Talking to Government About Your Province and Priorities
Oct 20, 2016
I had occasion to speak with to Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen three times over the past two weeks. This is good news, on the whole, as MGEU has been requesting meetings with government frequently since the election but have only had a small handful to date.
I was part of a delegation of labour leaders for the first meeting with Minster Friesen, along with Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck, UFCW Local 832 President Jeff Traeger, and CUPE Manitoba President Kelly Moist. The meeting focused largely on the Province’s fiscal situation, and the Minister referenced several challenges that he sees in the mid to long-term.
All leaders present stressed the importance of maintaining regular dialogue with the government, and that channels for communications should be open if we are to best serve union members and indeed all Manitobans.
My second meeting was Joint Council, which is something the government and union do quarterly. Joint Council is a form of Labour-Management Committee established under the Civil Service Act. The government is often represented by Ministers over a range of senior government portfolios including the Ministers Responsible for the Civil Service, Justice, Health, and Infrastructure, as well as senior government staff. On this occasion, the union was represented by myself, MGEU 1st VP Wayne Chacun, and Brother Brian Parley, as well as an MGEU staff person or MGEU director. The mandate of Joint Council is to deal with labour or management issues at a macro level and work toward solutions.
I was also a presenter at the Province’s pre-budget consultation meetings at the Canad Inns on Regent Avenue this past week. In my presentation, I talked about the challenges public employees face in delivering public services when they are stretched thin as it is. I talked about the need to protect our services, and provided some examples of areas where we have been falling short due to a lack of adequate resources (like kids in care, for example).
I also took the opportunity at the budget consultations, as I did at all the recent meetings, to remind the government about their election commitment to protect and improve public services. Manitobans expect they will make good on this election commitment, and we will work every day to hold them to their word.
I also reminded the government that Manitobans have clearly indicated in independent public opinion polling that they value public services above all else, and have identified ways other than cutting services to meet our fiscal obligations. More specifically, Manitobans have said they favour raising taxes on large corporations and upper income households ahead of rushing to balance the budget or bringing down the deficit. That’s clear direction.
Every province in Canada faces fiscal challenges, and it’s the responsibility of government to have a dialogue with citizens about what their hopes and expectations are when it comes to how the government meets its fiscal obligations. I was pleased to have had the opportunity over the past couple of weeks to share our position with the government, and we’re going to keep raising your concerns and ideas at every opportunity.
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