Friendly (and generous) Manitoba

Compared to the rest of Canada, we give the most

Ryan Janz

Manitobans can, once again, pride themselves on being the most generous province in the country.

Manitobans have come on top in every report on Canadian charity done by the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, since 1996.

Linda Warkentin, communications co-ordinator at Siloam Mission, is not surprised by the statistics.

“We are very happy with the hearts we have seen,” she said

Operating out of Winnipeg’s Exchange District, Siloam Mission provides meals, clothing and emergency shelters for people in need.

Since 2007, the mission has seen an increase from 27,000 to 40,000 donors.

There seems to be this natural idea that you can depend on your neighbours in a rural area…Manitoba, with its agricultural past, is inclined to giving.

Philippe Cyrenne, University of Winnipeg economics professor

Philippe Cyrenne, an economics professor at the University of Winnipeg, said Manitoba’s propensity to give might be related to its history.

“There seems to be this natural idea that you can depend on your neighbours in a rural area,” he said.

“Manitoba, with its agricultural past, is inclined to giving.”

Cyrenne also pointed to the stability of Manitoba’s population. Because people tend to settle down in Winnipeg for longer than in other cities, there is a better understanding of the issues charity can address.

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, an organization consisting of businesses operating in the downtown, currently has collection boxes distributed throughout the area so that people can donate their change.

Rather than having this money go to panhandlers, it is distributed to various social agencies in the city.

The BIZ generally gives to charities whose goals are “to improve safety and confront social issues,” both concerns that resonate downtown, said Jennifer Verch, spokesperson for the BIZ.

According to Fraser Institute’s most recent numbers from 2006, Manitobans gave 1.14 per cent of their income to charities, far above the second place contender, Ontario at 0.92 per cent.

Quebec residents finished last, with 0.33 per cent of their income donated to charity.

But Manitoba citizens’ generosity may reflect badly on the province. According to Cyrenne, there is a tendency for people to give less when governments are perceived to be providing more social services.

Warkentin said that although the province provides services for people, “government funding varies from program to program.”

The impending recession raises concerns that donations will fall.

Warkentin was not too worried. So far, she said Siloam Mission had seen a decline in donations from their corporate sponsors but not from individual donors.

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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