the poor”, enough. The government is continuing to allow “the poor” to continue with what they’re doing.

    The government needs to start providing incentive for people to get off welfare and get a job. People would rather sit on welfare and not work than take a bottom-rung job at 7-Eleven or McDonalds which would require them to have to get off their butts and go to work for eight hours a day. On top of that, too many people expect too high a pay-scale with no effort put in. More and more people are buying in to the idea that it’s not worth the effort to put time in and work your way up the ladder when welfare is so easily within reach.

    I really don’t see why Winnipeg Harvest would want to involve themselves with playing politics and firing shots at the government, anyhow. Considering the government is ponying up with some cash (as they should), I can’t see how they’d be doing anything other than cutting off their nose to spite their face. The government should be trying to help the problem of increasing poverty by more proactive and positive tactics aiming at increasing the work force and educating those that need it… But until that happens, I’d rather see Winnipeg Harvest take the money and focus their efforts where they are needed.

    Leave the rabble-rousing to the professionals.

  8. Lloyd says:

    I do not consider Winnipeg Harvest to be “beholden” to governments. If the funding were to cease Winnipeg Harvest would continue, albeit there would be less product to hand out. As far as no longer deriding the government, maybe they just realized it is futile to continue. I’d call that wise myself.

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