To the Editor:
I recently read with great interest, and little surprise, the letter by Darrell Klus with questions NDP candidate Danielle Adams should answer before the Sept. 10 election. It has been a hallmark this election campaign for supporters of Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister to not only ask leading questions to foment fear amongst voters, but to present the answers to those questions in a highly misleading way, in truly Orwellian fashion. As someone living in Thompson following all the candidates, I offer some insights to those questions that should not only inform voters, but more importantly, ease the fear and discord these questions were intended to sow.
Klus’s questions are indeed tough, and it is tempting to ask similar questions of his chosen candidate, Kelly Bindle. Questions such as: Where have you been these last three years? What is your position on issues like the privatization of our public and social services, Lifeflight or Manitoba Hydro for example? Where does your allegiance lay? With northerners that struggle under austerity and program cuts, or with the bond markets and corporate elite so cozy with Pallister? Tough questions need to be asked of all our candidates, especially when their actual record of service indicates something very different from their campaign slogans.
Klus draws his questions directly from something called the Leap Manifesto, the proceedings of a conference that discussed issues ranging from climate change to migration and economic inequality, and put forward many recommendations for the future we all wish to be part of. Although it seems clear from his questions that Klus has not read the document, it should be obvious that signing an acknowledgement of it was an endorsement of the principles contained therein, and not an obligation to policy as Klus suggests. People who have read the document and believe in its values however, are hardly something to be afraid of, although migration and addressing climate change are traditional sources of enormous fear for right-wing conservatives such as Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier, and Jason Kenney.
Klus suggests that this document or its suggestions will somehow be a source of fear for corporations or businesses operating in the North. The reality is much different, as the message it sends is one of responsibility, inclusion and economic and environmental sustainability. If there is a negative message sent by signing the Leap recommendations, it is to those who would abuse northerners who choose values of unity and stewardship, of awareness from working class people trying to make a life here in our North, and that those who would exploit us and our resources can no longer do so without consequence. While the clear-cutters burn the Amazon and murder its inhabitants to the south of us, that message is simply that we will accept no Grassy Narrows poisoning here in Thompson, as Doug Ford has allowed in Ontario.
Responsibly managing our environment and regulating those that seek to only profit from its exploitation (and then reside in Costa Rica) encourages new industries and competitive innovation here in the North in a way that sustains our economy during market downturns, and beyond the impending exhaustion of finite natural resources.
In an attempt to give credence to extremist fears around such issues as immigration and climate change, Klus asks directly if Adams supports the Leap Manifesto. Like the NDP leader she has been working so closely with, the answer is an obvious “Yes,” to its principles of good environmental stewardship, inclusion, and equality of economic opportunity, and the rejection of racism, corporate favouritism and elitism. In exercising environmental responsibility, the NDP encourages innovation and sustainable economic development for all northerners. Acknowledging the principles of the Leap Manifesto does not mean practising the Orwellian newspeak Mr. Pallister has become noted for over the course of his administration, where every cut is somehow an increase, where every job is at the largesse of a corporate owner from far away, and every local business loan is met with cool silence and austerity.
Klus sows even more fear by suggesting that agreeing with the principles in the Leap document would mean the end of mining in Thompson and that as our next MLA, Adams would be compelled to vote in the legislature as enforced by party leader Wab Kinew. This is a well-practised and deliberately misleading assertion drawn from the experiences of Bindle under his leader Pallister. Whereas Tories tolerate no dissent within the ranks, as shown by the ejection of several PC MLAs from the party, the NDP and Kinew have been very clear in asserting the rights of MLAs to represent their own constituents and their best interests, rather than what is necessary for party success. Silence in the face of partisan pressure as a path to personal advancement has served Bindle well, as his appointment to the Manitoba Hydro board demonstrates, but seldom serves his constituents, as the condition of the Thompson General Hospital and the beleaguered and exhausted staff who work there illustrate. Kinew’s support of mining in Thompson was well-stated while he was here visiting us recently, a practice he is quite known for in the North while Pallister is decidedly not.
Klus’s next loaded question seems misdirected at best, as he inquires if Adams supports the federal Liberals and their policies, such as the favourite Conservative target of the carbon tax. It seems highly unreasonable to ask if Adams supports an opposing party or if she is pursuing a federal seat in the House of Parliament rather than the Manitoba legislature. She has been quite clear that she is running to represent Thompson and all the people of the North. Adams has been equally clear that we all have a role to play in preserving our environment, for our own health and for that of future generations. Responsible and compassionate use of hard-earned tax dollars is only one tool amongst many to ensure that those who profit from polluting pay a share in mitigating the damage they do.
The intention of the carbon tax, as has been very well-explained in this and other media, is to ensure those that profit from polluting the environment pay a share in paying for its preservation. Its purpose is to incentivise change and stimulate emerging sustainable industries. The NDP has been very clear in its support for working families and people living in the North, such as by offering rebates to encourage our very abundant hydro industry and promote change away from exhaustible and damaging resources without harming those that can afford that change the least.
Working to address climate change and promote homegrown and revenue-generating industries is an opportunity to be embraced, not something to be afraid of as Klus would have us believe. Helping families help themselves through informed decisions should be our objective rather than promising monetary rewards for our votes for programs we have already paid for. Instead of trying to frighten voters with unsubstantiated notions of extreme gas prices at the pumps, Adams and her principles offer choice, self-determination, researched facts and the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of our community, instead of to profiteers from away.
Klus asks for guarantees and promises as to how carbon revenues will be designated, which is extraordinarily hypocritical, given that if there has been any administration infamous for taking tax revenues meant to be used for one program and applying them to another, such as general revenue to justify a tax break for the privileged, it is Pallister’s. This is perhaps the Progressive Conservatives’ most disingenuous and insidious campaign trick as it literally embodies “Orwellian Accounting.” We in Thompson remember all too well the Mining Community Reserve Fund (MCRF), when monies desperately needed to mitigate downsizing and economic hardship were denied to us in our moment of crisis, and used to pad the Progressive Conservative balance sheet and fund initiatives for privatization and corporate cronies like Pallister’s friend and former Progressive Conservative premier Gary Filmon.
Why Tory supporters, with this spurious question, all of a sudden oppose balanced books and using revenues where needed from general funds, perhaps only George Orwell himself can answer. Kinew has, however, been clear; whether talking about restoring health cuts or education cuts, the next NDP administration means what it says and will not be employing Orwellian spin techniques to justify accounting tricks to the public. Green-based revenues will be invested in initiatives to develop a sustainable economy that preserves our environment and takes tangible action to address climate change and promote our northern economy.
Klus’s next question is obviously lacking in context and dismisses the very significant economic conditions faced by all governments in years gone by. The housing crisis felt by so many and the financial meltdown of the markets during that period are crises still all too fresh for most working families. However, it is typical of the Pallister platform and Tory thinking to continue to fight the last election instead of addressing the issues, like climate change, before us today. The NDP has used the last three years (instead of the expected four) to develop a fresh team of new leaders with new ideas and new initiatives to meet the challenges in front of us, not the ones behind. Perhaps, if we are going to fight previous elections, we can discuss the vote-rigging scandal that subverted our democratic process, or the privatization scandal surrounding the MTS sale. The PC party is in no position to claim fidelity or virtue with Manitobans, and in particular northerners, who have been denied everything from business loans to health care to MCRF revenue over the past three years.
Klus goes on to perhaps the most insulting of his deliberately provocative queries, and one that most clearly defines his own ideological bias, as he maligns middle class and working Manitobans in the public service. Many of us work hard, under trying conditions every day, to deliver the critical services we all rely on to function. From ambulance drivers to those that maintain our roads and infrastructure, that teach our children or keep our lights on. The question posed is a typical anti-labour Tory trope that implies workers or union members are lazy, somehow privileged, or don’t contribute every day to making our world not only better but possible. It ignores the fact that, like our nurses, our civil service is anything but bloated but rather cut-to-the-bone and starved to the point of collapse.
The intent of this insult is typically Tory and a well-known conservative strategy: take essential public services, cripple them through cuts, malign the induced poor performance to the voter, privatize it to your rich corporate backers, then escalate the user fees to the public dependent on the service in the first place. As with the Lifeflight debacle Pallister created at the behest of former premier and now aviation executive Filmon, Manitobans are not falling for that trick again. Job creation and proper support for our public services is an investment in Manitobans’ quality of life and the future of our communities. Our civil servants are an asset, not a drain or burden on our everyday lives, as the profiteers and corporate elite would have you believe.
Klus’s final absurdity is just as misleading and ahistorical as the previous ones, and is ignorant of Thompson’s government-supported legacy, from its isolated work camp origins to its newsworthy days of expansion to the bright future days full of potential before us. That is, if properly managed rather than ignored as the Progressive Conservatives have done throughout three brutal years of decline and neglect. Kinew has made it clear that Thompson is a place for sustainable growth and that mining (when regulated and held to standards of good corporate citizenship) is an important engine to drive that agenda of hope forward.
Adams’s platform builds upon the years of work done by the City of Thompson to diversify, such as through Thompson Unlimited, to undertake meaningful reconciliation, such as through the Indigenous Accord, and to ensure Thompson does not become yet another casualty of the boom-and-bust cycle of other industrial towns that have faced abandonment like Leaf Rapids or Lynn Lake.
The idea that Kinew and Adams could somehow stop Thompson and northerners from succeeding, through good stewardship and being true to the values such in the Leap Manifesto, is truly fear mongering at its most abhorrent, and that’s really what Klus’s one-sided questions are designed to do: fear-monger in true Orwellian style. As someone who has written in this newspaper previously about the ills of fear mongering, Klus should consider his own advice when asking these kinds of questions just before an election, and trouble himself to answer his very own questions: “Why should we trust the Tories anymore than last time?” and stop using “fear-mongering type politics.”