Muzzling Those in the Know

Commentary, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre

May 2013 has not been a good month for Manitoba’s Selinger government.

Publius Publius

Among the negative events:

Federal April workforce statistics disclosed a drop in Manitoba employment of 11,000, basically cancelling out prior gains over the last twelve month period. Worse still, public sector employment has increased, the losses in jobs have occurred in the private sector. Reports have also noted that Manitoba’s unemployment rate has jumped; and wage growth has remained slow, along with retail sales.

A July 1 increase in the provincial sales tax is likely not to help future retail sales, employment or wage growth. Manitoba’s PST rate is to be 8%, while Saskatchewan’s remains at 5%; the southern border is only an hour and a half from Winnipeg and, thanks to federal changes, the duty-free exemption is now much higher than it has been.

Adding to the Province’s woes, the Province’s inflation rate was reported to be, for the second month in a row, the highest in Canada (with the reason largely increases in government fees and taxes).  So much for low-cost Manitoba.

More ‘bad news’ followed, with Facebook deciding not to put its server farm in Manitoba, despite so-called ‘cheap electricity’; spot electricity export prices remains mired well below the cost of production, while domestic rates catapult upwards; and, a survey of national health care indicators put Manitoba at the bottom (the Province’s system rated, “D”), despite almost 40% of the government’s bloated annual expenditures being taken up by health.

Despite constant indications and reminders that a province with an state-directed economy, one over-burdened by out-of-control government expenditures, is not likely to be a stellar economic performer, the provincial government continued its quest to extend its hegemony. It is determined to  drive the Manitoba Jockey Club, the saviours of horseracing in Manitoba, out of Assiniboine Downs.

Despite its plans to add 500 VLTs to its already massive stable of automated gambling machines – so much for concern for lower-income households and gambling addicts, the government introduced Bill 43.  If passed and proclaimed,  the Bill will allow the government to remove the Jockey Club’s Assiniboine Downs VLTs, thus ‘starving’ the Club of longstanding  and needed revenue .

It is not that the Province plans to cut back on ‘gambling, by reducing its fleet of VLTs, and has found that the VLTs of Assiniboine Downs are unhelpful to the Jockey Club and are, thus, superfluous. The government has already announced its intention to further assist the owners of the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba’s hotels by adding, in total, 500 VLTs to their locations.

The only ‘loser’ (other than gamblers) arising out of the government’s plan for an expanded ‘fleet’ of video lottery terminals, is the Jockey Club, with the reason for the government’s plans being its naked desire to have the Downs operated by the Red River Exhibition’s board, presumably a more controllable group than the independent-minded Jockey Club.

Contradicting Selinger’s initial pledge (upon his elevation to Premier) to operate a transparent and open  government, Bill 43 would ban lawsuits against anyone having a role in the stripping of VLTs from the Jockey Club. Bill 43 would also, and retroactively, prohibit the Jockey Club (or anyone else) seeking out information about the government’s move against the Jockey Club from obtaining evidence from those ‘in the know’ with respect to the government’s clearly punitive action against the Jockey Club.

When what you are doing is clearly wrong, and you know it but want to move ahead anyways, best to muzzle anyone that can make your actions and reasons known. At least, create doubt as to your reasons, allowing your supporters to imagine you might be acting properly. Rather than bringing ‘light’ to the government’s plans and actions, the Selinger government prefers to keep the public ‘in the dark”.

May 2013 has not been a good month for the Selinger  government, nor for democracy and freedom.