Revitalizing Manitoba:: From Supplicant Society to Diversity and Dynamism

Commentary, Equalization, Bryan Schwartz

Good afternoon everyone, it’s an honour to be here. I would like to thank the Frontier Society for all the support in publishing Revitalizing Manitoba both on its website and now in book form. I understand this is also being recorded and will be webcast. I’m hoping for a slot out there…Two and a Half Men is in hiatus and might be cancelled, and a riveting series of discussions on Manitoba public policy may be what people want and need at this point.

Peter [Holle, President of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy] referred to me being courageous. I call this whole series an intellectual exploration…my continuing attempt to make sure I never find work in this province. I laugh, I’m smiling, but it’s not that funny.

So let me just go back briefly to the diagnosis from three years ago. The idea of Manitoba as a supplicant society. I’ll explain more what that’s about, and put that whole criticism in this larger philosophical context, and then get to the very concrete suggestions that I have attempted to make for revitalizing our society.

The supplicant society piece is that the dominant political relationship in our province is that its patron and patronage seekers. If you’ve studied renaissance literature, if you’ve looked at the prefaces to Shakespeare’s work, you know that the core of the economy of the arts is largely seeking of a patron. There is many distinctive features of the patron/patronage seeker relationship. It was very largely about the patron having resources and the discretion to distill them or not, and the patronage seeker, who has to try to ingratiate themselves to the patron. The prefaces of Shakespearean plays are not, “hello Earl Essex, you’re some kind of fruitcake’ they were certainly Earl Essex source of all wisdom, closest thing to a demi-god this side of Queen Elizabeth. People who are looking for favour are not likely to be forthright. They may be ingratiating, and they are certainly not critical. They are not people who feel they can robustly speak their minds as they see fit.

How does the province of Manitoba get into a situation where we are a patron/patronage-seeking kind of a model? And why is the provincial government a patron, so dominating and crowding out the rest of civil society? A large part of it is the federal transfer payment system. I mean, it’s not obvious when you think about it. Why should the province of Manitoba, a relatively unpopulous province compared to the rest of Canada, with a weaker performing economy compared to the rest of Canada, where do they get all the money? Manitoba’s uncle left it to him? The Hudson’s Bay Company left behind a bunch of cash before Manitoba took over Rupert’s Land? The money is coming from the federal government, which means the money is coming from the rest of Canada.

Read the entire Speech (11 Pages)