Unfriendly Manitoba

Making a newspaper during the COVID-19 pandemic requires constant updating to accommodate the ever-changing atmosphere. Stories pitched weeks ago, which initially had nothing to do with public health, suddenly change on a dime. The pandemic affects every aspect of social life. Organizations and individuals have had to act quickly to adapt to the crisis.

If any theme has emerged in this issue of The Uniter, it’s that one particularly important body has failed to take the necessary steps to adapt to COVID-19: the Government of Manitoba.

City reporter Alex Neufeldt’s article on COVID-19’s impacts on Manitoba’s healthcare system lays out the many ways in which the Province’s disastrous stripping away of medical infrastructure over the last four years has left us woefully unprepared to deal with this crisis. A system that was already running on fumes now has to fortify itself against a pandemic, and Brian Pallister’s irresponsible cuts are now putting the lives and well-being of health workers in further danger.

Similarly, campus reporter Callum Goulet-Kilgour’s piece examining the new provincial budget and its impact on students outlines Pallister and co.’s unmitigated failure to deliver a budget that accounts for COVID-19. To use an imperfect metaphor, budgeting for peacetime when we need to be preparing for the public health equivalent of a war makes absolutely no sense.

The provincial PCs’ spineless plan of action was only further illustrated by their response to concerns voiced by renters unable to generate income during this crisis. In the business sphere, some shopping malls are already deferring rent entirely for their tenant businesses. But when it comes to vulnerable renters in Manitoba, we’ll see no rent deferrals. Instead, Pallister has merely promised that rents won’t increase during the pandemic (even though Winnipeggers have been voicing concerns about rent already being too high to afford for years, especially when compared to our stagnant property taxes). He’s also graciously promised that those unable to pay rent won’t be evicted during the pandemic (presumably, those evictions will come after this crisis ends).

We’ve never needed compassionate leadership more than we do now. But Pallister’s historical contempt for the working poor appears to be unmoved by a global pandemic, and his message is loud and clear: we’re on our own.

—Thomas Pashko

Published in Volume 74, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 26, 2020)

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