Protecting Public Services Key to New Government’s Accountability
May 20, 2016Manitobans recently exercised the most fundamental right they have as citizens in a democracy: they voted, and chose to elect a new government to lead them in the four years to come. The transition to a new Progressive Conservative government is significant for the citizens of Manitoba. It is doubly so when the new government is your direct employer or if the agency you work for is funded by government to sustain services and operations. The vast majority of MGEU members are directly influenced by government policy and budgetary decisions and many are processing how the change in government will affect the work they do.
Our union is committed to keeping members informed about what these changes mean, and as we’ve emphasized previously, we’re going to make every effort to ensure members know about issues and developments that affect them in their working lives and in their communities. And that starts with raising awareness about the value of the public services we depend on each day and encouraging members to share their stories as the people who deliver those services.
Part of a successful path forward is taking steps to form a positive working relationship with the new government. Immediately upon his election as Premier, MGEU sent a letter of congratulations to Brian Pallister and a request to set up a meeting as soon as possible to discuss issues pertinent to the MGEU. In addition, now that a Cabinet has been announced and sworn in, requests have been made to the new Ministers about meetings that will enable the union to drill down on how members might be affected at the departmental level.
This week I had my first meeting with a Minister in the new government: Cliff Cullen, the new Minister for Growth, Enterprise and Trade. The meeting was productive, and I stressed the importance of the government’s pledge to keep public services public and to protect those services. We discussed what the government’s view of what a “front-line” service is. And while we didn’t hear a clear and concise answer to the question, this conversation was an important one because, as public employees know, and as we’ve been vocal about in our recent Keep Us Together advertising campaign, cutting any part of the circuit of people who provide services affects the end result. Whether you cut those who provide direct service, or if you cut behind the scenes, you’re bound to diminish the service provided. We know public services are already stretched thin and cuts and privatization will harm services families rely on.
This week, I was also in attendance at the Manitoba Legislature for the Provincial Throne Speech, which sets a course for the new government in terms of future initiatives and legislation. Many of the announcements have been outlined previously in the media or over the course of the recent election campaign. At about 15 minutes, the speech itself was short. But there were a number of items in the speech that were of interest to MGEU members, including the announcement of a new mental health and addictions strategy, changes to ambulance fees, a “value for money” audit of government spending, and changes to how union certification works.
I spoke with many media outlets after the speech, and put forward the idea that the new government has pledged to protect public services and that we’ll hold them to this promise. MGEU is tracking promises and announcements made by the this new government and processing how those promises will affect our union. We’ll be doing appropriate research and policy development, in cooperation with the MGEU’s elected leadership, to develop strategies that will allow us to successfully meet these new challenges.
We’ll be watching, and seeking members' ideas and input in a number of ways in the days ahead as we begin to manage what the change in government means for all of us.
Check back periodically at mgeu.ca and unionbug.ca for further updates and blog posts as we continue to keep MGEU members up-to-date on the issues that affect them.
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