Manitoba government plans to shutter services for farmers, rural businesses, and communities

“The government calls this ‘modernizing’ and ‘elevating the client experience,’ but to me it looks like they’re just making it harder for rural Manitobans to access the services and support they need.” Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President

Winnipeg (11 Jan. 2021) — Last week, the Manitoba government announced sweeping cuts to services for farmers, rural businesses, and communities. The so-called modernization of the Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD) department and the Manitoba Agriculture Services Corporation (MASC) will close offices in 21 rural communities, eliminate in-person service in 9 additional rural communities, and replace more and more in-person customer service with an online “chat” program and toll-free phone line. Job cuts in impacted communities will hurt local economies and reduce opportunities for families to work and stay in their home communities. The changes are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2021.

Changes make it harder for rural Manitobans to access services

“The government calls this ‘modernizing’ and ‘elevating the client experience,’ but to me it looks like they’re just making it harder for rural Manitobans to access the services and support they need,” said Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) President Michelle Gawronsky.  “Now, too many farmers and rural business operators will have to settle for virtual services and travel farther when they need in-person customer service.”

Many impacted employees have questions about where they will be working in the future, and which positions may be eliminated. This concern is underscored by the fact that these changes are to take effect the same day that the no-layoff clause in their collective agreement expires.

Cuts would significantly impact the lives of rural Manitobans

“The impact of these cuts on our members and their families looks to be significant,” Gawronsky said. “Will they need to move or commute to a distant community? Will they have a job? Our members in the many impacted communities are understandably anxious about this announcement and deserve answers about their future.”

The cuts will close offices in the following 21 communities:

  • Altona
  • Ashern
  • Birtle
  • Deloraine
  • Fisher Branch
  • Gladstone
  • Glenboro
  • Grandview
  • Hamiota
  • Lundar
  • Morris
  • Pilot Mound
  • Russell
  • Shoal Lake
  • Somerset
  • Souris
  • St-Pierre-Jolys
  • Ste. Rose du Lac
  • Teulon
  • Vita
  • Waskada

Cuts will impact on entire rural economy

“These office closures will be a big blow to rural communities and their local economies,” Gawronsky said. “The people who work in these offices support their families and local businesses. They shop at the local hardware store, buy groceries at the family run store, and have kids in school and sports. Rural Manitoba has already endured enough cuts by this government in recent years, these new cuts couldn’t come at a worse time when too many are struggling to get by.”

Other rural offices that will continue to provide a “workspace” for Manitoba Agriculture staff, but will no longer provide any in-person customer service come April include:

  • Beausejour
  • Carberry
  • Carman
  • Melita
  • Minnedosa
  • Neepawa
  • Portage la Prairie
  • Roblin
  • Virden

“We will press the government for the details about these cuts,” Gawronsky said. “Our dedicated members in these offices and the communities they serve deserve answers.”

MGEU/NUPGE represents 223 members at MASC across the province.

Read the government’s news release about this announcement here.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE