MLL and MPI Safe from Privatization for Now
Nov 07, 2016
Last week I had an opportunity to sit down with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. As many MGEU members will know or will have seen in the media, I’d been trying to get the Premier to have a meeting since he was elected back in April. Clearly, the importance of our discussion was magnified by last week’s news that Manitoba’s PC government was seeking a one-year wage freeze to be imposed at the 11th hour of negotiations between the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Administration and UMFA, the U of M’s Faculty Association. When we learned of this, we called the Premier’s Office immediately for clarification and an emergency meeting.
My message to the Premier was clear: our members need to know that bargaining will be done fairly and will not be dictated before it even begins. The Premier was non-committal on the wage freeze and what his imposition in the U of M situation would mean for the rest of the public sector, but I reminded him that the message that had been sent was not a good one, and that we’d be bargaining hard on behalf of MGEU members.
There was an unexpected agenda item in the conversation, too: Premier Pallister committed, or one should I say re-committed, to not privatize Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) or the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Commission (MLLC).
I say re-committed because there is evidence of this in the MGEU’s 2016 Election Questionnaire. You may recall we asked all the parties this: “… If elected, would your government privatize, restructure, or contract out public assets and services like Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, Manitoba Hydro or other provincial corporations/operations?” The PC answer: “The Progressive Conservatives have made it very clear that we will keep public services public. Manitoba Hydro belongs to all Manitobans and it will remain a full public agency.”
We know the advantages of a public liquor model, which were recently highlighted in a research paper released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The report found that the current system of public liquor sales in Manitoba is in line with World Health Organization standards (WHO), and ranks Manitoba’s system as the best amongst the other three Western provinces. As well, public liquor sales returned over $280 million in revenue to the Provincial Government. We also know, Liquor Marts provide over 850 good paying jobs for families in communities across Manitoba that contribute every day to our economy.
There are significant advantages to public auto insurance, as well, particularly when it comes to cost. A report released last year by Deloitte found the average cost of auto insurance in Manitoba was second lowest in the country (Saskatchewan is also a public entity, and had the lowest average rates). Manitobans may not know that MPI rates are set based on driving experience, not on things like gender, where you live, or how old you are. When you also consider that MPI head office jobs stay in Manitoba, the safety initiatives supported by MPI, and the advantages of no-fault insurance, it’s clear we want to keep auto insurance public.
But voters can be forgiven if they are cynical about promises like these that suggest government won’t privatize, even when there’s a track record there. The Filmon PC Government in 1990s said flat-out that they wouldn’t privatize the telephone system. Of course, we know they did. Our prairie neighbours to the West had a similar experience with liquor sales. In 2007, the Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall said “Crowns are not going to be privatized and (subsidiaries) are not going to be wound down.” Premier Wall and the Saskatchewan Party is now privatizing the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.
The news the Premier shared with me is both good for our members, and good for our economy. And we’re going to remain vigilant in making sure they live up to their commitment to keep public services public.
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