Send the Manitoba Tories off in infamy!

PV Manitoba Bureau 

Manitobans have the opportunity to send a decisive message to the province’s Progressive Conservatives, putting an end to almost eight years of brutal austerity and funding cuts to healthcare, education, childcare, public transportation and more. For two successive terms, under the governments of Brian Pallister and Heather Stefanson, working people have endured naked contempt from Manitoba Tories. From the summary wage freezes of the 2017 Public Services Sustainability Act to Pallister’s Bill 7, which eliminated card check for unionizing workplaces, the PCs have been waging a war on workers at every opportunity. Most recently, they’ve fought bitterly against wage increases for liquor workers and public insurance employees, provoking province-wide strikes as they try to enlist consumer discontent in their program of sweeping privatizations.

But as seen on the picket lines, working people aren’t buying it. As contracts expire where they even exist, Manitoba’s minimum wage lags far behind the rising cost of living. (An insufficient wage increase, to $15.30, comes into effect this month.) And as inflated rents push almost half of Winnipeg tenants into core housing need, PCs have pledged to actually raise the rent increase guideline in 2024, campaigning directly to landlords.

Winnipeg faces a serious housing crisis, compounding the multi-generational effects of colonial dispossession, and the response from both city and province has been to police the outcomes of this shortfall rather than address them at their root. As greater numbers of people experience housing precarity and homelessness, the province has all but washed its hands of any responsibility to address this desperate need. At a recent leaders’ debate, the NDP spoke of rent controls and infill housing, but has otherwise campaigned on market solutions, claiming that publicly owned housing can only lag behind present requirements. Here too, a decisive solution to this crisis is simply not on the agenda.

This complacency speaks to a greater disappointment of the election. Where one might expect distinction, the NDP is also campaigning to a median position of fiscal conservatism and tough-on-crime scaremongering. When the PCs launched a plausibly racist advertising drive against NDP leader Wab Kinew, relitigating his criminal record, the NDP embarked on their own law-and-order campaign, pledging new prisons and tighter bail conditions. (For context, as many as 75 percent of those presently incarcerated in Manitoba are legally innocent, unconvicted and awaiting trial for upwards of months and even years.) And as PCs offer endless rebates to the propertied, the NDP promises to lower taxes and to balance the budget within their first term. To anyone paying attention, this sounds more like a threat than a promise – four more years of crushing austerity.

That said, it’s clear enough that Manitobans shouldn’t stand for another term, or day, of Tory brutality. From Heather Stefanson’s ghoulish refusal to search the landfills for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to the coordinated attacks on queer and trans youth under the banner of “parental rights,” the PCs are running on open bigotry, courting a new moral majority in an intensifying culture war. This, it follows, is the right-wing accompaniment to class war – and the PCs have pledged to intensify their hallmark rollbacks, hacking apart what public services remain. For far too many people, these policies are a matter of life and death. What would another term of PC policy mean practically? More emergency room closures, the further gutting of environmental monitoring, worse wages and fewer protections for workers, and dangerous regress on hard-won democratic rights.

However commanding, a Tory loss will not itself improve the lives of Manitobans – that will take concerted movements and pressure campaigns for years to come, whichever party assumes office – but it would be a meaningful advance in the conditions under which working people build power.

Stefanson’s departure is past due; on October 3, let’s send her off in infamy.

People’s Voice encourages its readers to support the Communist Party’s campaign for a People’s Alternative for Manitoba. Candidates and platform are available here.

[Photo: Still from video of labour rally in Winnipeg in support of striking MGEU workers]

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