by Errol Black
Residential fires are commonplace in Winnipeg. Often these fires affect low-income people renting accommodations in apartment blocks or other forms of residences. Almost without exception reports on such fires include interviews with tenants who have lost everything they owned and are without insurance.
According to a story in the April 21, 2012, Winnipeg Free Press, prior to Christmas 2011 “United Firefighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest pledged to lobby the province, landlords and the insurance industry to solve [this] problem.” When the government announced in the budget that the PST be imposed on, amongst many other things, home and tenant insurance, it was noted that the tax on insurance would not improve the situation. Forrest suggested that part of the revenue from the tax might be used to cover low-income tenants who aren’t able to afford insurance.
The situation of low-income renters is a result of many factors, including the ongoing conversion of rental property to condos and the growth in low-wage, short-hour jobs in the labour markets. However, under no circumstances should people end up losing “everything” they own in a fire and not be able to replace it because they can’t afford insurance. We believe that the Winnipeg firefighters’ demand that the province find a way “to insure the poor” has much merit.
Errol Black is a member of the CCPA-MB Board.