Gradually, bit by bit, as time went on Manitoba’s economy became dominated by the NDP provincial government, with the ‘bottom’ yet to be plumbed and reached.
While our neighbouring provinces to the west seek and have thriving private sectors driving their economies and their hopes, holding or bringing down tax rates and allowing for seemingly ever-increasing personal disposable incomes, Manitoba (a century ago the home of the most millionaires in Canada, with Winnipeg the northern Chicago) is state-dominated, lagging further and further behind.
Rather than opening up our economy and joining with Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in their ‘no border’ entrepreneurial approach to inter-provincial trade in goods and services, Manitoba turns ever inward, relying more and more each year on government action and spending, which is reliant on increasing government debt (and deficits). We no longer strive to be at the forefront of Canada’s economy, but to fall in the ‘middle’, even that is only achieved, when it is, by borrowing more and more, leaving the financial debacle that lies ahead to the next generation (or generations).
We should have seen it coming, but the signs of insidious and steady decline are, as the late French philosopher and social theorist and historian Michel Foucault’s works suggest, usually best found in the day-to-day reports of a society.
The May 8th edition of the Winnipeg Free Press contains a trio of relatively small items that reinforce a sense of apprehended distress.
The first is the photo spread devoted to Riverview Health Centre’s (the Centre funded and controlled by the government) fundraising gala; a half-page devoted to the gala lists the sponsors, which include Manitoba Hydro (the title sponsor), Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (the wine sponsor) and government or government-contracted All Seniors Care, Hobbs & Associates (Hydro’s First Nation agent in the north), KPMG (auditor and consultant to Manitoba’s Crown Corporations, including Hydro), Manitoba Blue Cross (the insurance carrier of choice of the public sector), Manitoba Public Insurance, the Winnipeg Convention Centre and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority as Table Sponsors. The listing is enough to make the point.
The second item reports on the government’s plans to attach demerits to distracted-driver traffic infractions, a valid move long overdue, but one that would generally be brought forward by an insurer not a government. But, when the auto insurer has a monopoly and its boss the government, it should come as no surprise that government makes and announces the real decisions.
The third item is a welcome editorial denunciation of the actions of Finance Minister Stan Struthers, who has, on behalf of his government, employed the heavy ‘weight and power’ of government (and its captive Crown, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries) for the ignoble goal of bankrupting the Manitoba Jockey Club, a not for profit body that has saved horseracing in Manitoba , so the government’s champion, the public sector Red River Exhibition Association, can take over.
Who will ‘turn out the lights’ as our young, the professionals and the wealthy flee for ‘sunnier’ climes? And, who can blame them!