Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Manitoba: What the NDP Does When It Governs. (Editorial)

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Manitoba: What the NDP Does When It Governs. (Editorial)

Article excerpt

All signs indicate Manitobans will be going to the polls sometime in the next six. months, with Gary Doer's New Democrats seeking a second term in office.

A local wag recently described ManItoba's NDP government as Tories without corruption. This is not fair.

The Doer government has done some positive things. Responding to the demands of community activists, it has increased the availability of daycare; re-charged the health-care system; reduced university and community-college tuition fees; introduced election-finance reform; and committed itself to tranfering child-welfare responsibilities for Aboriginal peoples to Aboriginal agencies (a potentially good move seriously marred, however, as it involves downloading a program already in crisis for lack of funds).

It is news to no one that neither this nor any other NDP government is remotely interested in challenging capital. Those days are long past. But even within the limits of a social-democratic framework, the Doer government is hamstrung by its choice to accept the neoliberal economic regime it inherited from the far-right Tory government of Gary Filmon. This is most notable in its decision not to rescind the stringent balanced-budget legislation imposed by the previous regime. This legislation prevents a government from running a deficit in any single year, requires a referendum to approve any significant tax increase, and stipulates that a hefty $75 million be spent to pay down the provincial debt each year.

For a party that claims to represent the interests of the poor and powerless, it is also notable that the Doer government has refused to raise Manitoba's welfare rates over its term in office. These rates stand at the reduced level established by the Filmon government back in 1995. In real terms, welfare rates are almost 25 per cent less than what they were 12 years ago. Is it a wonder Manitoba has the second-highest child-poverty rate in Canada?

The Doer New Democrats chose to accept nearly all of the regressive amendments to the Manitoba Labour Relations Act introduced by the Filmon government. It also rejected the recommendation of its own appointed Minimum Wage Chairman, John Godard, a professor of business, who argued that the standard approach of adding an arbitrarily chosen hourly increase to the minimum wage should be rejected in favour of a system that ties the minimum wage to a universal standard of just pay, like Statistics Canada's Low-Income Cut-Off. Instead, the Doer government chose the two-bits-an-hour route. And, when assembly-line workers at Motor Coach Industries, a large bus manufacturer, chose to go on strike despite threats of plant closure and relocation to the south, the premier intervened on the side of the company, urging workers to accept a humiliating contract. …

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