Fort Rouge constituency report
Wab Kinew is the NDP MLA for Fort Rouge and leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party.
Recent articles of Wab Kinew
A few weeks ago, I met an elderly couple in the grocery store. They were visibly stressed, and when I approached them to see if I could help, I noticed they were counting coins. They told me that lately when they go to the grocery store, they’re never sure if they have enough money from their fixed income to buy what they need for the week. They’re not alone. I’ve talked with people all across the province who are struggling with sky-high grocery bills. It seems like nowadays, Manitobans aren’t asking themselves what they want to feed their families for dinner, they’re asking themselves ‘what can I afford?’
With the cost of groceries 10 per cent higher than it was one year ago, it’s getting harder to put healthy food on the table for your family. I know the government can’t do everything, but it can do some things to help you cope with the rising cost of groceries. That’s why I’ve written a letter to Premier Stefanson calling on her to form a non-partisan committee this summer to see what we can do to help with your grocery bill.
The Manitoba NDP believes it’s time to put politics aside and put families first. But so far, the Premier hasn’t responded to our request to work collaboratively on solutions and the Progressive Conservatives haven’t come up with any solutions of their own. In fact, they’re making the cost-of-living crisis worse by continuing to raise your Hydro rates and freezing the wages of hardworking Hydro workers and front-line health-care staff.
While life gets more expensive for the average family in Manitoba, the PCs are helping the rich get richer by cutting education and health care to give tax breaks to some of the wealthiest people in Canada and the U.S. and even multi-billion-dollar out-of-province corporations like the owners of Polo Park mall. The Manitoba NDP believes that’s wrong. We need strong health care and smaller class sizes to build a brighter future for families in Manitoba. And we think you should get some help with your grocery bill too.
The Ukrainian community in Manitoba has deep roots. Early members of the Ukrainian community helped shape the social, political, and cultural landscape of our great province. The community continues to play a pivotal role today. It’s heartbreaking to see the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine – the homeland of so many Manitoba families.
Families across the province all feel a sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian heroes who are bravely fighting back against Putin and his armies. The bravery of the men, women and civilians fighting on the street to protect their homeland has been inspiring.
Watching the invasion has forced us to ask what can be done to help its victims. That’s why last week I stood up in the legislature and demanded more be done to support Ukrainians, including those fleeing the country.
I called on the Stefanson government to dramatically increase its financial support for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to help with their humanitarian relief programs. So far, it has only pledged $150,000, but we know that Manitobans want to give more. The Manitoba Métis Federation has already donated $100,000, even though it has a far smaller budget than the province. We also proposed that the province start a matching program — for every dollar that a Manitoban donates, the government will donate a dollar as well, up to $5 million.
Last week, Fort Rouge families sent their kids back to school. We know kids learn best when they’re in the classroom surrounded by their friends and teachers. That’s why it’s so important the Progressive Conservative government makes the investments needed to keep our schools open safely.
Unfortunately, like so many other aspects of the pandemic, the PCs continue to make cuts instead of protecting Manitobans.
Two weeks ago my NDP team presented a five-point plan to make schools safer and support families with remote learning. Our plan will help keep schools open, keep families safe and give school staff the protection they need to feel confident in their work.
The science is clear that masks, tests and ventilation are important tools to reducing the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we called on the PCs to get rapid tests and high-quality masks into the hands of families and school staff and upgrade ventilation systems in every school. Not only will better ventilation help avoid transmission, it will also help keep kids in school during cold and flu session too.
COVID-19 hit Fort Rouge families hard. Seniors suffered alone in personal care homes and we had some of the worst outcomes in North America. Repeated lockdowns took a toll on mental health and our local economy and our kids missed out on so much.
We need to take an honest look at what went wrong so we can fix it and build a more resilient healthcare system, economy, and province. That’s why the Manitoba NDP is calling for an independent public inquiry into the province’s pandemic response. If the PCs don’t do it, the NDP will start one ourselves should we form government after the next election.
The inquiry should examine the changes to our health-care system leading up to and during the pandemic so we can build a more resilient system for the future. We need to ask how PC cuts to intensive care unit beds and privatization of the province’s air ambulance service led us to send 57 ICU patients out of province, including one who tragically died during transport. We also need to look at the hidden and ongoing impacts of the strain on our health-care system, such as surgery delays and delays in detecting cancer and other illnesses. We know COVID-19 disproportionately impacted BIPOC populations, but we need to take a closer look at the data so we can address the social determinants of health and improve health equity for everyone in Manitoba.
Lockdowns were hard on families, workers and businesses in Fort Rouge. That’s why it’s so important we study how decisions about public health orders were made and communicated. We need to investigate how we blew an early lead and failed to prepare for the second and third waves even though we had the benefit of lagging behind other jurisdictions.
It’s been a tough couple of years for university students in Fort Rouge. I know that students have worked hard to adapt to online learning, and faculty have been finding new ways to teach and connect with their students, but it’s still not the same as being with your peers and professors on campus. Now the Progressive Conservative government is only making life harder for students.
Earlier this month, students at the University of Manitoba were forced to put their studies on hold because PC government interference pushed the University of Manitoba Faculty Association) to a strike vote.
After years of budget cuts and tuition increases, faculty and students at the U of M are speaking out. Manitoba universities need to be independent and competitive so that they can recruit and retain expert researchers and profs. But last year the PCs passed a bill to give the government more power over university funding and tuition rates, and continued its practise of hiking student tuition. Now we see they’re also continuing with their past practise of interfering in collective bargaining.
It’s clear that we need to train more nursing students to strengthen our health-care system but by interfering in post-secondary institutions the PCs are making the nursing shortage worse. By forcing faculty to strike, the PCs are taking student nurses out of healthcare facilities just as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning and possibly delaying their entrance into the workforce. A similar situation is playing out for students in other programs. As we look to an economic recover,y these government decisions are forcing students to pump the brakes on their plans to join the workforce.
I had an amazing meal recently — and the best part was it was all grown right here in Fort Rouge, in urban gardens.
It came from the Sustainable South Osborne Community Co-op’s annual harvest dinner. The SSOCC has reclaimed urban space to produce local fruits and vegetables in the Riverview neighbourhood.
On one side of Churchill Drive are many gardening plots, on the other more plots and orchards. Not only do these gardens feed Fort Rouge families, they help us grow our relationships with our neighbours and help us cultivate a healthy relationship with the land that sustains us. Most people driving up and down Osborne most days may have no idea there are sustainable agricultural harvests happening just a stone’s throw away.
Of course, many of us visit the South Osborne Farmers’ Market, which is the result of great vendors and the Firewood Food Co-op. I love heading down there on Wednesday nights in the summer.
For many months parents, teachers and community members in Fort Rouge have opposed the Progressive Conservative government’s cuts to our education system and Bill 64.
Our NDP caucus fought that legislation with everything we could. Last spring we used our power as the official Opposition to delay Bill 64. We knew it was the wrong approach for our kids and our schools. Because of this delay, caregivers, school staff and communities had time to learn about the bill and make their voices heard. Together not only did we fight back - we won, at least for now.
The government has announced its intention to withdraw Bill 64. Thank you for doing your part in this fight. Bill 64 looks defeated, as well as four others bills - 16, 35, 57, and 40.
These bad PC bills would have made Hydro more expensive, taken away workers’ rights, hurt the fight on addictions and taken away the right to peacefully protest. We’re glad our delay helped Manitobans like you. With your help, we are making a difference as the Opposition. Let’s keep fighting and building a better Manitoba together.
I know Fort Rouge residents want a government that is committed to strengthening health care and education, a government that works to keep life affordable for families.
But Premier Pallister’s Progressive Conservation government has a different agenda – time and time again it puts money ahead of people. Instead of investing in health care and education, it has made deep cuts to classrooms and hospitals for years.
Now that the premier has announced his resignation, it’s time for his cabinet ministers to make a choice - they can keep Mr. Pallister’s legacy alive or they can withdraw his harmful legislation.
Our NDP caucus is listening to Manitobans and fighting for you. That’s why we are calling on Pallister’s PC cabinet ministers to withdraw the five bills we delayed from the last legislative session, starting with Bill 64.
In the last few months, Fort Rouge residents have been profoundly impacted by the disclosures of the graves around former residential schools. I’ve been encouraged to see Fort Rouge residents putting in the time to learn about the legacy of residential schools, engaging in hard conversations, and committing to working toward reconciliation. I’ve also been moved by all the orange shirts in people’s windows. It’s caused many of us to talk about what we can do to advance reconciliation.
In order to move forward with reconciliation here in Manitoba, the provincial government needs to acknowledge the past and ongoing harm Hydro projects have had on Indigenous communities and commit to working in full partnership alongside these communities to address the harms of the past, fight climate change together, and create a clean energy future for everyone.
But instead of working alongside Indigenous communities to create long-term jobs and clean energy solutions, this Progressive Conservative government is making decisions about Hydro rates behind closed doors and has approved what are called final licences over the objections of affected First Nations.
Communities such as Tataskweyak Cree Nation and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation are concerned about damage to their territories and to the fishery that drives their economies. They say Hydro operations cause water levels to fluctuate to such an extent that these damages are real and ongoing. This is on top of historic impacts. We must also keep in mind the impacts of Hydro developments in other parts of the province.
For a few days last week, I went to speak to people in line at the walk-in vaccine clinic at Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village.
Hundreds of people lined up for hours to get their shots, some even camping out overnight. The clinic was meant to be open all day, but it ran out of doses and had to send everyone else away.
Manitobans are obviously willing and ready to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible - why isn’t the government ready to meet that demand? There has been a lack of communication from the Progressive Conservatives to Manitobans about how to get the earliest possible appointments for their vaccines, and it’s led to confusion and many situations like the one we saw at Shoppers Drug Mart. Clearly you shouldn’t have to sleep outside a vaccine site to get a dose.
The PC government continues to move too slowly on this vaccine rollout. Vaccines save lives and while many Manitobans are still waiting weeks for their appointment, our hospitals and ICUs continue to be overwhelmed. With the Delta variant now in the province, we can’t waste any time in getting as many people fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
Post-secondary education is about preparing people for the future. Whether you’re heading to college straight out of high school or going back to university later in life to pursue new opportunities, we know advanced learning means many things — training for a career for sure, but it also helps us to be engaged citizens and active participants in our great province.
Many families in Fort Rouge understand the world is changing and that with the increasing influence of technology some of the most important skills we can learn in post-secondary are collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and people skills. Computers, robots and algorithms may replace some tasks we currently do but they aren’t going to replace those uniquely human pursuits anytime soon.
It seems to me, if you want a post-secondary system that helps prepare Manitobans for the future, it needs to blend an understanding of the technical know-how to excel in our tech-enabled world with interpersonal talents and original thinking. Our future will be led by folks who studied the humanities and then became red seal tradespeople, who learned a new language and then teach themselves how to code, who can deliver a rousing speech and then help diagnose a network problem in their workplace.
This blend of technical and creative skills is what I encourage my own kids and other young people I speak with to pursue.
All Manitobans want quality, timely healthcare for their families when they need it most. But because of the Progressive Conservative government’s health-care cuts, families in Fort Rouge are waiting longer for care and receiving less attention at the bedside.
The PCs emergency room closures caused longer wait times and additional stress before the pandemic and now that we’re in the third wave we’re seeing a comeback that no one wants - hallway medicine is returning to Winnipeg.
Earlier this month, we learned that there are 1,300 fewer nurses working in Winnipeg hospitals. The job vacancy rate is 17 per cent across the city and as high as 22 per cent in the St. Boniface ER, the closest emergency room for many Fort Rouge families. These numbers mean families are receiving less care and waiting longer for it.
We’re sounding the alarm by sharing stories like the one earlier this month of a 93-year-old woman who spent five days in a local ER hallway. Seniors and families deserve better care and we’re going to keep calling out the government for its reckless choices, which are hurting our communities.
What kind of place should school be for our kids?
When I talk to parents, including those in my constituency of Fort Rouge, they tell me they want public schools to be places where all kids feel welcome and their families know their children can reach their full potential. Schools should be places where kids feel happy and confident.
And when I talk to educators, they tell me school should be a safe place where kids can learn but also find things they need, such as a warm breakfast or winter gloves. Schools should be places that gives kids what they need to learn.
That’s why the Progressive Conservatives’ new education bill, Bill 64, is so disappointing to parents and educators. Instead of seizing an opportunity to make school a better place for kids, it focuses on cuts.
Manitobans are used to cold and snow but, if you’re unsheltered, a cold snap like the one we experienced in February can be life-threatening. Homelessness has an impact on every community in Manitoba and Fort Rouge sees it up close.
In recent months, we’ve all heard heartbreaking stories of people living in bus shelters and struggling to stay warm. Too many Manitobans find themselves facing an impossible choice of potential COVID-19 exposure or spending the night in the cold. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The provincial government can act now to address homelessness.
I want to thank the community organizations and volunteers in Fort Rouge who have stepped up to support our unsheltered neighbours. As some of our local businesses and libraries are able to re-open at reduced capacity, there are more warm places to go, but this is not a long-term solution. People experiencing homelessness, whether in Fort Rouge or across the province, deserve a warm place to stay where they can feel safe and supported.
The Pallister government has made it actively harder for Manitobans to access affordable housing. Since 2016, it has sold off 500 affordable housing units, failed to build a single new unit, and cut nearly $100 million from its housing maintenance budget. This year, in particular, many shelter beds have been lost due to pandemic restrictions and the provincial government has not even come close to making up for this reduced capacity.
Fort Rouge is home to so many great restaurants and lively gyms.
We’ve got the Oxbow, Cornerstone, Carlos & Murphy’s, Vera Pizzeria and the Oakwood Cafe, to name just a few. And then there are the amazing gyms that help so many of us stay physically and mentally fit - McDole’s, Anytime Fitness, Don’t Survive Thrive Academy, and many more.
Last month’s new health orders allowed some Manitoba businesses to re-open but our local restaurant and gym owners are still struggling.
The government needs to step up now to help these businesses make it through the pandemic so they can continue to provide good jobs, physical activity and wonderful dining experiences in Fort Rouge for years to come.
While a new calendar year has not resolved most of the challenges we faced together in 2020, it has brought a reason for hope. The early stages of vaccine rollout in Manitoba is a cause for optimism, but we must to continue to do our due diligence to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure all Manitobans can access the vaccine as soon as possible.Just as they failed to prepare for the second wave of the virus in the fall, the Pallister government has failed to plan ahead for a vaccination campaign that sees all Manitobans, with our most vulnerable populations and front-line workers first, receive this life-saving vaccine as quickly as possible. Last month it promised 40,000 vaccinations in January — but we are not on track to meet that goal. Government has missed its own targets and is now ramping down its promises. So far, the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout has been slow, chaotic, and glitchy. Precious doses were wasted, clinics were closed for days in December, and Manitobans waited hours on the phone for an appointment. I asked the minister of health to ensure this doesn’t happen again. However, there’s now a new Minister of Health, another sign this government is spending more time managing political problems than serving the needs of Manitobans — like getting the vaccine right. Rather than plan ahead, the government dithered. The premier claims he could have the whole province vaccinated by the end of March if the federal government would just give him enough doses, yet we currently have an abundance of doses still in storage and not in the arms of Manitobans. Weeks into its vaccination campaign, the government posted a position for provincial director of immunization — a job that should have been filled months ago. Manitobans need clarity and transparency from their government on this plan. Instead of blaming others for the fact that Manitoba is in last place in vaccine rollout, the province should focus on getting vaccines into the arms of as many Manitobans as it can. As supply increases, it is crucial that vaccines become as accessible as possible — available at pharmacies and everywhere else Manitobans would get a regular flu shot. Vaccines must be accessible for all families — no matter their mobility, location, or income.The NDP caucus will continue to advocate for a vaccine plan that is fast, effective and clearly communicated. Contact my office anytime at 204-615-1922 or email me at email@example.com
While a new calendar year has not resolved most of the challenges we faced together in 2020, it has brought a reason for hope. The early stages of vaccine rollout in Manitoba is a cause for optimism, but we must to continue to do our due diligence to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure all Manitobans can access the vaccine as soon as possible.
Just as they failed to prepare for the second wave of the virus in the fall, the Pallister government has failed to plan ahead for a vaccination campaign that sees all Manitobans, with our most vulnerable populations and front-line workers first, receive this life-saving vaccine as quickly as possible.
Last month it promised 40,000 vaccinations in January — but we are not on track to meet that goal. Government has missed its own targets and is now ramping down its promises. So far, the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout has been slow, chaotic, and glitchy. Precious doses were wasted, clinics were closed for days in December, and Manitobans waited hours on the phone for an appointment.
This holiday season will be unlike any other we have ever experienced. Manitobans are struggling. Since the pandemic began, families and workers have continually been making sacrifices for the greater good. Business owners, in Fort Rouge and across the province, have been hit hard as they adjust to public health restrictions to keep Manitobans safe.
Manitobans deserve a government that matches their commitment. One that steps up and does everything it can to protect lives and livelihoods. The Pallister government has failed to do this. We have already lost local businesses here in Fort Rouge, businesses that were central to our community. The premier has had so many opportunities to make life easier for Manitobans during this pandemic, but instead has made life harder for regular families.
He cut over 11,000 jobs at the start of the pandemic. He refused to extend the ban on rent increases and evictions, leaving thousands of Manitobans at risk of losing shelter as winter approaches. He has failed to listen to small businesses and give them what they need, opting instead for token programs with complicated applications and minimal relief for entrepreneurs who are months behind on expenses and at risk of closing their doors for good.
Regular families and small businesses are not Pallister’s priority. He underspent the Manitoba Gap Prevention program by tens of millions of dollars and the Manitoba Job Restart Program by hundreds of millions. He also wasted $425,000 on his failed economic ad campaigns over the summer. And now he’s pretending that his Manitoba Bridge Grant program, which offers a meagre $5,000 to businesses, will save small business owners who are months behind on rent, paying for PPE out of pocket, and taking a loss on massive amounts of product that can’t be sold.
Seniors and elders of Manitoba deserve the very best of care. In addition to massive COVID outbreaks in nursing homes, we have heard of seniors living with cockroaches, sitting in dirty clothes for hours and going without bathing for weeks while living in personal care homes (PCHs) in Manitoba.
Since the pandemic began, many Manitobans have sacrificed visiting their loved ones in PCHs across the province. They gave up this time — time they cannot get back with aging parents, grandparents, spouses, or friends — to protect people they love and care about. Unfortunately, while Manitoba families like yours have sacrificed so much, the Pallister government has not matched your commitment.
After years of inspections at various PCH facilities that documented aging buildings and facilities, rooms going uncleaned for weeks, and staff not receiving proper training, this government halted much-needed inspections during the pandemic. Brian Pallister and his government have failed in protecting our most vulnerable Manitobans and their families.
Through his austerity cuts to nursing, emergency rooms and CancerCare units, Pallister has weakened our health care system, putting us in a weak position leading into a pandemic. Instead of investing in health care — increasing intensive care beds, contact tracing, and testing capacity — he closed the ERs at Seven Oaks, Victoria, and Concordia hospitals, cut 18 ICU beds in his first term and 10 last year, and has closed CancerCare outpatient services at Seven Oaks with a planned closure at Concordia.
Fort Rouge is home to some great businesses and local retail stores — some of Winnipeg’s best restaurants and coffee shops are right here in our neighbourhood.
Losing renowned and locally-owned Segovia was a major blow to our community. Small businesses are the backbone of Manitoba’s economy, and we cannot afford to lose any more cherished and family-operated establishments in Fort Rouge.
As we near the seven-month mark of the pandemic in our province, and an upgrade to the restricted “orange” level, the Pallister government continues to fail small businesses in Fort Rouge and throughout Manitoba.
For now, restaurants and bars remain open; however, Manitoba public health has hinted at more restrictions in the future, putting further pressure on small businesses and the hospitality industry.
We’re lucky to live in one of the most vibrant and exciting parts of Manitoba. A big reason why is because there’s the ability for people from all walks of life to move into our area and stay in rental units.
Knocking on doors over the years I’ve encountered people who are medical students, young parents, seniors, folks living with disabilities and everyone in between. Having an accessible neighbourhood with affordable rent has been a key to our success in the past.
That in turn has made for the development of business hotspots such as Osborne Village, Confusion Corner and South Osborne, powered by small businesses paying commercial rents.
The pandemic has clearly turned things upside down for both residential and commercial renters. Tremendous economic upheaval, increasing costs and uncertainty about the future has made things difficult.
For many hockey families, this time of year is when we get the kids to try on the old equipment and see what still fits. Many of us are probably thinking of hockey camps and would have already registered for teams and tryouts.
Well, it looks like hockey is one more thing that has been upended by COVID-19. The last minor hockey season was abruptly cancelled. So much so that one of my sons had his skates on in the dressing room when word came that his playoff game, and the rest of the season, was called off. That disruption continues. While some hockey camps are operating, registration is open in some minor hockey associations but not others. Many are waiting on Hockey Manitoba to move ahead to the next phase in its return-to-play plan that would allow for a regular season. Rightfully so — the safety of our favourite hockey players (our kids and grandkids) has to come first.
As the pandemic has changed so much for us it makes sense that it has also changed our national pastime. Hockey Canada and Hockey Manitoba have adopted a philosophy for teaching the game called “Long-term Athlete Development.” It’s a part of most of our sports these days. The idea is to teach skills and strategies but most of all a love for the game. The thinking is that if we encourage kids to have a good time on the ice now then they will develop a passion for hockey that will keep them lacing up the skates right into old age, and that in turn will help them to stay healthy for life.
Hockey Manitoba is proceeding with a lot of respect for the players in their charge. The current guidelines say drills and tryouts can start as of Sept. 1. Tournaments and travel are on hold until at least Nov. 1. There may be some families who’d want to get back up to speed sooner, there may be some families who would want to see an even more cautious return to play.
Fort Rouge is such a great area, with local shops and small businesses reflecting the cultural richness that makes up our community. You will find unique boutiques, great cuisine, and local art that makes our community what it is — a vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood that draws people in from all over.
We are a community that values entrepreneurship and proves it by supporting our local artisans, chefs and creative people who make this lively part of Winnipeg what it is.
That’s why the stories of small businesses and restaurants closing permanently in Osborne, the Corydon area and elsewhere are tough to hear.
I’ve reached out to many businesses to offer my support as their MLA. Many told me that in order to stay open they needed help from the provincial government to help pay rent and keep their employees on payroll. But for many weeks the province refused to act, and small businesses lost money. By the time the government stepped in with a one-time loan of $6,000, it was too late and too little.
There’s no doubt these have been a tense and worrying few months for Fort Rouge families — and not just from a health perspective. My constituency office has been flooded with calls from Fort Rouge residents who have lost their jobs or had their incomes significantly reduced because of provincially mandated layoffs.
So many of our neighbours — whether they work in schools, for the City or at Crown corporations — have lost their jobs. More than 5,000 public workers were laid off in March and April alone. Many more are being threatened with the premier’s plan to reduce workweeks for ‘Frontline Fridays’. Combined with the nearly 24,000 private-sector job losses, Fort Rouge families are feeling a serious fiscal pinch.
Not only do these job cuts hurt families, it’s the wrong economic approach for our province.
Economic experts across the political spectrum agree that it is government’s job to keep people working and keep spending money during times of instability. History tells us that when governments push austerity and cut jobs it only deepens the recession and increases the risk of creating a depression. Instead, governments must continue building and investing in order to keep our economy running and slowly pull us back to stability.