“What I didn‘t hear today is a guarantee from this government that public services will be protected and prioritized.” ― Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (21 Nov. 2019) ― This week’s Speech from the Throne was full of buzz words — progress on a public service “Transformation Strategy,” establishment of a health care “Front-Line Idea Fund,” improving “procurement processes” at Crown corporations, agencies and boards — but no concrete plan to preserve the vital services Manitobans rely on day in and day out.
“What I didn‘t hear today is a guarantee from this government that public services will be protected and prioritized,” said Michelle Gawronsky, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE). “We know that there are 2,000 fewer employees providing services to Manitobans in the civil service alone. I wanted reassurance that vacancies would be filled so that quality public services are delivered, so that our roads are cleared, health inspections get done, and our communities are kept safe.”
Privatization of highway maintenance threatens quality of service
While the government did commit to increasing the highways construction budget from $350 million to $400 million over the next 4 years, questions remain about the nature and quality of the work to be done.
“The government appears more focused on privatization and contracting out services delivered through the infrastructure department rather than on ensuring quality and safety,” Gawronsky said. “For example, we’ve learned that snow clearing on some provincial roads is being contracted out. We know that Ontario had a bad experience with privatization of snow clearing with poor service. This is the wrong way to go in Manitoba.”
No answers to questions about new Public Services Act
Mention of “modernizing” the Public Services Act also leaves the union and its members with more questions than answers.
“We still don’t know what this new Public Services Act will contain, despite repeatedly asking for more details,” Gawronsky said. “We continue to maintain that regardless of what’s in it, it’s essential that our members who actually provide services to Manitobans are consulted.”
MGEU members eager to do what's needed to respond to addictions and meth crisis
Not surprisingly, the speech emphasized government plans for addressing public safety and addictions, including the introduction of a cross-government hub to direct youth in trouble with the law to appropriate community programs and to making improvements to mental health and addictions services.
“The provincial government is in a unique position to take a leadership role in developing a strategy to begin to deal with a growing addictions and meth crisis,” Gawronsky said. “At this point, our members are eager to do what it takes to ensure families and individuals seeking treatment get the support they need and to keep Manitobans safe.”
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