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Resisting the Pallister Attacks
Public services in Manitoba are under serious assault.
The majority Progressive Conservative government, elected in April 2016 following many years of milquetoast social democratic rule from the NDP, predictably promised to maintain frontline jobs and improve services for Manitobans. Hints were made of impending spars with public sector unions and plans to cut tax rates.
But little prepared Manitobans for what was to come in the government’s second budget that was released in early April.
It wasn’t an overt slash-and-burn budget out of the Ralph Klein or Mike Harris playbook. Many leftists in the province initially sighed relief, concluding it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
Then the province started to see the fallout.
Waiting for the NDP
But Manitoba’s Left largely has no idea how to respond. Almost two decades of NDP reign has turned the aspirations of many local activists to mush, resulting in incantations that Manitobans simply must mobilize — in the form of very occasional and very ineffectual rallies, petitions and postering — for the next provincial election, in order to get the NDP elected again in 2020.
That’s it. That’s the gameplan: the sole form of “resistance” to vicious austerity measures.
Indigenous Nations Rising
Luckily, we’ve already been provided examples of alternatives.
Mostly by Indigenous peoples in Canada, actually. We obviously can’t draw immediate parallels, with struggles by First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-status Indians representing a unique sociopolitical struggle grounded in distinct cultural, spiritual and legal relationships with lands and waters.
But the tactics born out of that are certainly worth exploring.
It wouldn’t seem it from all the glowing profiles about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the territory known as Canada is ablaze with resistance and resurgence from Indigenous peoples and communities.
The Canadian Federation of Students - MB is ringing alarm bells about impending tuition hikes by the Pallister PCs, and building up toward action against the bill. Solidarity with the student movement in this struggle! Free education for all.
Province can cut more than $20M in education funding: KPMG report
KPMG has told Education Minister Ian Wishart there are tens of millions of dollars in cost savings to be squeezed out of the public education system — immediately, if he chooses.
In its massive financial report on government spending, KPMG says it's unfair to give $26.1 million to 22 of Manitoba's 37 school divisions that don't deserve the money under the province's complex funding formula....
NDP fight private sale of medical tests
So You Hate Capitalism. What's the Alternative?
Wednesday, May 23 at 7 PM - 9 PM
Millennium Library, Anhang Room
251 Donald Street, Winnipeg
Climate change. Famine and war in the Global South. Jobs getting worse, growing debt and attacks on public services everywhere.
This is just some of what the capitalist system is doing to the world. But is there a positive alternative? Is capitalism the end of history? Or could capitalism be replaced with a better society? If so, what does that mean for us today? If you're sick of the system, join us for a discussion.
*Free childminding will be provided for this event. Please let us know in advance if possible to let us know if you need a spot.
*Accessibility note: the Millennium Library is a wheelchair accessible building. Please contact us as soon as possible if you have any other accessibility needs and we will do our very best to fulfill them.
..1st in a 3 part series
The State of Manitoba’s Activist Left
The Manitoba Progressive Conservatives under premier Brian Pallister have been implementing harsh austerity since their 2016 landslide victory, imposing emergency room and clinic closures, wage freezes, significant budget cuts, job cuts, harsh anti-labour legislation and more.
Yet responses from the left have been largely muted and ineffective. Anyone who would suggest otherwise is lying to themselves. Two years into his mandate, Pallister’s popularity is actually increasing in the absence of popular opposition.
The consequences are serious. Insufficient fightback is giving the PCs a free pass to implement their agenda with minimal resistance. This is resulting in job losses, cutbacks to healthcare and public services, and the subsequent fallout to public well-being and the livelihoods of Manitoba’s most vulnerable citizens.
More serious and concerted efforts from the activist left are necessary....
This is the second piece in a three-part blog series.
Why is the Manitoba Left Struggling?
5. Electoral Politics No Replacement for Organizing
Decades of neoliberalism coupled with limited fightback by unions in Manitoba have helped create a culture in the prairies and other parts of Canada where unions place the bulk of their “political action” on parliamentary and electoral politics.
Conversations with elected union leaders in Manitoba confirmed this. One elected union leader said a core means to get rid of the Tories is “being active and being engaged and involved in the Party [ie. Manitoba NDP]. Volunteering and working for them and encouraging others to do the same.”
The problem with this approach is that there is virtually no non-electoral mobilization taking place outside of fragmented protests and small advertising campaigns. (There are some positive exceptions to this.)
The absence of an effective popular campaign that is waged through collective political action in workplaces and communities is giving the PCs a free pass. As stated in the first post in this series, popularity for the PCs is actually rising.
It’s time to build popular fightback against the PC agenda and there are plenty of good building blocks to work with. In short, it’s time to organize.
So sad but true.
This is the third and final piece in a three-part blog series.
Five Ideas for Building the Manitoba Activist Left
5. Support Organizing and Movements
Most unions and organizations in Manitoba have limited capacity when it comes to a core base of members or organizers. The majority of the grunt-work is done by a dedicated few, who often work on multiple campaigns and occasionally burn out.
When opportunities for temporary coalitions around a specific mobilization or campaigns exist, it is worth making the tent big, even if there are groups at the table that you disagree with. Education work becomes essential here as it’s important to have a broadly shared perspective and common goal.
One of the benefits of working together is that campaigns, actions, and plans can be coordinated. Groups without anything on the immediate horizon can contribute personnel and resources to aid the cause when an action or event is taking shape.
Campaigns and actions organized by unions and groups like Communities Not Cuts, Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, Fight for $15, CUPE 204, teachers, nurses and others are just a few examples of opportunities to collaborate.
Supporting organizing and movements by contributing resources and – most importantly – personnel, helps build a culture of solidarity that must be cultivated across unions, communities and grassroots groups during these difficult times.
The activist left in Manitoba already has several amazing organizers in grassroots groups, community organizations, and trade unions. There is emerging potential and momentum, however slow-brewing. Planning should be underway now to create a season of discontent this fall that builds ongoing momentum into 2019 while Pallister retreats to his Costa Rican villa.
I have 2 major issues with the articles epaulo just posted:
1 The article mentions "Solidarity Winnipeg." I'm sorry, but that just about says it all. The fact is, there is no solidarity in Winnipeg. It is nearly 100 years since the class divisions were openly exposed. There are areas of the city that have deep pockets, particularly in the south and the west. Pallister's popularity may be lowest in the provincial capital, however these parts of the city will continue on voting for PCs and putting up with all the negatives associated with it, as long as it stops the crazy socialists from spending the province into the ground. The Doer-era sweeps are never coming back. The reason the PCs were able to lose government is the support the NDP had in rural areas. That is now gone, and those seats are mostly PC. There are no elected officials in the rural areas to present a voice of opposition to the Pallister government. It is great that they are talking about reaching out to First Nations communities, however that alone will not be enough to dislodge PC MLAs in the next election. From what I've seen briefly by checking media out of Brandon, very little of what is in the article is penetrating the consciousness of people who live outside Winnipeg. In fact, the government recently announced that they were going to build a badly needed new school in Brandon East, to open in time for the 2020 election. Brandon East is a formerly safe NDP seat, now represented by the PCs. There had been talk about the need for a new school in Brandon for years, and yet the PCs finally got the wheels going early in their term. Hey NDP, good luck running against the school you talked about forever but never actually built! There was some consternation about the temporary cancellation of an MRI unit in Dauphin, but construction on that is now going ahead, so it is a moot point. You absolutely need to find a way to communicate with people in Brandon, Dauphin, Swan River, Selkirk, Lorette, Gimli and the Interlake in the interim, and branch out to people in Portage la Prairie, Neepawa, Minnedosa, Russel, Souris, Lac du Bonnet, and even Steinbach, Morden, and Winkler and to tailor that communication to the needs in those communities. Deciding what do to based out of Winnipeg is not going to cut it.
2 The article mentions the Manitoba Federation of Labour. These guys are the absolutely last people anyone should go to for sound political advice. They have no idea how to win elections. In Winnipeg they consistently run candidates in wards throughout the city, but are only ever successful in electing candidates in areas where a ham sandwich would win for the NDP. They also blew 2 consecutive civic elections that were theirs to win. On the provincial scene, their alliance with the NDP was more important than doing any actual grassroots organizing and meeting with people in their communities. And what did organized labour get for it? It certainly didn't help to increase union membership. They didn't get anti-scab legislation or the ability to form unions with a 50% sign-up. And the NDP was allowed constantly run over the MGEU in ways that the MGEU would have screamed bloody murder over if a Liberal or PC government was attempting to do the exact same thing. It was also the MFL that led the push away from one-member-one-vote back to delegated voting for leadership. I actually heard a union activist at one meeting after the election speak vehemently against one-member-one-vote. A great deal of us working people cannot afford the time or the money to attend political conventions, and would never dare ask for time off work to attend an NDP convention. It waxs very angering to hear a member of an organization that supposedly speaks up for the working class defend a process that makes it harder for working class people to participate in politics. And if the unions in Manitoba are about supporting union activists, then why when the Manitoba NDP held leadership votes post-1999 did they snub a union activist who was elected off a picket line 3 times? I'm sorry, but in the call centres, retail stores, and other areas where people struggle with bad jobs, low pay, and few benefits, unions are not on the radar of the people who work there. The best reason that the MFL could come up with to stop Pallister was Pallister's plan to end card check certification. That is not an issue for anybody currently in a union, and not enough people want to join a union to care that it is now harder to do so. It is because, as I said, that controlling the NDP seems more important than actual advocacy on behalf of the community. Forget that the NDP never passed anti-scab legislation, can any of our Manitoba members remember any campaign on behalf of the MFL to argue as to why this would have been in the public interest?
Manitoba Hydro’s dirty power — and dark legacy
A new Clean Environment Commission report released this week is another reminder that there’s nothing “clean” about the power produced by Manitoba Hydro.
The Crown corporation has neither a clean environmental record nor a clean conscience when it comes to sabotaging the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous people in the north over the past half-century.
The 86-page report is a review of a joint Manitoba Hydro/provincial government “cumulative effects assessment” launched in 2014 on the impact of Hydro developments along the Nelson, Burntwood and Churchill river systems over the past 60 years. Naturally, government and Hydro didn’t think to consult the people directly affected by the developments when gathering their evidence. That was an afterthought, a consultation process carried out subsequently by the CEC. It wasn’t until 2017 that the current provincial government amended the CEC’s terms of reference to expand that consultation process to include in-person hearings.
It was from these hearings that we learned of the alleged sexual assaults perpetrated by male workers against Indigenous women in the 1960s around the northern town of Gillam — the ones Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires referred to the RCMP Tuesday — and of the many other horror stories around how Hydro walked into northern communities and shoved Indigenous people off their land, razed their homes, bulldozed their playgrounds, segregated their kids on separate school buses and destroyed their livelihoods.
Apparently, that was business as usual in northern Manitoba when it came to building hydro dams and transmission lines and setting up work camps and temporary digs for Hydro staff and their families.
“The things that happened, that changed so fast was the people who came into the community of Gillam,” Marie Henderson, an elder from Fox Lake Cree Nation who described at a hearing in January what it was like growing up in Gillam when Hydro came to town. “I remember hearing in Cree, that means electricity. And I couldn’t really understand what was really talked about, until I started seeing people coming into the community with all of these changes happening, wrecking the town that I lived in, taking over the community, wrecking our playground, wrecking the land that we so enjoyed…”
It was a nightmare, basically. And it put an end to a life of self-sufficiency for the local Indigenous population, as the construction of dams and transmission lines turned the ecosystem on its head, resulting in massive flooding, deforestation, blocked transportation routes, contaminated water and displaced game, the CEC report found....
epaulo13 and Aristotleded24
Thanks for your illuminating articles.
epaulo13 and Aristotleded24
Thanks for your illuminating articles.
Add my thanks, please. Just because we don't always comment, doesn't mean we aren't reading and learning.
..thank you both for saying so. it means a lot to me.
First Nation demands inquiry into violence linked to hydro development
A northern Manitoba First Nation is calling for a provincial inquiry into racism, discrimination and violence linked to hydroelectric development on its territory.
York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant said Premier Brian Pallister should order an inquiry into the Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro.
“They need to acknowledge the collective and individual trauma that has been occurring through northern hydroelectric development in the province,” he said at a Winnipeg news conference Friday.
A report released last month by the province’s Clean Environment Commission — an arm’s length review agency — outlined discrimination and sexual abuse at the Crown utility’s work sites in the 1960s and 1970s. The report said the arrival of a largely male construction workforce led to the sexual abuse of Indigenous women and some alleged their complaints to RCMP were ignored.
The report said there was also racial tension, environmental degradation and an end to the traditional way of life for some Indigenous people.
Since the release of the report, Constant said traumatic memories have resurfaced in the Indigenous communities hurt by hydro development.
First Nations have tried to bring the issues up in the past, but Constant said it always fell on deaf ears. He said issues with hydro development, including harassment and racism, continue to this day.
“It’s impacted women for decades, since the ‘50s and nothing has changed. Women are still treated the same as then,” said York Factory Coun. Evelyn Beardy.
“I want to see a day where, before the project is done, that my member doesn’t phone me and say she’s been called a savage or she’s walking down the hallway and has been groped. I’d like to see that stopped. It has to stop.”....
Indigenous woman files human rights complaint against Manitoba Hydro
Indigenous people continue to suffer from racism connected to hydroelectric development in northern Manitoba, the grand chief for the area said two weeks after a review found abuse and violence dating back to the 1960s.
“Our people have been oppressed. Our people have been treated as if they are second-class citizens in their own lands,” said Garrison Settee, head of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
“There’s going to be a paradigm shift in how business is conducted in MKO territory.”
Settee was joined by Martina Saunders, an Indigenous woman who has filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
Saunders said she resigned last year from a board of directors that has been overseeing construction of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask generating station, because she and other Indigenous members were being ignored and bullied.
Boards and committees set up by Manitoba Hydro – a provincial Crown corporation – in conjunction with Indigenous communities are ineffective because they are dominated by the utility’s representatives, Saunders said.
A spokesman for Manitoba Hydro said the corporation had been unaware of the human rights complaint.
“We are aware of Ms. Saunders’ views, but do not agree with them,” Bruce Owen wrote in an email.....
..time for me to have a peek inside wpg's finances. i see no better place for me to begin than the alternative budget that came out in jun of this year.
Imagine a Winnipeg...
Alternative Municipal Budget 2018
Imagine a Winnipeg... Alternative Municipal Budget, Winnipeg 2018 is a community effort that dares to imagine a greener and more equitable Winnipeg. Placed in a balanced financial framework, this is a tough love budget that challenges Winnipeggers to grapple with growing inequality, climate change and a formidable infrastructure deficit. It also calls on the province to shoulder more of the heavy lifting when it comes to these issues.
Can the Alternative Budget capture the imagination of Winnipeggers? Our collective future depends on it.
aptn video report
Independent investigators have been called in to look into historical criminal allegations by Manitoba Hydro employees, their contractors and RCMP officers.
The announcement comes a month after bombshell allegations were made public.
Manitoba is Ready to Fight for $15 and Fairness
Manitobans have been pushing for a $15 minimum wage for years. In 2016, students and labour organizers participated in a National Day of Action and delivered a petition to the University of Winnipeg. Last year, the Canadian Federation of Students ran a campaign on billboards and busses. In the media, the Manitoba Federation of Labour has repeatedly pushed for Brian Pallister’s government to help lift Manitobans out of poverty by mandating a minimum wage that is fair.
Make Poverty History Manitoba has also called for a $15.53 minimum wage, citing research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that states $15.53 as the province’s current living wage.
Now, it’s time to build on the foundations that have been laid and get out to communities and workplaces. Fight for 15 & Fairness Manitoba wants to ensure that every Manitoban working a low-wage precarious job has the opportunity to participate in the struggle to improve their conditions....