Public services and privatization

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In the Fall 2016 Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives  (CCPA)Saskatewan’s Simon Enoch penned Getting to Know Brad, introducing Canada’s most popular premier – Brad Wall - to the country. He ran down Wall’s list of “accomplishments”. What made Simon’s analysis so interesting (and at the same time, disheartening) was how Wall has rolled out such a regressive agenda while remaining so popular.  He noted that the rest of Canada needed to pay attention to Wall as he was beta-testing a number of conservative policy experiments that we could see replicated elsewhere.
The news that Manitoba Hydro will shed 900 employees hit the community like a tonne of bricks. The new government said cutbacks were coming, but 900 is a staggering number; 15 percent of Hydro’s workforce. Not only is this a tragedy for the workers and their families, it is a real blow to our economy. It is unclear how this will impact hydro services we rely on.
Last Monday the Manitoba Minister responsible for the status of women, Rochelle Squires declared the third week in January “gender equality week”. However the new provincial government needs to carefully consider what steps are needed to achieve true equality for Manitoba women.  The answer lies in starting with equity, targeted investments and supporting strong public services.
It feels a bit counterintuitive, after a tumultuous 2016, to be talking about the mundane matter of tax reform. This is normally a time of deeper reflection on the year that was and the trends and challenges to come. Slow growth in the global economy, the collapse of mega-regional trade deals like the TPP and TTIP, the election of a sexist, race-baiting bully in the U.S.
Pursuant to new provincial and federal effluent guidelines, the City of Portage la Prairie is required to upgrade its wastewater facilities, known as the Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF). The new Public-Private Partnership (P3) project has not undergone public scrutiny. Past examples point to P3s being more expensive than public management of these project.
A version of this was first published in the Winnipeg Free Press Friday November 25, 2016   If the new provincial government had shown a certain amount of restraint up until now, it seemed much more willing to show its hand in Monday’s Throne Speech.  A few strong messages emerged: public-sector workers are in for a rough ride; there’s going to be a strong push towards privatization on several levels; and there’s nothing concrete for Manitoba’s northern communities. It all adds up to a strong austerity agenda.
UBC economist Robert Evans calls user fees in health care zombies, a policy option that keeps surfacing despite being killed over and over again by the evidence.   During Manitoba’s recent provincial election Brian Pallister invoked zombies anew by saying that he would not rule out the introduction of private sector options in health care.  This would be a mistake.
A new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives MB report:  Balancing Convenience with Social Responsibility: Liquor regulation in Manitoba examines the way liquor is managed and sold in Western Canada. The report was authored by Greg Flanagan, a public finance economist.
New research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Manitoba office concludes that Manitoba’s liquor sales and distribution model is better when compared to private sales and distribution systems seen in other Western provinces. “This report solidifies why the public sale of liquor is safer and more responsible,” said Lynne Fernandez, Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues with the CCPA.  “The report finds Manitoba’s liquor retail system comes out on top compared to other western provinces when it comes to liquor control and sales.”
This fall Winnipeg City Council will determine the future of waste and recycling collection in our city.  Current contracts with Emterra Environmental and Progressive Waste Services will expire in 2017.  At least eight private companies have expressed interest in putting forward a proposal, and it will be up to council to select from the various applicants. While garbage is generally not a “sexy” topic, there are many reasons why the public should be paying attention.