View From the Legislature

Province Launches First Social Impact Bond

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), while not uncommon in other parts of Canada and other parts of the world, are new to Manitoba. They are opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects of government that seek to achieve a positive social outcome. If those outcomes are reached, investors get an agreed upon return on their investment.

SIBs provide an opportunity for investors to become involved in important and life changing government projects with the opportunity of getting a return on their investment. They allow government to try innovative ways of improving the lives of people and the operations of government without the risk being carried entirely by taxpayers. They can be a true win-win proposition.

Prior to the last election, our government indicated that it was willing to look at SIBs as a way of funding new and creative projects. This week, the first Social Impact Bond was launched. The SIB will be a two-year pilot project that will look to hire indigenous doulas to support indigenous mothers who are vulnerable and who may otherwise be at risk of having their children apprehended by the child welfare system.

The doulas will work alongside these mothers for between nine to twelve months. During that time, they will connect new mothers to needed resources, help educate on pregnancy and parenting, provide emotional and physical support and ensure that any other medical support that is needed is sought. The goal of this SIB is to reduce the number of children who need to be placed in the child welfare system. Manitoba currently has the highest percentage of children in care of any province in Canada.

Investors for this Social Impact Bond will now be sought to fund the project. If the project meets its key metrics in terms of reducing the days in care of children in the program compared to children outside the program investors are repaid the cost of the program plus the agreed upon return. A third party evaluator is responsible for determining whether the targets were met and whether the repayment to investors should be made.

In other provinces, SIBs have been used for a number of government projects, including those to reduce the rate of recidivism (those who reoffend after leaving the correction system). Our government will continue to explore ways in which this innovative approach can be used to provide good outcomes for Manitobans as a whole while working together with those investors who want to be a part of making a positive impact on our province.

This is another example of how our government is looking at new ways to deal the problems that have impacted our province for a long time. Working together, and looking for creative solutions, will help make Manitoba stronger today and tomorrow.