Monday, 16 May 2016

Brian Pallister's Efficiency Fairies

Spending be gone painlessly,
no cuts to services, no
job losses, everyone wins
with the efficiency

Image Source:

(Obtained from Wikipedia)
People like public services but also like low taxes. Conservative parties and right of centre politicians tend to campaign on the later. Given self-styled "fiscal conservatives" tend to make much of deficits and the accumulated stock of debt it stands to reason that something has got to give. Taxes (and other public revenue sources) have to equal spending or else debt financing measures have to be used. Since debt is often (and not always with warrant) regarded as bad, that means service cuts, right?

While people may loath "big government" or "government interference" in the abstract, actual public programs (especially the ones soaking up the largest share of spending) are usually quite popular. This is where one of the cheapest, most effective tricks of rightwing populists comes into play: blaming "waste" for large program spending.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Half of this is true already

Painting of Cassandra in front
of Troy by Evelyn De Morgan

Obtained from Wikipedia.
Throughout the election members of Manitoba's pundit class have denounced concerns over cuts and comparisons to the Filmon administrations of the 1990s. A lot of this shade on Filmon comparisons did the admirable job, for the Pallister CONs at least, of obscuring the likely differences in governing approach between the two parties and giving the (without consideration of past governments) track record free Tories a clear advantage. Manitobans let Brian Pallister off the hook mostly on ambiguous promises of a "better Manitoba" and finding efficiencies, though in the latter days of the campaign Pallister announced plans to change labour relations in our province.

Making the last time Manitoba's had a Tory government not up for legitimate consideration was particularly strange. The man from yesterday the Conservatives chose as leader and who is now Premier of this province was a member of the Filmon cabinet. He has said "I think the Filmon government's record was admirable and I think historians will say that was one of the finest governments that Manitoba has been blessed with". There hasn't been a sharp lurch, ideologically, in the Manitoba Conservative Party away from the Right since the 1990s. Given the prominence of very rightwing figures from southern rural Manitoba in the Tory caucus and even hard right members representing Winnipeg ridings the party may even be more conservative than it was in the 1990s.

Left-progressives have been doing some preemptive organizing. Geoff Bergen, a spokesperson for the grassroots movement Solidarity Winnipeg, told The Winnipeg RAG Review the following:

Its extremely likely that if they win they will look at the books and announce that they have less money then they thought (true or not) and will institute austerity measures that will effect social services and workers livelihoods in Manitoba.- Geoff Bergen, Solidarity Winnipeg spokesperson

From the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday

"It’s worse than we thought. It’s definitely worse than we thought," he [Pallister] told reporters after his 40-member caucus was sworn in on Wednesday in a ceremony at the Legislative Building.

("Budget coming in just over two weeks: Pallister". Kusch, Larry. Winnipeg Free Press (May 11, 2016)) 

It is clear, regardless of whatever spin assuaged people that there wouldn't be a fundamentally distinct direction taken by the Pallister Government, things are playing out as skeptics predicted. This leaves us with the question of how long will it take Manitobans to recognize that the Cassandras were right? 

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Scott Price on what the Pallister Gov't means for the Manitoba Labour Movement

Scott Price on what the Pallister CON Government means for the Manitoba Labour Movement. Labour organizing capacity, the new government's stated intent to move away from card check certification, and the new group Solidarity Winnipeg are discussed.

Fast Forward Newsline - Unions from Green Planet Monitor on Vimeo.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Yes, service cuts are possible with higher than inflation spending increases

Image Source: Twitter

So some snark is being flung around by the centre-right pundit class on #MbPoli twitter over leftwing concerns about austerity and service cuts under the incoming Pallister CON administration. Solidarity Winnipeg was organized under the belief that a Conservative Government on Broadway would result in policies harmful to vast swaths of working people and that push back to said policies are needed. Events like the April 23 post-election workshop on what's next for progressive activists are setting a tone of vigilance. More established progressive organizations, like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Manitoba Office, have taken note too.

There is a clear rationale for the defensive measures of many progressive organizers. Left-progressive activists don't have the funding and ability to set up issue-based opposition campaigns as quickly as a lot of the deep pocketed rightwing groups do. The left can't muster up an astroturf campaign like rightwing groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses or the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation does in response to regulations or tax policies they dislike such as the PST hike. Even labour unions have limitations on how quickly they can mobilize members and on what issues. The money lubricated media machine on the Right is just a lot better at snap responses than the volunteer labour powered organizing of leftwing activists.

Setting up the ground game for a likely fight over public social investments and labour policy early on, therefore, makes quite a bit of sense for left-progressives. When it comes to what "austerity" actually means, obviously the fear is that given enough leeway and not enough pushback the Pallister CON government will implement service cuts like, or greater than, those of the 1990s and drastically change labour relations in this province. "Right to work" and other anti-labour organizing legislation incubated in the US is picking up steam in Canadian rightwing think tanks. In the homestretch of the campaign, Brian Pallister ratcheted up his anti-labour rhetoric and accused unions of running the province.On social services, Pallister stuck to ambiguously talking about cutting "waste" - but "waste" cutting is often a euphemism for cutting services one says to assuage voters.

I have no idea in what context the activists Brian Kelcey tweeted about argued that spending increases above Consumer Price Index increases plus 1-2 % count as "austerity". It can be the case, depending on the demographic makeup of users of certain programs, that even increases above the rate of inflation in spending can result in service cuts, however. This is most obviously the case in healthcare.

Consider the Manitoba mining town of Thompson. Shortly after it was established it had a very young population of blue collar workers and next to no senior residents. I've heard anecdotes of  how in the early days of the Thompson any senior in town meant somebody was visiting from elsewhere.

Now, over time the proportion of older residents of Thompson increased as founding residents aged and more white-collar, industry support jobs developed in the town. It's possible to imagine the growth in seniors being as high as 120% during a five year period in the early days of the town. If we suppose, just to illustrate the argument, that healthcare spending in the area in 1965 was $8000 and there were 100 users we would get spending of $80 per user. Now suppose that spending increased with the rate of inflation plus  3% real growth per year. In five years healthcare spending would be up to $9274.19 in constant dollars*. Let us assume the town had 30 seniors at the start of the five year period and that 70% of seniors use healthcare services. At the end of the five year period the town would have 36 additional seniors and of those about 25 would be healthcare users. Even with the above inflation increases, spending per user and potentially service levels have gone down to $74.19 per user.

This numerical example, completely made up to illustrate the point (I haven't looked at the demographic data over time for Thompson), shows that spending can actually result in service level cuts. This could take the form of longer wait times or less quality care per visit. Obviously, there are other complications (depending on what's the optimal amount of hospitals in the area there can be economies of scale - in which less spending per user doesn't matter - or diseconomies of scale - in which less spending per user would be a big concern and the intensity/cost of care required by seniors may differ from non-seniors).

 The main takeaway point is that Brian Kelcey's subtweeted activists may not be completely out to lunch. Within the context of certain programs, such as healthcare spending, even if funding increases above the rate of inflation there may be cuts in service levels.


*$8000x(1.03)5 = $9274.19

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Rana Bokhari's Harperite tendencies on display in residential school survivor response

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Rana Bokhari, who I mistakenly called a "dynamic leader", has been running on a grab bag of policy proposals and without a clear plan available to the public on how she'd pay for it. As the campaign has dragged on one event made it abundantly clear that, far from being a dynamic, transparent, and optimistic leader Bokhari is acting with an intolerance of dissent reminiscent of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Manitoba Liberal Leader has indicated a clear intolerance for tough questions with her response to Residential School Survivor Gerald McIvor.        

Manitoba liberal leader denies she mishandled residential school survivor claims - APTN National News

The Residential School Survivor asked various questions about her involvement as a lawyer with Carroll Law Office. That law office was involved in a complicated controversy involving legal fees charged to Indian Residential School Survivors for filling forms.

 The brother of Rana Bokhari, Syed Bokhari, and Ken Carroll from the Carroll Law Office formed First Nations Residential School Solutions, Inc (FNRSS) in 2010. Along with the law office FNRSS would play a major role in this controversy.

After investigating for years, the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat alleged in 2014 that the Law Office and FNRSS worked together to charge 30% of settlement value fees to clients. Carroll denied the claim. In April 2014 Justice Schulman of the Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba ruled the fees charged by FNRSS were "unconscionable" as well as "illegal". Ken Carroll claimed to have reimbursed clients of his for the fees charged as well as cut his ties to FNRSS.

In a particularly stark case, reported by the CBC and APTN, it is alleged that Rana Bokhari's brother escorted one Residential School Survivor who had just received a compensation cheque to the bank. The alleged purpose was so the survivor could cash the cheque and pay the high fees for legal work immediately.

Rana Bokhari's main professional experience and hence track record for which one can assess her competence to be premier is in law. Bokhari was a junior lawyer at Carroll Law Office. Furthermore, her brother was part owner of the controversial FNRSS agency which charged, in the words of Justice Schulman, "unconscionable" and "illegal" fees to Residential School Survivors. These facts do not implicate her in any wrongdoing, however Manitobans can have reasonable questions about her legal career given the controversy involving her employer and brother.

Residential School Survivor Gerald McIvor seems to have had just that: questions for a potential next Premier of Manitoba regarding her professional past.

Rana Bokhari denies having any involvement in the fee controversy and has yet to be accused of any involvement. In her words to an APTN reporter "sometimes [...] just by association, as a young student you just happen to be involved in a part of a firm that has something going on and as students we don't know what's happening at the upper levels, right? We're just, we're little gophers doing what we're told to do, right?"

Rana Bokhari's brother and in 2014 part owner
of First Nations Residential School Solutions, Inc
Syed Bokhari.

Image Source: Twitter/@204Syed
Bokhari also told APTN that she left Carroll Law Office within five days of finding out about the overcharging situation. Bokhari told the CBC she became "very emotional" and "enraged" over the overcharging.

So what was her response, as "enraged" as she was at the overcharging to Residential School Survivors, to one survivor who asks questions and is concerned about her past employee-employer relationship? Is it a reasoned demonstration of why she was not involved and is not responsible? Is it a redirection to the Carroll Law Office or FNRSS, to better answer those questions?


A Manitoba Liberal Party lawyer, not Rana Bokhari, responded to McIvor's inquiry without answering him. The lawyer's response was cold to the Residential School Survivor, Liberal Leader Bokhari even herself admits it was "harsh".

In it, the Manitoba Liberal Party's lawyer wrote that "Ms Bokhari denies having done anything unprofessional or improper" and that if McIvor "spread[s his] false allegations further you will be subject to defamation and liable [sic] proceedings".

One has to wonder what false allegations were made by the residential school survivor. Based on the reports from APTN and CBC (including the screen shots of the email in the APTN piece) it looks like Gerald McIvor was asking questions rather than making claims. Rana Bokhari, subsequently defending her self-admittedly "harsh" response to a residential school survivor, stated " […] you almost feel like you're getting slandered, right?" and that she was "threatened [.... with] timelines". The CBC article says that it was the tone she found defamatory, which makes you wonder how a "tone" as opposed to actual claims can be defamatory.

Regardless of how "threatening" deadlines are, not answering and bringing up the spectre of defamation and liable proceedings is a ridiculous response to deadlines, no matter how unreasonable you perceive them to be. Redirection or offering answers past the deadline or just saying you do not have all the information are infinitely more appropriate responses than a "harsh" response from your party's lawyer to a Residential School Survivor.

Rana Bokhari's whole overreaction to the questions reveals that she shares many flaws with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Rather than acting transparently her response to hard questions is to clamp down, sending a response through her party's lawyer which shuts down dialogue and discussion. A bit of time after the backlash from her response she cancelled an in-depth sit-down interview with the Canadian Press.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari has acted with a Harperite disdain for dissent and avoidance of hard questions. She is not displaying the open and transparent leadership Manitobans need and, despite a suite of indigenous candidates, revealed a coldness towards an indigenous person who demanded transparency. Former PM Harper, it should be noted, was able to ignore real grassroots indigenous concerns while having an indigenous woman for a cabinet minister. A much more serious dialogue with indigenous peoples is needed in Manitoba if there is to be any hope of reconciliation.  

On one final note, while Rana Bokhari has not spoken much about her brother or the allegation he escorted a residential school survivor straight to the bank to cash a cheque for fees, a twitter account with Syed Bokhari's picture is up. As of March 13, 2016 10:00 AM Central Time it is filled with retweets attacking Rana Bokhari opponent in Fort Rouge, Wab Kinew.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Why rightwing authoritarians are perplexed by grassroots leftists

Poster advertising a Solidarity Winnipeg forum.

Image Source: Facebook/Solidarity Winnipeg
Rightwingers have been very clueless about the grassroots movement that is Solidarity Winnipeg. Unsubstantiated accusations that the group is "union-backed" or "union funded" are swirled around by conservative tweeters and Facebookers. One Peter Montagnon, for instance, alleged to an organizer of Solidarity Winnipeg that the group was likely funded by labour unions and after being informed that the group receives no union money said the organizer didn't follow the money. When informed that, actually, the organizer is deeply involved and does know a thing or two about finances, Mr. Montagnon resorted to a bunch of childish taunts. Such is the discourse of rightwing conspiracy theorists.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with leftwing activism, such as the work of the Occupy movement, European anti-austerity movements or various grassroots environmental groups, recognizes a familiar strain in Solidarity Winnipeg. That is the pattern of extremely deliberative and participant driven processes sustained by idealistic individuals outside the conventional party politics system. Some individuals on the left periphery of the Manitoba NDP, like Jim Silver, have gone to Solidarity Winnipeg meetings but by and large it lacks the official party activist and labour officialdom set of NDP conventions. Party outsiders and socially conscious individuals, of a variety of different ages, make up the bulk of Solidarity Winnipeg's membership based on the events I've seen.

Solidarity Winnipeg uses the divide up into issue-based groups and brainstorm on the topic model at meetings. The participant and member engagement is crucial to the process of Solidarity Winnipeg developing a more detailed profile on the issues. Incidentally, some of the refrains about the lack of quick decision-making that have been leveled at movements like Occupy Wall Street apply, in a less exaggerated form, to Solidarity Winnipeg. How this will affect their political efficacy coming forward remains to be seen.

Now with the organizational and ideological basis of Solidarity Winnipeg so plain to see, with organizer Matthew Brett having even penned an article discussing the need for independent left activism in Manitoba before the movement took off, why do the "union command and fund" claims abound?

The answer seems to lie in the fact that rightwing authoritarians are so utterly entrenched in a hierarchical understanding and ordering of society that they project this onto the left. These rightwing authoritarians think leftwing activists act and see the world the same way as they do, taking marching orders from on high while subserviently and mindlessly following leaders. Recall that Manitoba Forward was funded by high level figures with grievances against the NDP, had an agenda set by a small group of people and then hired staff to carry out an already established agenda.

The grassroots left just doesn't work that way. It is utterly non-hierarchical and deliberative, arguably to a fault, in political organizing. One can expect to see more of these nonsense claims as rightwing authoritarians continue to fail completely at understanding the other side.

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Friday, 29 January 2016

What Solidarity Winnipeg is all about, in the words of their spokesperson

Poster advertising a Solidarity Winnipeg forum.

Image Source: Facebook/Solidarity Winnipeg
Solidarity Winnipeg is a grassroots, leftwing movement in our city mobilizing as a force of independent left opposition. Their prime concern is opposing a potential Pallister CON government should one form after the 2016 provincial election. If that does not happen and the NDP is re-elected, they plan on pressuring the party into a more progressive policy direction. Given the history of any large, vaguely leftish group in the province being fairly direct auxiliaries of the provincial NDP this is certainly an interesting turn of events. A fairly independent, growing leftwing movement not shackled by partisan considerations has great potential for injecting balance and perspective into the "NDP vs NDP are evil socialists" politics of our province.

Centre-right blogger Derick (of Around This Town fame) asked if the group was the "anti-Manitoba Forward". The assessment sounds fair, as Manitoba Forward was a group organized at the elite level by rightwing folks with their own grievances against the Manitoba NDP. Solidarity Winnipeg, on the other hand, is a deliberative, street-level movement critical of all major Manitoba parties that has just nominated a spokesperson in Geoff Bergen. The group seems to be heavily, if not entirely, dependent on volunteers whereas Manitoba Forward was launched into the media as a fully formed organization with paid staff. This truly is an "anti-Manitoba Forward" in terms of both ideology and their approach to political organizing.

I have emailed Winnipeg Solidarity. They took a bit of time to get back to me - the nascent, grassroots organization had not yet chosen a spokesperson. Once Geoff Bergen was chosen as spokesperson for the organization he agreed to answer some questions I had.

Bold = My Questions
Blue = Solidarity Winnipeg spokesperson Geoff Bergen's answers

1) What was the main motivation for forming? Was there any core group that coalesced to form Winnipeg Solidarity and are there ties to earlier groups?

The main motivation for forming Solidarity Winnipeg was to create some sort of grassroots fight back against the PC's should they form government after the provincial election. Solidarity Winnipeg aims to attract people who do not want to see a PC victory but don't want to be involved in an NDP campaign. Though Solidarity Winnipeg is not campaigning for the NDP we are hoping for an NDP victory. If that should happen Solidarity Winnipeg will shift its grassroots campaign to putting pressure on the provincial NDP to resist austerity and make real progressive changes for Manitobans. Their was no core group that coalesced SolWpg and it has no ties to earlier groups. Some members of SolWpg are members of the NDP, some are not and never will be. Some members have worked together before and some are meeting for the first time. Our membership includes, but is not limited to student activists, environmental activists, anarchists, socialists, feminists, and trade unionists.

2) What, in particular, makes members of Winnipeg Solidarity fear that Brian Pallister would implement an austerity agenda of harsh program cuts? Are there any statements of his or the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba that are particularly concerning? 

The track records of the PC's and Liberals in other provinces is very telling as to what either of those party's may do should they win after April 19th. We only need to look at the Manitoba PC's in the 1990's to see how their party feels about spending on the public service. People shouldn't get caught up in the nice sounding rhetoric coming from Brain Pallister, he has already mentioned numerous times how he will cut "waste" in government. Should the PC's win it is to be expected that they will try to run the province differently then the NDP. This means things the NDP left alone, like the Labour Relations Act may be opened and changed by the PCs. Its extremely likely that if they win they will look at the books and announce that they have less money then they thought (true or not) and will institute austerity measures that will effect social services and workers livelihoods in Manitoba.

3) Based on social media posts, it seems Solidarity Winnipeg members are sceptical of Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Rana Bokhari and the type of administration the Manitoba Liberals would run. What is your main cause for concern? 

The Liberals are in the envious position where they can promise all kinds of things and never actually have to implement any of them nor follow through. At this point they seem to be making grab bag promises; change student loans to grants (good), privatize liquor sales (bad). Because the Manitoba Liberals are not likely to win this election they will likely continue to make campaign promises this way, with no way of being certain of what they will actually follow through on. Again, the Liberal Party's track record in Ontario also creates some skepticism of how the Liberals would actually run the province of Manitoba.

4) Winnipeg Solidarity, based on social media posts, seems to be critical of the Manitoba Liberal Party's pledges to privatize liquor sales. What would your main concerns with liquor sale privatization be?  

By privatizing liquor sales the government would be giving up revenue generated by those sales. That loss of revenue would result in more pressure to cut spending which would hurt Manitoba's social services. Secondly by privatizing the sale of liquor, good paying unionized jobs in the retail sector will be lost.

5) Does Winnipeg Solidarity perceive a role for participating with the labour movement? If so, could you elaborate on the type of relationship you would see? 

We would hope to be partnering with labour movement, however some parts of the mainstream labour movement are rather entrenched with the NDP. Some may not like our critical stance on the party. I personally hope to work with labour movement as I consider myself a labour activist. I was drawn to Solidarity Winnipeg as I had become frustrated with the fact that getting involved with labour initiatives ultimately meant I was going to campaign for the NDP. Its hard to say what this relationship will look like, but possibly partnering on pickets or demonstrations to start while we build a relationship with one another.

6) If the Manitoba PCs win next election, what type of political action - if any - do you see Winnipeg Solidarity partaking in? 

This is a great question. What I would like everyone to know about Solidarity Winnipeg is that the provincial election is just the short aim of the group. Our long aim is to form a solid group of grassroots activists to put pressure on which ever government is in power. We did not form to work for a few months before the election and then disappear. When we formed the group, the feeling was we couldn't wait till after the election to build our fightback. We are using the election period as a time for form our group, get input from different groups and community's and recruit activists who are in this for the long haul. I can't speak to what our political action will look like after the election, I feel that depends on who wins. But what I can say about our political action is to expect it, regardless of who wins on April 19th

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Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Next Premier of Manitoba

There hasn't been a Conservative so progressive since, at least, the 18th century. Brian Pallister, of course, displaying the height of compassionate Conservative concern for our children and his will to move Manitoba FORWARD!!!!

The four or more years of a Pallister Premiership will be fantastic for budding political comedians in the province, which is something in terms of job creation at least.

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Guest Post - End the Bureaucracy: UMSU won’t solve our Problems

Note: I spoke to a concerned student at the University of Manitoba about current events involving the University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) and the administration. They expressed a number of concerns and I, The Analyst, asked if they would be willing to summarize the situation for interested members of the public. They agreed to submit a summary of the problems at hand geared towards University of Manitoba students. Presented below are the thoughts and arguments of the concerned student, not me. They have been edited for the blog format.

Is power at the University of Manitoba too centralized
with the administration? In today's guest post, a
U of M student argues it is.

Image Source: University of Manitoba Administration
Building, obtained from Wikipedia.
We are often told that we are facing a financial crisis at the University of Manitoba, but what is ignored is that we are facing a political crisis as well. This crisis is driven by the structure of our university’s decision making process, and the political actors such as the administration and UMSU executives.
Bureaucratic structure

The university administration has attacked students. The attack can be most clearly seen in the budget cuts and fee increases that were passed this May, 2015. Depletion in the quality of our education, cuts to programs and courses, a loss of services across campus, a drop in community morale, and, despite University VP Academic Joanne Keselman’s claim that increasing tuition makes the university more accessible, an increase in barriers to accessibility were visible results.

But the attack on students existed long before the vote on this year’s budget. The process, or system, that generates these harmful decisions is the larger problem that plagues this university as well as many others.

The process in which the budget is created is incredibly opaque, as are many other decision making processes on neoliberal campuses.

The majority of budgetary decisions are made by a tight group of senior administration and by the Budget Advisory Committee – a small group completely lacking in transparency that meets throughout the year. These meetings are closed off to the public, including the university community. No minutes are published, and any documents dispersed are not allowed to enter the public domain. What a shame it would be for the university if their proposals could be properly scrutinized by the great minds of our campus.

Students who begin to question budgetary decisions, such as the $3.6 million transfer from the operating budget to the capital budget to pay offthe Welcome Centre, or the plans for developing movie theatres on purchased golf courses, are directed by the administration to the University’s Strategic Planning Framework and Strategic Plan. But this plan was created without student consultations that could create any binding decisions. This means that the consultations with students could only end in recommendations that the admins were free to ignore.

Once the budget proposals have been created, they are passed on to the Board of Governors (BoG) for a rubber stamp of approval. Students, who comprise the vast majority of the campus community, are given 6 out of 23 seats - 3 of these seats are given to UMSU who have traditionally given one of these seats to a University of Manitoba Graduate Students' Association (UMGSA) representative. These board members are only given a single week to review the proposal before it is voted on, with no alternative offered. This decision came at a time when many student board members were preparing for exams.

The university both keeps us in the dark, and acts as if we are having our voices heard. They have created a façade of democracy where students are led to believe that they make decisions that in fact come from a small group atop the administrative hierarchy. This fake democracy conceals our lack of power on campus and creates passive tendencies in students.


University of Manitoba Students Union Vice-President
Advocacy Rebecca Kunzman.

Image Source: Rebecca Kunzman/Twitter
A question that is surely on the minds of many students is what the two UMSU representative’s positions were on the budget that was passed. The purpose of a union is to advocate for better and just conditions for its members. The last public stance made by UMSU’s executives seemed to reflect this when they claimed they were against budget cuts in a letter published by the Manitoban on December 4th, 2014.

But the phrase “action speaks louder than words” comes to mind, as UMSU VP of Advocacy Rebecca Kunzman refused to stand in opposition to the cuts and international fee increases, abstaining from voting while offering no amendments to the budget proposal. UMSU President Jeremiah Kopp voted in favour of the proposed cuts and international fee hikes, with no objection or amendments to the budget.

Our executives are failing us. On Friday, May 15th, students from the Student Action Network (SAN) met with voting student members of the BoG in an attempt to have them vote in opposition to the budget proposals. Despite our efforts, despite the outcry and activism of the international community, and the hundreds of students who participated in the rallies and marches of last year, it was evident that Kopp had already made his mind to vote in favour.

It is has been said time and time again by student bureaucrats that “process is process”. But this reinforcement of the bureaucratic structure allows the administration to avoid responsibility for the dire situation it has created. It allows them to continue with the façade of democracy, pushing the blame onto the broader community who is not at fault and is ultimately powerless.

Our UMSU executives have confused the end goals of unions with the means of attaining those goals. While good relations between our union and the administration can perhaps streamline the procedure of advocating for students, these relations must never be prioritized above the condition of students themselves. Better conditions for students must be the goal. Their confusion is manifested in their support of the budget, and their refusal to oppose administration.

University of Manitoba Students Union President
Jeremiah Kopp.

Image Source: Jeremiah Kopp/Twitter
Where do we go from here? Our first step is to recognize that budget allocations are political choices, as are tuition increases. The austere conditions facing the community today are a result of the choices made at the hands of an administration.

Until UMSU takes issue with the processes it participates in, they can do little to solve our problems. It is not enough to ask them, or the administration, to make different choices on our behalf. The bureaucrats and their choices are a problem, but the problem also lies with the bureaucratic structure.

If the administration were to become reasonable before the next round of cuts, they would still be able to make terrible decisions on our behalf in the future. Instead, we must be able to make the choices ourselves. The university is a diverse and public intellectual centre that deserves a proper democratic process. The recently revived Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) has begun to make headway towards a participatory budget for the University of Manitoba as well as the University of Winnipeg. No doubt this is a step in the right direction, and one we must push the administration to adopt. Hope that we may progress towards a democracy – one that listens to domestic and international students, workers, and faculty – is inspiring.

But our efforts must not end there. Problems such as quotas, differential GPAs, and an increasingly privatized campus cannot all be fought for, or even discussed, within the scope of a budget. We must democratize other aspects of campus as well.

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wingnut sickos carpet bomb Winnipeg with disgusting flyers

Image Source: Wonkette
A group of Fetus Fetishists with an infamous history is at it again. The group, billing itself the "Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform", took to sending out flyers throughout Winnipeg with disgusting images of fetuses in early August.

10,000 of these flyers were sent to Winnipeg through Canada Post mail delivery. Deceptively labelled "important election information", at least one Winnipegger opened it up - expecting information on where to vote - only to be taken aback by the disgusting shock value of the flyer photos.

But mass mailings weren't the only way these sicko flyers were distributed throughout our great city.A local group strongly opposed to reproductive choice, Winnipeg Against Abortion, decided to hand deliver 6,000 flyers to homes across the Winnipeg South Centre riding. This riding was one where the Conservative candidate, Joyce Bateman, very narrowly won over her nearest competitor and the flyers were in response to Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's new party line on reproductive choice.