Posts Tagged ‘Manitoba’

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives won a majority government last week, leaving many left-of-centre citizens feeling somewhat shell-shocked and adrift on a sea of uncertainty after 17 years of predictable but increasingly unsatisfactory NDP government. Even though the outcome had been foreseen for many months by all but the most optimistic Dippers, many professed shock that the same people who had voted last fall to oust the federal Harper Conservatives would turn around and vote in their provincial kissing cousins. (Many of the same folks have expressed surprise that Sunny Ways Trudeau is beginning to break their hearts, but I digress.)

For over a year now, it’s been clear that the election was Brian Pallister’s to lose. There are many reasons for this, but Pallister’s charisma and charm were never factors. Even though Pallister runs behind his party in terms of popularity, Manitobans so disliked Greg Selinger and/or the NDP that they were even willing to vote Progressive Conservative if that is what it would take to get rid of them. And vote Tory they did, giving the Pallister PCs 53.4% of the vote and 40 seats in a 57-seat legislature. While the NDP were reduced to 14 seats, the Liberals overcame the many rookie gaffes of the feckless Rana Bokhari to win three seats. Even the Greens saw an improvement in electoral fortunes, very nearly winning the riding of Wolseley, long an NDP stronghold.

Not surprisingly, anxiety stalks the land — at least that portion of it occupied by folks who believe in a major role for the public sector and/or those who depend upon it for programs, services and employment. That fear is probably justified. Tory times typically have been tough times and Pallister’s promises to protect the jobs of front-line government workers have not been particularly convincing. Still, as challenging as this situation is, I think it offers some exciting possibilities for Manitoba’s Left, broadly defined.

For progressive thinkers within the NDP, the party’s electoral humiliation offers the opportunity for critical reflection and the possibility for renewal. This will not be easy in a party that is as divided and beaten up as this one has been. It will take years and a willingness to confront some ugly truths about what the party has allowed government to do in its name. I hear distant rumblings that this process is beginning.

Unaffiliated Lefties are faced with choosing between involvement in party politics (and not just within the NDP) and perhaps escalating their involvement in movement politics (labour, indigenous rights, environmentalism, human rights, peace, feminism, LGBTQ, etc., etc.) A new player is emerging on the scene called Solidarity Winnipeg which seeks to unite progressive elements to oppose the anticipated Tory austerity project and promote the Leap Manifesto. It is early days for Solidarity Winnipeg, but I’m reminded of CHOICES!, a loose association of lefties that did some very creative and productive political work in the 1990s but dissolved as soon as the NDP regained power.

Another choice for progressive Manitobans lies with the Green Party of Manitoba. While it is fashionable in some Left circles to dismiss the Greens as “conservatives who compost,” this criticism is usually made by people who have not taken the time to read, much less understand, the party’s platform. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a Green for a few years now.) If they had, they would easily conclude that federally and provincially the Greens are to the left of the NDP on most issues.

In Wolseley, the provincial riding where I live, we doubled the Green vote and very nearly toppled the NDP incumbent. Greens made gains in numerous other constituencies as well. Our growth was based, I would argue, on a platform that was fundamentally more progressive than anything on offer from the other parties. These gains show that there is a growing appetite for a politics that promises to care for the earth while caring for each other.

What’s a Lefty to do in Manitoba? You’ve read my take. I’d love to read yours.

 

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Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists’ questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has completed its work, and the major federal political parties have have adopted predictable positions, what can ordinary folk do to make sure Justice Sinclair’s message isn’t lost between now and the election this fall?

I’m rather taken with a draft Act that was made public yesterday on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature that would set aside one day a year, called  Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day, to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to truth and reconciliation.

According to Maeengan Linklater, the proponent of this resolution, adopting the Act would help achieve the following:

  1. Continue the healing for those survivors, families and communities;
  2. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;
  3. Reaffirm, recognize and acknowledge Aboriginal people and governments as self-governing and nation-to-nation in their relationships with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,
  4. Educate all Canadians about the Indian Residential School experience.

The use of the word “genocide” makes this is a provocative name for a provincial holiday. It is precisely the provocative nature of the word that makes it so valuable. Most Canadians are in a state of denial regarding the injustices perpetrated against indigenous peoples and badly in need of some straight talk.

I recorded Maeengan’s launch of the Act, following him through the halls of the Manitoba Legislature to capture the responses of representatives of four political parties. I’ve also (see below), published the draft Act. I hope the Manitobans reading this post will get behind it and get in contact with their Members of the Manitoba Legislature.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Canadians in other parts of the country tried to beat us to the punch and get similar laws enacted in their provinces?

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act

WHEREAS between the years 1870 and 1996, 150,000 Indian, Metis, and Inuit children in Canada were removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools.

WHEREAS, the ‘Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ (adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, includes “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” and the actions taken to remove children from families and communities and to put them in residential schools meets this definition of a “genocide”.

WHEREAS the goals of the Indian Residential School system were to “remove and isolate children from the influence of their home, families, traditions, and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominate culture”.

WHEREAS the Government of Canada recognized that many of the children experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, lived in conditions of neglect, and were forbidden to learn, or practice, their culture, and to speak their language.

WHEREAS on June 11, 2008, the Government of Canada made a Statement of Apology – to former students of Indian Residential Schools to initiate healing and reconciliation between the Aboriginal community and Canada.

WHEREAS efforts have been launched nationally to lead to reconciliation including the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

WHEREAS on June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recognized the establishment and operation of residential schools was a central element of assimilative policies that can be best described as cultural genocide.

WHEREAS the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples be the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

WHEREAS setting aside one day a year for such a day will provide an opportunity to focus on understanding and reconciliation including to:

a. Continue the healing for those survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities;

b. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;

c. Reaffirm, recognize, and acknowledge, Aboriginal peoples and governments as self-governing, sovereign, and nation-to-nation, in its relationship with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,

d. To educate all Manitobans about the lessons of the Indian Residential School system, and its continuing impacts in today’s society.

WHEREAS the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba is committed through legislation and education, to support the revitalization of Aboriginal communities that enable Aboriginal people to reach their full potential, and to bridge efforts of reconciliation of Aboriginal people and the people of Manitoba.

WHEREAS on June 2, we will remember, for we must never forget.

THEREFOR HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day

  1. In each year, June 2, to be known as Manitoba Day for Understanding and Reconciliation in Relations to the Indian Residential Schools.

I wonder how many Manitobans have received an email from their Manitoba NDP MLA entitled “A Fairer Deal for Renters.” I wonder how many are as pissed off as I am about what it represents.


Hi PaulRA Emailer

You may have seen information in your mailbox recently about Manitoba’s Fairer Deal for Renters.

Most of us have rented at some point in our lives, which is why I’m proud to be part of a government that introduces new protections for tenants rather than cuts.

Changes include investing in repairs and upgrades to social housing and introducing a new housing tax credit to stimulate construction in the private and non-profit sectors. On top of that, more apartment dwellers will now be protected from large rent increases.

But even with these changes I know there is more we can do. I want to hear what you think our next steps should be.

I’m inviting you to visit FairerDeal4Renters.ca to give us your input and to learn more about our plan for Manitoba renters.

You can fill in a brief survey and let me know how you think we can continue to protect tenants and keep life affordable for Manitoba families, while protecting the services we value most. I look forward to hearing from you.

**PS – Feel free to forward this email on to any family and friends you think may be interested in providing us with feedback on this issue.

Thank you,

Rob Altemeyer – MLA for Wolseley


At first glance, it appears rather innocuous — an MLA informing his constituent of new government initiatives and inviting input into future policies that will help tenants and other Manitoba families. If you didn’t follow up on the opportunity by clicking on FairerDeal4Renters.ca, you might think that it was a genuine invitation. You might think “How thoughtful of him to ask. I feel so included. This government really cares!” You might.

I clicked on the aforementioned link and found myself — not on a page dedicated to tenants’ interests, as one might have suspected from the name of the link — but on a page on the Manitoba NDP Caucus web site. As promised, it provided a bit more information on how life had gotten better for Manitoba tenants. Then came the survey — and this is what pissed me off.


How can we continue to keep life affordable for Manitoba families?

RA Emailer2Continue investing in safe, affordable housing units for seniors.
Protect consumers with fair and transparent cable and Internet contracts.
Keep Manitoba Hydro public and Hydro rates low.
Protect Manitobans from American-style, two-tier health care.
Keep post-secondary tuition affordable.
Continue building public infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and Quick Care Clinics.


Nowhere is there an opportunity to comment on the plethora of genuine issues and policy concerns that would impact on tenants in particular or citizens in general. Instead we are presented with a tick-box menu of vaguely worded motherhood statements that reflect existing government policy, with a text box at the end for comments.

This is not consultation. It is pre-election propagandizing. The Manitoba government did something similar in the lead up to this year’s provincial budget.

I wish I could say I was disappointed, but this bogus, tawdry, cynical approach to “consultation” is well established. Everyone does it. Governments, corporations, political parties. They smile, appear concerned and insult our intelligence on their way to the bank. The NDP is hardly unique. No wonder voter turn-outs are in decline.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Mary Agnes Welch nailed it when she described this particular email message as “NDP bait and switch.”

Until political parties learn to engage honestly with citizens, our democracy will continue to wither.

Dennis LeNeveu

Winnipeg, Oct. 26, 2013: Retired scientist Dennis Le Neveu spoke at a forum on the environmental hazards of fracking, sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Fracking is a process used to extract oil and natural gas. It involves drilling horizontal wells into rock formations and injecting a mixture of fresh water, chemicals and sand under high pressure to fracture the rock and release the oil and gas.

Fracking has been linked with contaminated water aquifers,  air pollution and earthquakes.

In Manitoba, the gas extracted with the oil is hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that is lethal in small concentrations. The gas is burned off and returns to earth as sulphur dioxide, also known as acid rain.

Last year in Manitoba, 570 new horizontal wells were drilled, and more than 600 are projected for 2013.

This presentation was sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba as a part of its Red Feather Campaign in solidarity with the people of Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, who have been resisting plans to frack for oil in their territory.

The presenter, Dennis Le Neveu, is a retired scientist who has written on this topic for the Fall 2013 edition of Eco Journal, published by the Manitoba Eco-Network.

It was recorded on Oct. 26, 2013 at Neechi Commons in Winnipeg.


A poverty “shoe-down” at the Manitoba Legislature
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Jan. 4, 2013: Demonstrators calling for an increase in rental rates for income assistance recipients, left dozens of pairs of shoes on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Make Poverty History Manitoba rallied at the Manitoba Legislature on Friday to demand that the provincial government increase the rental allowance provided to recipients of provincial Employment and Income Assistance (EIA). Recalling the kindness of a Winnipeg Transit driver who gave a homeless man a pair of shoes, demonstrators left dozens of pairs of shoes on the steps of the Legislature to send the message that they no longer wish to depend on isolated, random acts of kindness.

EIA recipients are provided with a rental allowance that has increased only slightly over the past two decades. During that same period, rents have gone up by 60 to 70%.

According to Kirsten Bernas, Make Poverty History Manitoba is asking the Province to increase the rental allowance to 75% of median market rent, a move the provincial government estimates would cost approximately $18.5 million annually.

In this video report, Ms. Bernas explains why this increase is long overdue.

Poverty on the increase in Manitoba

According to the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, “While the national poverty rate has remained relatively stable since 2006, the child poverty rate in Manitoba has been gradually increasing and remains 6.4 percentage points higher than the national average.” The SPCW reports that Manitoba had the second highest child poverty rate in Canada in 2012, with over 20% of our children (about 54,000) living below the poverty line as defined by Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure After Taxes.

In Manitoba, the fastest growing banks are the food banks. Some statistics gleaned from the Winnipeg Harvest food bank web site tell the story:

  • Winnipeg Harvest provides emergency food assistance to nearly 64,000 people a month across Manitoba. Therefore, Winnipeg Harvest clients are Manitoba’s second-largest city. This figure is up more than 14% over the same period last year.
  • More than 47% of its clients are children. For each of the last two years, Manitoba is the #1 province for food bank use.
  • Winnipeg Harvest feeds more 30,000 children each month. Ten years ago, that number stood at 5,500 children.
  • Seniors and refugees have more than doubled in food bank use since 2010.
  • 1/3 of families experiencing hunger are dual wage-earner families, i.e, the working poor.
  • Winnipeg Harvest distributes food to more than 330 agencies throughout Manitoba
All Aboard

With great fanfare, the Manitoba government announced its ALL Aboard: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Strategy in 2009. In 2011, the The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act became law, committing the Province to include a poverty reduction strategy in its annual budget. In April, the Province released it’s four-year poverty reduction plan. While the strategy appears, upon first reading, to take a comprehensive approach to tackling poverty, two serious shortcomings are immediately evident:

  • The authors appear to believe that poverty rates in Manitoba are shrinking; they make the claim that the number of Manitobans living in poverty went down by 6,000 between 2000 and 2009. Research from the above-cited sources suggests that the opposite trend is more likely.
  • There are no concrete goals against which the government’s performance can be evaluated. Instead, we are given vague indicators against which progress will be measured.

A second reading of the strategy reveals it to be a glossy, feel-good kind of document which does little to instill confidence that the provincial government is seriously committed to poverty reduction. But don’t take my word for it; read it yourself.

Déjà vu all over again
Child Poverty in Manitoba and Canada

Source: Statistics Canada (2010). Income in Canada, CANSIM 202-0802 as cited in the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg’s “Child & Family Poverty 2012 Report Card.”

Manitoba’s child poverty rates have remained above the national rate since 1989 when Canada’s House of Commons passed a unanimous all-party resolution to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Canada’s national poverty rate remains pretty much where it was in 1990.

In 2009, the House passed another unanimous motion to “develop an immediate plan to eliminate poverty in Canada for all.” The Manitoba government seems to have bought into the legislative zeitgeist. However, unless there are some significant changes in their approach, nothing will change. The rich will get richer and the poor poorer — all of this occurring in the heartland of one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

A good place to start would be to acknowledge that poverty is growing and to act accordingly. This would include setting real goals and dedicating more resources to meet them. It would also mean backing away from its failed strategy of regular tax reductions so we have more resources to allocate to alleviating poverty. It would mean educating the public about the true nature of poverty and taking the risk that an honest dialogue would win over all but the most diehard reactionaries in the province.

Finally, for starters, why not increase the funds allocated to housing in the EIA budget, so that disabled, unemployed and other immiserated Manitobans don’t have to choose between paying the rent or putting food in their bellies?

Despite its well established habit of electing social democratic governments, Winnipeg has claimed some dubious honors — “Murder Capital of Canada” and “Child Poverty Capital of Canada” to name two of the most disturbing. Even though we have had 11 years of NDP government to undo the damage of Gary Filmon’s Conservatives, both poverty and crime are well entrenched in Manitoba, especially in Winnipeg.

According to the 2011 Child and Family Poverty Report Card, issued by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg:

  • 92,650 children in Manitoba live in families under the poverty threshold
  • 29,000 children in Manitoba live in families with annual incomes insufficient for meeting basic needs
  • 29,563 Manitoban children use food banks each month because their families cannot afford to purchase the necessary food they require
  • 59,734 Manitobans accessed Employment and Income Assistance
  • The richest 20% of Manitoban families have more total income than the poorest 60% of the population

The Council says these statistics have not changed significantly since 1989, the year the House of Commons pledged to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.

What is to be done? According to the Manitoba Green Party, 80 per cent of all expenditures on social assistance programs are consumed by government bureaucracy. They proposed, in the last provincial election, to replace welfare benefits with a Universal Basic Income benefit, payable to all Manitobans, that would ensure no one slipped below the poverty line. The idea has merit and I hope the Greens continue to explain and promote it.

Yet another group of Manitobans proposes a package of measures they call a “Justice Charter to End Poverty in Manitoba.” I’ve included it at the end of this piece.

They also hold an annual event called the Four Directions Walk to End Poverty in which four contingents begin their walk on the outskirts of town and converge on the Manitoba Legislature. They held their fourth such walk on Saturday, Oct. 22. Naturally, I brought my video camera.


Justice Charter to End Poverty in Manitoba

We the people of Manitoba, seeing the growing gap between the wealthy and people in need, the working poor, and discriminated groups want to act in a timely manner to reverse the situation, to provide for people with needs and support the right for everyone to contribute to society to the best of their ability. To this end we make these demands and will work to make them a reality:

Housing must be a right and a comfort, not a constant crisis!

  • End subsidies to private landlords.
  • Establish stricter rent controls.
  • Enact a Tenant Bill of Rights.
  • Build and maintain public housing to the standard building code.
  • No utility cut-offs; establish a panel with legal power to require landlords to pay.

Universal health care for all, for every need!

  • Expand medicare into a comprehensive health care system focusing on prevention.
  • Extend medicare to cover all essential needs such as eye, drug, dental, ambulance and prosthetics.
  • Reduce pollution from mining and manufacturing, especially next to low income neighborhoods.


Jobs are a human right. Create good-paying jobs for all!

  • Create jobs through a massive investment in public housing, a public child care program, and conversion to a “green” economy.
  • Increase the minimum wage to $14 an hour.
  • Quality job creation by ensuring access to education, ending tuition fees, free student housing, education in Aboriginal and any other language where numbers warrant.
  • Access to better jobs – reduce the work week with no loss in pay, add paid vacation days and reduce the pension age for women to age 60.
  • End the Foreign Temporary Worker program, give these workers full labour rights and make them immigrants to Canada, if they so choose.

Provide for those in need!

  • Introduce a Guaranteed Liveable Income, above the poverty line and indexed to inflation.
  • Improve special needs benefits and introduce a fast appeals process with free advocacy services.
  • A public, high quality, free child care program employing well-paid early childhood development professionals.
  • Establish a hot breakfast program for children in schools.
  • For injured workers, establish a fast and free appeals process independent of the Workers Compensation Board. Provide free legal services and always respect the right to appeal.
  • Establish a Manitoba pension credit plan funded by payroll deductions, a surtax on corporate income to top up pensions above the poverty line and an inheritance wealth tax.
  • Establish a federally-chartered, publicly-owned bank that does not discriminate against people in poverty, is located in low-income areas, and provides free or nonprofit cheque cashing services and international fund transmittals.
  • Establish a province-wide, free and publicly-owned handi-transit service for people with disabilities.
  • Establish price controls for essential foods throughout Manitoba.

End racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms!

  • Support immediate settlement of Aboriginal land claims and emergency action to end housing, health care and education inequality.
  • Take steps to recognize Aboriginal nations on a new basis in Canada, including full national rights and equal nation to nation relations.
  • Introduce immediately affirmative action hiring with mandatory quotas for Aboriginal people, people of colour, women and people with disabilities in both the public and private sector.
  • Job pay equity for all workplaces.
  • Replace the present legal system of retribution and punishment with principles of restorative justice – restitution and reconciliation; include “ability to pay” as a consideration for sentencing people to jail for nonpayment of fines.
  • Ban discrimination based on social or mental health conditions in the Human Rights Code.
  • Introduce a Manitoba Bill of Rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), adding protections against all forms of sexism.

Reform the democratic system

  • Establish proportional representation so that people will vote for what they want and so that every person’s vote will count.
  • Pay Legislators the average worker’s wage and benefits in Manitoba.

The Justice Charter is for discussion by all Manitobans. The annual Four Directions Walk is Winnipeg’s largest annual anti-poverty activity. It is organized to encourage discussion of the ideas in this Charter. We invite groups representing Aboriginal peoples, women, workers, youth and students, people of colour, people with disabilities, injured workers, the working poor, people living in poverty, people of all faiths and nonbelievers – all supportive groups:

  • To establish a Four Directions Walk in other Manitoba communities.
  • To discuss the Charter and send us your ideas.

Contact us if you would like to receive information on the annual Walk, held on a Saturday close to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17).

Four Directions Walk Committee
Email: fourdirectionswalk@changetheworldmb.ca
Phone (204) 792-3371.