Manitoba’s “shame-gate” and the sexism of budget cuts

Matthew Brett

Male Manitoba NDP representatives yelled “shame” at female Progressive Conservatives across the Legislative floor last week to confirm what many already know: misogyny is alive and well. But what about the gender implications of budget cuts being aggressively imposed by the Pallister PCs?

woman holding sign that reads "don't [scissors] my future"

Pallister has put funding at risk for a range of organizations, with over $600 million at risk to everything from healthcare to education. Dozens of organizations are in funding limbo as the Pallister PCs conduct their so-called value-for-money review.

The impending budget cuts by Pallister have serious implications for people’s lives, and the best response to these cuts is to organize. Any upcoming cuts, privatizations and fee hikes that occur should be looked at—and fought—with a lens of gender, race, colonialism, class and ableism.

Solidarity Winnipeg is a small start, and we are eager to support other grassroots and workplace efforts by feminists, Indigenous organizers and union organizers and community activists.

Please contact us if you want to get involved in fighting budget cuts, if we can support your organizing efforts, or just to chat about ideas:

The gendered lens of tuition hikes

With Pallister threatening to increase tuition fees, extensive research exists on how fee hikes like this disproportionately affect women and single-mothers in particular.

Women like Brianne Goertzen are writing how their families were unable to afford paying for university. Brianne’s mother “sat me down and said with tears streaming from her eyes, ‘I’m sorry I can’t pay for your education, I’m sorry, I wish I could, I wish things were different. I’m sorry,’” wrote Brianne in a compelling opinion piece against Pallister’s likely tuition hikes.

So the gender dynamics extends not only to budget cuts but to fee hikes and privatization as well.

Students and supporters need to wage a serious fight against these hikes starting with the Nov. 2 day of action and escalating toward mass mobilization, direct action and more.

Having been a student organizer in Quebec and Manitoba, I believe a small-scale student strike would be an immense undertaking and potentially not possible, but a student strike is worth considering in the student movement.

Whatever the case, the student movement should fight this impending tuition hike tooth-and-nail.

If this hike does pass, it should be politically costly for Pallister while building a fighting student movement. This likely tuition hike will certainly be costly for people who will no longer be able to afford university education.

PC cuts in the 1990s: gender, race, class, colonialism and ableism

When the PCs were last elected in the 1990s, the gender implications of their budget cuts were clear.

The PCs cut funding to a women’s crisis shelter in Flin Flon; the committee of unplanned pregnancy; the Manitoba Child Care Association and some 54 other organizations to the tune of $3 million, according to a new research advocacy organizationValue Manitoba.

There were racial, colonial and ablest elements to those budget cuts in the 1990s as well.

Eleven Indigenous friendship centres had their provincial funding cut along with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and organizations like the Manitoba League of the Physically Handicapped and the Learning Disabilities Association, among many others.

We have seen traces of this from the PCs already. For example, their reshuffling of cabinet portfolios has clear racial and gendered dimensions.

There was also the high-profile removal of Leslie Spillett from the Winnipeg Police Board – an Indigenous woman advocating for her community in a city with the highest policing presence in Canada, and the highest Indigenous incarceration rate.

Pallister jogging with scalpel

Pallister has been careful not to appear that he is “running with scissors,” as the NDP election campaign attack ads claimed he would. Instead, Pallister has tried to appear moderate and deliberate in his ideological aspirations.

Rather than running with an axe or scissors, he is trying to appear responsible and clinical in implementing his political agenda. This is death by a thousand cuts rather than a blunt axe. Critiques will have to be more nuanced and attentive to detail in response.

Whether his preferred tool is an axe or a scalpel, the end result is still the same: Pallister is ideologically set on dismantling public infrastructure and empowering private capital. This is a political project that will result in greater inequality for women, racialized and Indigenous communities.

The only effective response is to build campaigns and movements that fight back seriously. Attractive publicity campaigns and the occasional protest won’t suffice. Serious and coordinated organizing is needed along with committed will to draw a line in the sand against cuts, holding that ground.

Please contact Solidarity Winnipeg if you want to get involved in fighting budget cuts, if we can support your organizing efforts, or just to chat about ideas:

To mainstream journalists

How are people feeling the impacts of Pallister’s budget cuts? Who is being impacted? What are people saying? The Winnipeg Free Press editorial board in particular has been championing budget cuts relentlessly. At the very least, I hope their reporters make an effort to document the human outcomes of these cuts. I’m not even bothering to write about The Sun’s Tom Brodbeck here because this closing blurb is about real journalism.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Solidarity Winnipeg.

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