Why should you care about Bill 64 and what can you do about it?

Since the announcement of the provincial government’s long-awaited response to the K-12 Review Commission, through Bill 64 (the Education Modernization Act) on March 15, tens of thousands of Manitobans from every corner of this province have risen up in opposition. Their opposition is well-researched, well-presented and informed by the disastrous consequences that will play out if the Manitoba Government proceeds according to plan. We strongly encourage all Manitobans to consider what their fellow citizens have to say. 

The anti-democratic and illogical plans of this government to gut our public education system are heavily wrapped inside over 300 pages of sweeping legislation that the average Manitoban has little time to digest. What has been shared by government are a series of colourful sound bites and propaganda pieces that are specifically designed to mislead. To put it mildly, the provincial government is banking on the fact that Manitobans will ignore the uncontestable fact that their own vote and voices are about to be silenced. Given what’s at stake here, Manitobans must ensure that this scheme is not successful. 

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Which brings me to the matter at hand; how do we succeed in preventing this time-bomb from going off? 

The degree to which we can succeed, or even define our success, depends on the extent to which Manitobans understand the stakes and add their voices in opposition of these plans for education in the coming months. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps more than ever before, society as a whole has found itself turning inward. Through public health directives and often because, in the current context, where many have been left jobless or without access to key services, Manitobans are compelled to focus on themselves and their own issues. Who has time to consider the larger interests of community and the world around us? Some of government’s loudest misinformation on Bill 64 (“No change for students and staff in schools,” and “property tax rebates mean more money on your kitchen table”) is fully dependent on this reality. In other words, “Nothing to see here, keep walking. We know you’re busy and need more money so here is a rebate cheque, written on the backs of Manitoba’s children.” The idea that Bill 64 will not impact students and staff in schools is simply ludicrous. The government has no other option but to levy more taxes to make up for the hundreds of millions in annual losses that will result from these property tax rebates. However, it is not as simple as just pointing out these blatant contradictions. There is so much more that our fellow citizens must rise to achieve in the months ahead. 

My request of you is to become engaged in the matters outlined. Do you get it? Are you concerned and infuriated about this government’s assault on our public schools, communities and democratic rights? Yes? Then share your concerns with your friends and family. I’m asking you to have political, perhaps even challenging conversations with people who believe that they don’t have “skin in the game” to care or make a difference. You must help them understand why they should make time and find the energy, because if they don’t, the damage to their local public schools and communities will be too great. The changes proposed will happen all too quickly and this is exactly what the government is counting on.  Additionally, I’m asking you, your family and friends, to register to present to the legislative committee on Bill 64. 

Every generation has its calling. From the Great Depression to the Second World War, today’s stark challenge by our own government to eliminate our vote and destroy our schools in the midst of a global pandemic, is ours. The future of our students, families and communities are depending on each one of us to do our part to meet this challenge. 

Visit www.localvoices.ca to learn more about why you should care about Bill 64 and how you can meet this challenge head-on. 

Alan Campbell is the president of the Manitoba School Boards Association and Interlake School Division board chair. 

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