Most Manitobans know about the 150th anniversary party the province is throwing itself this year, but not everyone is happy about the cost.
That’s clear from the results of a Probe Research poll commissioned by the Free Press, in which 41 per cent of respondents said the $50 million earmarked for building projects and celebrations is too rich for their blood.
And, perhaps, too rich for Premier Brian Pallister’s, after more than three years of provincial government austerity measures focused on shrinking the province’s debt; something he and his Progressive Conservative administration have relentlessly blamed on wasteful spending by the NDP reign that preceded them.
Probe asked 1,000 Manitobans whether they were aware of the planned Manitoba 150 celebrations and what they make of the amount that will be spent.
Nearly half — 49 per cent — said the province is spending enough. One-tenth said the party budget could be bigger.
"There is a knee-jerk reaction that voters have and citizens have, that the government is probably spending too much on a thing," said Mary Agnes Welch, a principal with the polling firm.
"Especially at a time of budget austerity."
The provincial government has set aside $45 million for building upgrades and $5 million for celebration events; the private sector is contributing an additional $2 million for celebrations.
More women (51 per cent) than men (31 per cent) expressed concern with the dollar figure.
Welch said Manitobans’ thoughts on spending may change as they become aware of more events and notice signage.
The poll results show almost three-quarters of Manitobans are aware of the 150-year anniversary of the province joining Confederation. Of that number, 41 per cent said they were "very aware."
"Those are some pretty strong numbers," Welch said.
Baby boomers were twice as aware as millennials, and people with higher levels of education were more aware, which Welch said correlates with people who follow the news.
Stuart Murray, co-chairman of the Manitoba 150 host committee, said his team of volunteers has been boosting programming under brands such as Learn 150 and Illuminate 150 to drive the message home to residents.
"We’re trying to use that 150 monicker as often as we can," Murray said. "People are really understanding that the 150 number coincides… with that anniversary."
Murray said while Manitoba 150 merchandise has been popular thus far, organizers have tried to focus more on experiences than on posters and stickers.
Probe found almost half of Manitobans between the ages of 18 and 34 felt too much was being spent, compared with 36 per cent of people over 54. Welch suspects that’s because older people remember the centennial building boom in the late 1960s.
“I think we’re going to deliver tremendous value to the people of Manitoba.” –Stuart Murray, co–chair of the Manitoba 150 host committee
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"Young people probably don’t have a sense of what the country and the provinces do for big birthdays," Welch said.
Murray noted the $2 million companies have donated — and from community foundations’ requests for a share of the cash — is evidence of support.
"We’ve been able to raise that money from the private sector that we will be putting that money back into the province in a very substantive way," he said.
"I think we’re going to deliver tremendous value to the people of Manitoba."
Premier Brian Pallister called last fall’s provincial election a year earlier than mandated by legislation and within weeks of a federal vote because he said Manitobans wouldn’t appreciate being distracted by a political campaign during anniversary events.
Probe Research conducted an online survey of 1,000 Manitoba adults from Nov. 27 to Dec. 10. The firm asked two questions:
Next year — in 2020 — Manitoba will mark 150 years since the province joined Canada. Before now, were you aware of this anniversary?So far, the Manitoba government has budgeted $5 million to celebrate this anniversary, and $45 million for building projects. Is that too much money, too little or about right?Respondents were recruited through random digit dialing, as well as 305 randomly selected Manitobans from Probe’s proprietary online panel. Probe said a random survey of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Manitoba 150 has asked Ottawa for cash
OTTAWA — The Manitoba 150 host committee is hoping its events on Métis history will help unlock some federal dollars.
“I really do have every confidence that the federal government is going to be supportive of Manitoba’s 150th anniversary,” said committee co-chairman Stuart Murray.
In a mandate letter released last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his new Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault to “provide funding and support for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Métis Nation entering Confederation.”
Murray said he’s been in touch with the Heritage Department, asking for funds to ensure Louis Riel’s story is understood by Manitobans and Canadians more broadly.
“It wasn’t necessarily a smooth transition, but he was the person that got us to his unwavering understanding of what it means to be a proud Métis person,” Murray said. “That is very much part of the story of Manitoba.”