Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck

Columnist

When Tom first started covering politics in Manitoba, paper files, hand-held tape recorders and direct access to politicians were the norm at the Manitoba legislature and city hall.

While technology and public relations strategies have changed significantly since then, the task of getting the story behind the story and trying to make sense of it for readers hasn’t.

Tom has been doing that as a news reporter and a columnist since the early 1990s, covering city, provincial and federal politics with the enthusiasm of the most ardent political junkie.

Whether it’s dissecting budgets, exposing wasteful spending or doing deep dives into complex government policies, Tom approaches his job as a journalist with the rank-and-file reader in mind, always interested in how decisions made by politicians affect the average person on the street.

Tom has covered some of the biggest stories in recent Manitoba history, including the Tory vote-rigging scandal, the privatization of MTS, the 1997 Flood of the Century, the Crocus Investment Fund debacle and the NDP mutiny that led to one of the worst provincial government defeats in decades.

Born and raised in Montreal, Tom came to Manitoba in 1990 and graduated from the University of Manitoba with an economics degree. He is a long-time community centre volunteer, an ice-rink maker and an enthusiastic hockey and soccer dad. When he’s not pounding his keyboard, he’s usually behind a drum kit playing in one of several bands around the city.

Tom joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

Recent articles of Tom Brodbeck

Silence, inaction cruel while surgery wait times swell

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Silence, inaction cruel while surgery wait times swell

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Wait times for hip and knee surgery in Manitoba have hit their highest levels in at least six years, even though hospitals are performing near-record numbers of procedures.

Despite that, the province still hasn’t said when — or if — it will send some patients to facilities outside of Manitoba for surgery to reduce a massive backlog built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The median wait time for all hip and knee surgeries inched up to 44 weeks in June, an increase from 43 weeks in May, according to the latest wait-time data released Thursday by Manitoba Health. It’s the longest wait time since at least 2016.

Half of patients on hip and knee surgical wait lists are waiting longer than 44 weeks and half are getting their procedures done in less time. Many patients have reported wait times of well over a year, with some waiting more than two years.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

The province reached a record 5,049 hip and knee surgeries in 2019, the year before the pandemic, and wait times fell to 25 weeks. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Manitoba has time to improve on fiscal exercise score

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Manitoba has time to improve on fiscal exercise score

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022

It’s tempting to conclude the province should cut spending or raise taxes — or both — to avoid financial ruin, after a national report labelled the Manitoba government’s fiscal status as “unsustainable.”

However, drawing that conclusion would be a mistake.

In its 2022 fiscal sustainability report, released last week, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer found the federal government’s long-term finances are sound, but some provinces could be facing fiscal disaster.

At current spending and taxation levels, the Manitoba government’s debt as a percentage of the economy could double to almost 80 per cent by 2046, and soar to 270 per cent by 2096, the report found. At those levels, the province would likely become insolvent.

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022

ALEX LUPUL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Golden Boy stands atop the Manitoba Legislative Building’ in Winnipeg on Monday, July 5, 2021. It embodies the spirit of enterprise and eternal youth, and is poised atop the dome of the building. Reporter: Ben Waldman

Spin on city ER wait times enough to make you dizzy

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Spin on city ER wait times enough to make you dizzy

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

The latest spin from the Stefanson government is that emergency room wait times in Winnipeg have “stabilized,” even in the face of “surging” patient volumes.

In reality, there’s only been a slight increase in patient volumes over the past year. Wait times in overcrowded ERs, meanwhile, have skyrocketed.

“While wait times are holding steady despite a substantial increase in patient demand, we know many patients will continue to wait longer than normal throughout these busy summer months.” Dr. Shawn Young, chief operating officer of Health Sciences Centre, is quoted as saying in a Shared Health news release this week.

For the uninitiated, Shared Health was created by the Tory government five years ago to oversee health care operations in the province (some would say to provide a buffer between the government and the public). Its political spin is government’s political spin.

Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

Shared Health says it’s taking steps to alleviate pressure on ERs, including the possibility of increasing home care services on weekends to move patients out of hospitals faster. (Shannon VanRaes / Winnipeg Free Press)

Interprovincial exodus deserves attention

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Interprovincial exodus deserves attention

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Jul. 28, 2022

People are leaving Manitoba for other provinces in near-record numbers.

The province lost a net 12,360 people to the rest of Canada from April 1, 2021 to March 31 — the highest interprovincial loss in more than 40 years, according to the most recent figures from Statistics Canada.

The question is: why?

The net loss — difference between the number of people moving to Manitoba from other provinces and those leaving for other parts of Canada — is the highest since 1979-80, when the province recorded an interprovincial deficit of 13,178.

Thursday, Jul. 28, 2022

Manitoba lost more than 4,000 people to Alberta and B.C. last year on a net basis. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun files)

Papal apology closes door on residential school denialists

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Papal apology closes door on residential school denialists

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

Denialists should pay close attention to the carefully chosen words of Pope Francis this week, as he apologized for the Catholic Church’s involvement in Canada’s residential school system. They may learn something.

One of the claims we often hear from denialists is residential schools, while not perfect, were an earnest attempt by government and churches to provide Indigenous children with an education to prepare them for the modern world.

They acknowledge abuses took place and admit the schools could have been run better. However, they claim government had few options at the time and insist it was the best society could do.

There are a number of falsehoods in those claims.

Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s involvement in Canada’s residential school system Monday.

In ducking debate, Poilievre speaks volumes about his integrity

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In ducking debate, Poilievre speaks volumes about his integrity

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

It’s obvious why Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre is violating party rules by refusing to participate in an upcoming debate: he has everything to lose and almost nothing to gain.

Poilievre, the perceived front-runner, appears to have sold more memberships than anyone else in the race. Barring some miraculous turn of events, the Ontario MP (Carleton) seems poised to become the next Conservative leader when the results of the vote are released in September.

So why would he take the chance of spoiling that lead with another poor showing in a candidates debate — like the one in May, where Poilievre’s clown-like antics revealed how ill-suited he is to become the next prime minister of Canada?

Strategically, it’s safer for him not to take that chance.

Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

Conservative leadership hopefuls during the French-language debate in Laval, Quebec on May 25. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press files)

Mayor’s chair power shift would suit Winnipeg

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Mayor’s chair power shift would suit Winnipeg

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Jul. 21, 2022

It was a tale of two cities in Canadian municipal politics.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford confirmed plans this week to bring in a so-called “strong mayor” model for the cities of Toronto and Ottawa. Among the proposed changes, mayors would be given veto power over council decisions.

In Winnipeg, Coun. Scott Gillingham — one of the perceived front-runners in the race for mayor in the upcoming civic election — pledged the opposite: to reduce the mayor’s powers, in part by shrinking the size of executive policy committee.

Ford, a former Toronto city councillor, is a longtime advocate of centralizing power in the mayor’s office, a governance model popular in many U.S. cities. In Winnipeg, the debate has gone in the opposite direction, with calls for councillors (especially non-EPC members) to have a greater say in the decision-making process.

Thursday, Jul. 21, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Mayor Brian Bowman promised to have council elect members to the executive policy committee, which never happened.

City needs solution to police budget numbers puzzle

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City needs solution to police budget numbers puzzle

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2022

The cost of policing in Winnipeg jumped five per cent on a per capita basis last year. Part of the reason: its population shrunk slightly in 2021.

Still, the increase — the largest in five years — reveals the need to further control police expenditures, which continues to gobble up more than one-quarter of the city’s operating budget.

Winnipeg taxpayers shelled out $320.7 million to fund police operations last year, according to the 2021 Winnipeg Police Service annual report. That’s $418 per person, up five per cent from $398 in 2020.

In 2017, per capita policing costs fell two per cent and increased by less than inflation in subsequent years. Last year’s jump was driven in part by a small population decline in Winnipeg (354 people). Like many Canadian cities, the Manitoba capital’s population fell slightly during the COVID-19 pandemic, owing to a temporary slowdown in immigration.

Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Police funding skyrocketed 64 per cent between 2005 and 2015, adjusted for inflation.

Manitoba’s lieutenant governor left out in the cold

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Manitoba’s lieutenant governor left out in the cold

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon thought last year’s speech from the throne would be her last. It may not be. After seven years serving as the Queen’s representative — the longest anyone has held the position in Manitoba in almost 70 years — there is still no word from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office on a replacement.

That’s putting considerable strain on Filmon and her husband, former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon, both of whom are in failing health.

The lieutenant governor battled cancer in 2019 for the second time in her life. Last year, she fell and broke her hip. Gary Filmon, who turns 80 next month, has a heart condition, making it increasingly difficult for him to fill in for the lieutenant governor (which he has done on numerous occasions in recent years). Trudeau is aware of the Filmons’ circumstances. Yet he has still not appointed a replacement.

His failure to do so is now bordering on abusive.

Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, Janice Filmon was appointed vice-regal on June 19, 2015. It’s the longest anyone has held the job in Manitoba since the early 1950s.

Hip, knee backlog pressure settles in on wait times

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Hip, knee backlog pressure settles in on wait times

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

Manitoba hospitals are boosting hip and knee surgeries to near-record levels, yet wait times for the procedures continue to climb.

It seems counterintuitive, but there is a reason for it: the backlog of surgeries and other medical procedures that piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic are so high, hospitals are struggling to clear them, even as volumes return to or exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Manitoba surgeons performed 495 hip and knee operations in May, the third-highest monthly volume over the past five years, according to data released this week by Manitoba Health. That’s up from 396 the previous month.

Prior to the pandemic, Manitoba increased the number of monthly hip and knee surgeries to more than 400 per month. That fell well below 300 some months during the pandemic, after hundreds of surgical and other staff were redeployed to medical wards to treat COVID-19 patients.

Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

MARK TESKE / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO
Manitoba surgeons performed 495 hip and knee operations in May, the third-highest monthly volume over the past five years, according to data released this week by Manitoba Health.

Tight-fisted Tories stand pat as Winnipeg ER, urgent-care wait times soar

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Tight-fisted Tories stand pat as Winnipeg ER, urgent-care wait times soar

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2022

Winnipeggers are waiting almost twice as long to see a doctor or nurse practitioner in hospital emergency rooms and urgent-care centres compared to five years ago.

With severe staff shortages on medical wards, in diagnostic testing facilities and in emergency departments, the problem may get worse before it gets better. So far, Premier Heather Stefanson’s government appears to have no solutions to solve the bottleneck in Winnipeg hospitals.

According to five years of emergency department data obtained by the Free Press from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the longest wait time for nine out of 10 ER patients in Winnipeg has nearly doubled to almost eight hours since 2017. The median wait time has increased from about 1.5 hours to almost three hours during the same period.

Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2022

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
According to five years of emergency department data obtained by the Free Press from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the longest wait time for nine out of 10 ER patients in Winnipeg has nearly doubled to almost eight hours since 2017.

Backlog simmers on Tory government back burner

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Backlog simmers on Tory government back burner

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

For a Tory government whose re-election chances in 2023 hinge mostly on how well Manitoba’s health-care system recovers over the next 15 months, there appears to be little, if any, urgency to reduce the backlog of procedures that piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not all the province’s health-care woes are tied to the pandemic. Some are the direct result of a botched, pre-pandemic hospital consolidation rollout in Winnipeg, the effects of which continue to cause severe hospital overcrowding.

Still, clearing the backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures should be job No. 1 for the Tories. You’d never know it, though.

The Stefanson government’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force provided its latest update Wednesday. Surprisingly, it announced nothing new.

Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

For a Tory government whose re-election chances in 2023 hinge mostly on how well Manitoba’s health-care system recovers over the next 15 months, there appears to be little, if any, urgency to reduce the backlog of procedures that piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not all the province’s health-care woes are tied to the pandemic. Some are the direct result of a botched, pre-pandemic hospital consolidation rollout in Winnipeg, the effects of which continue to cause severe hospital overcrowding.

Still, clearing the backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures should be job No. 1 for the Tories. You’d never know it, though.

The Stefanson government’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force provided its latest update Wednesday. Surprisingly, it announced nothing new.

Louis Riel deserves to be front and centre at legislature

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Louis Riel deserves to be front and centre at legislature

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2022

The decapitated statue of Queen Victoria never really had a chance of returning to its spot on the front grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

The monument and what it represents — colonialism, racism, white supremacy, attempts to extinguish the original people who inhabited Canada — is no longer an acceptable symbol to be displayed prominently in front of the province’s seat of democracy.

After all, this was the monarch whose representative (Manitoba’s first lieutenant governor Adams Archibald), told Indigenous chiefs during Treaty 1 negotiations in 1871, that the Queen wanted her “red subjects” to live more like “white people” and to become “civilized” like them.

It’s unlikely Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time, knew much about the numbered treaties, or the finer points of the Dominion of Canada’s subsequent attempts to assimilate Indigenous people into white, Euro-Canadian society by trying to erase their language, culture and way of living. She can hardly be blamed directly for the horrors of residential schools, the Indian Act or Ottawa’s abrogation of its treaty commitments.

Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
The Louis Riel sculpture on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg.

Delay equals deterioration

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Delay equals deterioration

Tom Brodbeck 5 minute read Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

The longer people wait for medically necessary procedures such as surgery and diagnostic tests, the worse their conditions usually get. They tend to become sicker and often suffer from increased bouts of anxiety and emotional stress. Eventually, many end up at the emergency department because they can no longer stand the pain and anguish.

Dr. Kristjan Thompson, an emergency room physician at St. Boniface Hospital, says he’s seeing more patients showing up with conditions directly related to long waits for surgery and diagnostic tests.

“In the last two years, absolutely we’ve seen more patients coming in requiring band-aid solutions for problems that require definitive care (such as) surgeries,” said Thompson, past-president of Doctors Manitoba. “Patients who are in heart failure who need their valves replaced, or patients who are having frequent gall bladder attacks and need their gall bladders removed, absolutely, we are seeing more of that.”

Patients are not only seeing a deterioration in their physical health because of long waits for surgeries and diagnostic tests, many are also experiencing severe mental health problems, said Thompson.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

ADRIAN WYLD / CANADIAN PRESS FILES
People often need an MRI to find out if they require surgery or if they have a disease.

Manitobans open to private help to clear backlogs: poll

Tom Brodbeck 5 minute read Preview

Manitobans open to private help to clear backlogs: poll

Tom Brodbeck 5 minute read Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

Nearly three-quarters of Manitobans think it’s a good idea for government to contract out more surgical and other medical procedures to private clinics to help clear the backlog created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a Probe Research/Free Press poll conducted in early June, 74 per cent of respondents said it’s either a “very good” or “somewhat good” idea to increase capacity in the health-care system through private providers.

“It does show that there’s an openness to it, there’s a willingness to going in that direction,” said Curtis Brown, principal at Probe Research Inc.

It also depends what the details are around contracting out, said Brown. Probe made it clear in the polling question that fees charged by private clinics would be covered by the province, not the patient.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Some hospitals, such as Misericordia Health Centre, have had the capacity for several years to do more procedures, but have not always received the provincial funding required to do so.

Patients’ lives on hold as backlogs for medical procedures, diagnoses continue to mount

Tom Brodbeck 15 minute read Preview

Patients’ lives on hold as backlogs for medical procedures, diagnoses continue to mount

Tom Brodbeck 15 minute read Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

Greta Morrill has been waiting several years for a new knee. She has been suffering with pain in her right knee since 2012.

Instead of surgery, Morrill, 73, has undergone three scoping procedures. It helped ease the pain in the short term, but her condition deteriorated over time. By March 2021, her surgeon confirmed by X-ray there was little to no cartilage left in her knee.

“I can feel when it’s rubbing and it makes a funny noise and that’s where the pain is,” says Morrill, who can barely walk and only manages to do so slowly with a cane. “It’s like bones rubbing together, it’s very painful.”

Like many Manitobans in her situation, Morrill has no idea when she’ll get surgery. The last time she phoned her surgeon’s office in April for an update, she was told no date was set. The best they could do was promise her she would be contacted two months before her procedure.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Keeyask

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Keeyask

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

If Manitoba Hydro had as much water flowing through its turbines every year as it does now, it would never have to worry about financial losses. Trouble is, in low-water years, including last year’s devastating drought, Hydro faces significant risk of deficits, largely because of its overbuilt generating capacity.

Low water levels have always been the enemy of profit at Hydro. Like any hydroelectric producer, it relies on adequate water flows to pay the bills. The Crown corporation has posted losses many times in the past during periods of drought.

However, those risks have been amplified since the construction of the Keeyask generating station, owing to its high capital cost (including a $2.2-billion cost overrun) and its overbuilt capacity. Keeyask’s power capacity exceeds Manitoba’s demand. That will change over time as the province grows and the power requirements of its commercial and industrial sectors increases. For now, if Hydro fails to export enough electricity to cover Keeyask’s amortization costs, it will lose money.

That won’t be a problem this year, owing to historically high water levels. Hydro is expected to make money hand over fist in 2022-23 through both its “firm” and “surplus” export markets. Hydro has long-term contracts with customers in Ontario, Saskatchewan and the U.S. Whatever it has left over it sells as surplus power on the spot market. The extent to which it can do so determines whether or not Hydro ends up in the red.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

MANITOBA HYDRO
Keeyask Generating Station’s power generating capacity exceeds Manitoba’s current demand.

So… why do you want this job, Mr. Murray?

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So… why do you want this job, Mr. Murray?

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Jun. 23, 2022

It’s hard to imagine how Winnipeg would benefit from re-electing a vagabond politician like Glen Murray as its next mayor.

Murray, who last served as his worship in Winnipeg 18 years ago, has been wandering around Manitoba and Ontario for the past three decades, running for, quitting and running again (or musing to run) for a variety of jobs in municipal, provincial and federal politics.

He’s won some battles, lost others and never seemed content staying in one place for more than a few years at a time.

Murray, 64, now wants his old job back — the one he walked away from mid-term in 2004 to run for the federal Liberals in the former Charleswood—St. James riding (he lost).

Thursday, Jun. 23, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Former Mayor Glen Murray arrives at City Hall, Wednesday afternoon, to submit his papers to enter the mayoral race.
220622 - Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

The Forks take wrong path with Canada Day cancellation decision

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The Forks take wrong path with Canada Day cancellation decision

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2022

There is a perfectly acceptable way to celebrate Canada Day, while at the same time putting the spotlight on the country’s abominable treatment of Indigenous people.

Cancellation isn’t the way to do it.

The Forks North Portage Partnership announced last week it’s cancelling its traditional July 1 celebrations, including fireworks and live bands on the downtown Winnipeg main stage. In its place, it will host a “New Day at The Forks” event.

Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILE
The Forks North Portage Partnership announced last week it’s cancelling its traditional July 1 celebrations, including fireworks and live bands on the downtown Winnipeg main stage.

Cutting fuel taxes no inflation silver bullet

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Cutting fuel taxes no inflation silver bullet

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2022

It would seem logical enough: cut fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel as a way of curbing soaring inflation. It’s something many in the Conservative Party of Canada and others are calling for as a way of wresting inflation to the ground.

However, it’s not quite that simple, at least not under current economic conditions.

There’s little doubt eliminating all fuel taxes would have a significant impact on inflation. In Manitoba, the province charges 14 cents a litre on gasoline and diesel. The federal government charges a 10 cents/L excise tax on gasoline and four cents/L on diesel. Ottawa then applies the GST on top of that — the dreaded “tax on tax.”

In addition, provinces or the federal government charge a carbon tax at the pump. In Manitoba, the federal carbon tax is 11 cents/L. Some cities, including Montreal and Vancouver, charge their own fuel taxes.

Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS /WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Shell gas station on Jefferson Ave. has posted a price for regular gasoline at above two dollars in Winnipeg. With prices at the pump skyrocketing to more than $2/L, there is no need for a carbon tax.

COVID victims deserve to be more than statistics

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COVID victims deserve to be more than statistics

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

Dr. Brent Roussin used to read out loud a list of each COVID-19 death at the beginning of every news conference. The chief provincial public health officer did so, presumably, because he didn’t want the deceased to be a mere statistic on a page. He also did it to emphasize the deadliness of the disease.

“Today I have the sad duty of announcing Manitoba’s first death related to COVID-19,” Roussin said on March 27, 2020. “Our condolences go out to their friends and family.”

It was the beginning of his unwavering commitment to read out the age range and gender of each person who had died of COVID-19, including what area of the province they came from. He did it for almost a year.

Wash your hands, stay home, cancel unnecessary trips, wear a mask, and later, get vaccinated, he urged. Why? Because people were dying. Not just old people, as if that should matter, but Manitobans of all ages, including many in their 20s, 30s and 40s, he reminded the public every chance he got.

Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
It’s not that COVID-19 deaths have plummeted and no longer require public reporting. On the contrary: there are more COVID-19 deaths on average in 2022 than there were in 2020 or 2021.

Look east premier, for path to election success

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Look east premier, for path to election success

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Jun. 2, 2022

Tory strategists on Broadway might be asking themselves this week what PC Leader Doug Ford did to pull off one of the greatest political comebacks in recent Ontario history — and how it could be bottled and imported into Manitoba.

Ford, the once loud, populist premier whose “buck-a-beer” shtick and abrasive style of politics saw his popularity rise and fall more often than global equity markets, is expected to cruise to electoral victory Thursday. It’s a win few thought possible just a few months ago.

Like most premiers across the country (with the exception of former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister), Ford got a bump in the polls during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the love affair quickly ended. After a series of gaffes and political missteps, Ford became one of the least popular premiers in Canada.

Thursday, Jun. 2, 2022

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was expected to win re-election on Thursday. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press files)

Expect a reasonable approach to keep Manitoba’s minimum wage out of cellar

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Expect a reasonable approach to keep Manitoba’s minimum wage out of cellar

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, May. 31, 2022

The devil will be in the details when it comes to how much the Stefanson government will increase the minimum wage in 2022 under proposed legislation that’s expected to become law this week.

My prediction: government will boost the base wage by at least $1.10 an hour this year.

As expected, the Stefanson government plans to alter its inflation-based formula for setting the minimum wage, which now stands at $11.95 an hour. Normally, the base wage is indexed to the previous year’s rate of inflation. That’s sound policy during normal times. However, with inflation growing at rates not seen in more than 30 years, an immediate adjustment is required to ensure minimum-wage earners don’t lose purchasing power.

Conservative governments in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick have all announced significant increases to their base wages in 2022, putting pressure on the Stefanson government to follow suit. Failure to do so would see Manitoba’s minimum wage (previously scheduled to rise 40 cents an hour to $12.35 on Oct. 1) rank lowest in the country.

Tuesday, May. 31, 2022

JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
Under Bill 44, introduced Monday, cabinet will have the ability to increase the minimum wage beyond the previous year’s inflation rate, if Manitoba’s consumer price index rises five per cent or more in the first quarter of the year.

Cabinet minister’s contrition seems to have its limits

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Cabinet minister’s contrition seems to have its limits

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, May. 27, 2022

Deputy premier Cliff Cullen didn’t seem terribly remorseful last week during a legislative committee meeting, days after getting caught making a sexist comment in front of a large group of business leaders. When asked multiple times by an opposition MLA whether he would commit to taking sensitivity training, Cullen — who also serves as the minister of economic development, investment and trade — refused to answer. Instead, he trumpeted his government’s record on economic development.

It was hardly the kind of sober reflection one would expect from someone who, just a few days earlier, committed to turning the controversy into a teachable moment.

Earlier this month at a Business Council of Manitoba annual general meeting, Cullen made an offensive remark attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill about women’s attire.

Friday, May. 27, 2022

Deputy premier Cliff Cullen made an offensive remark attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill about women’s attire earlier this month. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)