The Manitoba Tories must go!

PV staff  

Manitoba is into a provincial election campaign, and the stakes are high for working people. Seven years of majority Conservative governments – first under Brian Pallister and now under Heather Stefanson – have ground the province down through a bombardment of privatization, cuts to programs and services, low wages, and outright disdain for Indigenous rights.

It’s clear that the Manitoba Tories must go.

For much of the summer, opinion polls put the Conservatives in a virtual dead heat with Wab Kinew’s New Democrats, at around 40 percent support each. The Liberals and Greens have been attracting around 10 and 4 percent respectively for the same period. But, now that the writ has dropped, it’s an open field of political debate over which direction will best serve working people.

That debate will include Manitoba unions, many of whom have moved into sharp struggle against the Tory government – like the Manitoba General Employees Union (MGEU), which is currently on strike at Manitoba Public Insurance. It will also include the Communist Party of Canada (Manitoba), which has been preparing to run candidates in about 5 ridings. (People’s Voice will have more coverage of the CPC(M) campaign in our next issue.)

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of what some organizations have been saying about the Conservative record (compiled by PV staff from press releases and websites):

Manitoba Nurses Union:

Our health care system is broken. But it is salvageable. As we move towards a provincial election, the Manitoba Nurses Union is asking all Manitobans to get engaged. Continuing on the way we have been is absolutely outrageous. We need each and every one of you to vote like your life depends on it. Because it really does.

Healthcare is not a nurses’ issue. This issue does not discriminate based on gender or age. This is a Manitoba issue. And sitting back and watching our system crumble is completely unacceptable.

We must do more to protect the vulnerable and prevent the few nurses that we have in this program from leaving. We need concerted efforts to retain and recruit more nurses. We need mentors staying in the system. We need ALL politicians to start listening to the front line.


Like her close friend Brian Pallister before her, Heather Stefanson is a premier who can’t be trusted to protect what matters.

In July 2023 the federal government deducted $350,000 from transfers to Manitoba after it was revealed a clinic was charging patients for medically necessary services.

Outpatient physiotherapy has been dramatically privatized for patients recovering from total hip or knee replacement. Stefanson has promised more healthcare privatization, ensuring that working people will face either chaos or higher out-of-pocket costs.

Wait times for tests has increased the length of time it takes to receive a proper diagnosis. MRI wait times are up 70 percent since August of 2022 – something the Stefanson government was forced to concede is the result of staffing shortages.

At 20.7 percent, Manitoba had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, an astounding seven percentage points above the national average (13.5 percent). Poverty is racialized – in 2021, 41.6 percent of First Nations children with single Indigenous identities in the province experienced child poverty, followed by those children identified as Arab (39.8 percent), West Asian (37.7 percent), Chinese (30.1 percent) and Black (25.0 percent).

The proportion of multiple job holders – a key measure of the prevalence of precarious work – was 7.3 percent in Manitoba in July 2023, the highest Canada.

Nearly 25 percent of wage-earners in Manitoba fell below the national wage floor for low pay. Almost one in ten wage-earners in Manitoba earned less than $15 per hour in July 2023, the second-highest percentage in Canada.

Under Heather Stefanson and Brian Pallister before her, the publicly owned Manitoba Hydro has descended into chaos. In 2018 the entire board of directors resigned to protest Pallister’s mismanagement of the utility. The mass resignation followed job cuts, consumer rate increases and wage freezes for staff at the Crown corporation that provides the second-cheapest hydroelectric rates in the country.

In March 2022, an arbitrator ruled Pallister lay-offs at Hydro were a clear violation of the collective agreement. Later in 2022, Unifor Local 681 were forced to take action with rotating strikes, simply to get a similar wage increase other workers already received under the Stefanson government.

From healthcare cuts and closures to anti-worker laws that suppress wages across the province, Heather Stefanson’s PCs are responsible for a decline in public services and good jobs.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Chiefs-in-Assembly calls for the resignation of Heather Stefanson, the leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative (PC) Party.

The resolution was passed unanimously in response to the premier’s stated position and continued refusal to support a search of the Brady Landfill and Prairie Green Landfill for Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) and Tanya Nepinak. The province’s refusal to support the search for and the repatriation of human remains is contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said, “All political party leaders should be committed to implementing the UNDRIP and reconciliation. This includes the search for, and repatriation of, human remains in the Brady and Prairie Green landfills. Heather Stefanson’s disregard for respecting human rights and promoting reconciliation as the Manitoba PC Party Leader means she will do the same if she is re-elected as Premier.

“It is time to make way for another party member who possesses the moral and ethical integrity and leadership aptitude to honour those who have been murdered or gone missing, listen to voices of the families and survivors, address the injustices created by colonization, and uphold a firm commitment to human rights.”

Manitoba Teachers’ Society:

For the past six years, the provincial contribution to operating funding for public education has failed to keep pace with inflation. According to published Manitoba Education FRAME reports from 2016-17 to 2020-21, the audited provincial contribution to the operation of K-12 public schools declined by 5.2 percent when adjusted for inflation (during the April 2016-April 2021 period).

“In years with inflation levels of two per cent, school divisions were already struggling to meet the needs of their students,” said Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) president James Bedford. “Record high inflation rates coupled with the increasingly diverse and complex needs of Manitoba’s student population means the situation is dire.”

Operating revenue that is below the rate of inflation means that the public education system is losing ground on a per pupil basis.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

Manitoba continues to have the second lowest minimum wage in Canada, keeping wages low for the lowest paid workers and forcing more households into poverty. A poverty minimum wage is bad public policy, as families who work for low wages must sacrifice necessities to make ends meet, leading to chronic stress and long-term health issues. With the potential for a recession on the horizon, a low minimum wage will increase poverty across the province.

CCPA research reveals that in Manitoba minimum wage workers are increasingly educated, established in their jobs, and older compared with ten years ago. These findings indicate that minimum wage workers more frequently support families, which contradicts assertions that minimum wage workers are teenagers working their first jobs. In 2019, almost half of minimum wage workers were over 25, nearly a third had a post-secondary degree, and another third were married or living common law. In many cases, adults in the family are working long hours at multiple jobs to make ends meet. Surviving on the minimum wage was untenable before the pandemic and is certainly unsustainable now. Given the economic pressures low-wage workers presently face, a living wage policy will help provide workers with the income required to avoid poverty. Manitoba should follow the lead of other Canadian provinces by significantly increasing its minimum wage in line with a living wage.

[Photo: MGEU]

Get People’s Voice delivered to your door or inbox!

If you found this article useful, please consider subscribing to People’s Voice.

We are 100% reader-supported, with no corporate or government funding.

Sign up for regular updates from People's Voice!

You will receive email notifications with our latest headlines.