Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen has apologized for blaming the high rate of vacant jobs in Manitoba on workers' lack of loyalty to employers.

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Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen has apologized for blaming the high rate of vacant jobs in Manitoba on workers' lack of loyalty to employers.

Pedersen apologized during estimates hearings Tuesday afternoon into his department's budget, the same venue where he made the controversial statement last Thursday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>"So, we all wish we could bring words back when we say them. Perhaps loyalty was the wrong word to use, and I will admit that. I shouldn't have used the word," the Hansard official transcript quotes Blaine Pedersen as saying.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

"So, we all wish we could bring words back when we say them. Perhaps loyalty was the wrong word to use, and I will admit that. I shouldn't have used the word," the Hansard official transcript quotes Blaine Pedersen as saying.

"So, we all wish we could bring words back when we say them. Perhaps loyalty was the wrong word to use, and I will admit that. I shouldn't have used the word," the Hansard official transcript quotes Pedersen as saying.

"What I meant was, particularly, young people are much more mobile these days. There are career changes... not necessarily just young people, but employees tend to be much more mobile these days. They move to different careers, whether it's an advancement or something totally different. It's much different than the workplace of many years ago, where often a career was sort of a lifetime objective.

"And so I certainly didn't mean anything dismissive or negative about workers, and I apologize for using the word loyalty. I should have used the word mobile."

Earlier Tuesday afternoon in question period, Pedersen had ignored demands from Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux that he apologize.

"(I) certainly hope that the people that he's offended with those comments will accept his apology as well," New Democrat Tom Lindsey told Pedersen during the estimates hearing Tuesday.

Lindsey said people are forced to be mobile because of actions such as Pedersen cutting 58 jobs in his department, 14 per cent of the workforce.

"There's planning to be some more cuts, so people don't see there being a long-term future, perhaps, with some of these positions within the department.

"So what can the minister do to try and entice young people, qualified people, to come and work in his department with the guarantee that it's going to be a long-term employment opportunity that isn't going to suffer from next year's budget axe?" he asked.

The provincial government has a strategy on the way that will transform the civil service and make it an exciting place where young people will want to work, Pedersen said

"It's about creating a new work culture, creating a new culture around work within the civil service, whether it's in this building or civil service in general. We will not have a culture of fear, a culture of suck-it-up, as what was in — bullying that was rampant in the previous (NDP) government," he said.

Lindsey challenged Pedersen to explain how freezing civil servants' wages under Bill 28 would made people excited to come to work?

That's Finance Minister Cameron Friesen's bill — ask him, responded Pedersen.

"I'm asking this minister if he believes that that bill helped in his stated goal of having a workplace that people want to come to work at and are happy to work at," Lindsey said.

"I'll leave the speculation up to the member," Pedersen responded.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca