Sports in Manitoba were on hold when 2021 arrived. Some sports had tried to get started in the previous fall, but as COVID-19 numbers rose, leagues eventually cancelled their seasons.
Return to play
In September, high school sports made their long-awaited return, but with modified policies to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Winnipeg School Division recently announced that it would cut its full-day kindergarten pilot program which has been running in 11 of its schools for several years.
The reason given was that, while the program found that children benefited at the beginning of Grade 1, students in the half-day kindergarten program are catching up by the end of Grade 2.
However, the program did not study the economic or social benefits of full-day kindergarten, of which there are many. For example, Manitoba has a huge child-care deficit, and many parents struggle with the logistics of getting kids to a short half day of kindergarten and then to daycare placements, if they are available. Inadequate child care and educational opportunities hurt the workforce and women in particular, an issue which has been exacerbated during this pandemic. This can affect awhole family’s social and economic wellbeing, not just the child’s school academic readiness.
Full-day kindergarten is actually quite common in other Canadian provinces. In eight out of 13 provinces and territories, full-day kindergarten is widely available or even the norm. In Alberta, studies have shown that disadvantaged students benefit greatly from full-day kindergarten, which helped narrow the gap between them and other students. There are so many reasons why Manitoba should make full-day kindergarten more widely available, and it is time for the Progressive Conservative government to invest seriously in our children and families by helping them to have the best possible academic and economic outcomes.
Last month, we held an abbreviated session in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. This session, however, was a historic sitting as the first woman premier in Manitoba’s history — Heather Stefanson — was sworn in to office.
Once again, congratulations to the new premier.
Sadly, we quickly saw just how similar Premier Stefanson is to the former premier, her mentor Brian Pallister. Throughout the session, I watched the new premier dodge question after question about what her government plans to do to mitigate the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. I watched as Premier Stefanson steadfastly refused to implement a vaccine mandate for personal care home staff, thus putting our seniors and elders at risk.
But the clearest example of how the Stefanson government is little more than a repeat of Pallister’s came on the first day of the session in her government’s first speech from the throne. Unfortunately,the throne speech failed to address many of the urgent and critical issues faced by Manitoba families, such as the rising cost of living and health-care cuts, including cuts made while Premier Stefanson was health minister.
Our health-care system is essential to a functioning province and that is why our health-care workers deserve to be treated fairly and with the utmost respect. Furthermore, they deserve to be properly thanked and acknowledged for the work they have been doing and continue to do to keep Manitobans safe and healthy.
For nearly two years now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, people working in our health-care system have been forced to work long shifts, put themselves in vulnerable situations and sacrificed so much of their own lives. They workers have given time, put themselves at greater health risks and sacrificed not being at home with their families as much. We all need to be concerned that our health-care workers are not overcome by pandemic fatigue.
I believe that sometimes it can be easy for us to take our health-care system for granted. Many of us who were born and raised here in Canada have never feared not being able to access health-care resources. Today that is changing — just look at the growing number of procedures being delayed because of COVID. The pandemic means our resources are sparse, and we all need to do our part in this pandemic by trying our best not to spread the virus. Being fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot is important — but we can still do more.
With the emergence of the Omicron variant, it is important that we prevent our hospitals from becoming overrun and having to send patients out of province. This means we must be careful and continue to follow public health orders, even though I know we are so tired from the past two years.
With 2021 coming to and end, my colleagues and I recognize that this has been another difficult year for all Manitobans. Every family in Manitoba has been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in some form.
The commitments and sacrifices made by Manitobans, both during the holidays and throughout the year, are helping save lives and preparing us for a strong recovery in 2022.
Sadly though, the Pallister-Stefanson governments keep missing the mark throughout the pandemic — making life harder for you. We are now in the fourth wave of this pandemic and Manitobans are still experiencing difficulties, especially in the health-care system.
Nursing vacancies have reached unprecedented levels in Manitoba — 2,000 vacancies province-wide. Doctors Manitoba estimates that our surgical and diagnostic backlog has grown to 152,000 cases. Manitobans have died while awaiting surgery and many are living with chronic conditions that greatly limit their mobility and quality of life. This is horrifying.
It’s been a long pandemic, and I believe that between March 2020 and the beginning of November 2021, when my synagogue began cautious in-person services again on Saturday mornings, I had worn my high heels maybe once or twice. Not a lot of occasions to get dressed up, alas.
If you’ve never seen me in person, I’m short. So it’s not surprising that high-heeled shoes have been part of my outfit for many years, although thankfully never on a daily basis. I thought they were fun and pretty, made my legs look sexier, made me look taller and more imposing, etc. I wore them on any occasion that called for a nice dress. My feet hurt afterwards but, after all, we must “suffer to be beautiful”, right? That’s just how it is.
Like all of us, I’ve been on a journey for the past couple of years, and have been giving a lot of thought to the weighty questions of who I am and what I want to achieve in this world. With my 60th birthday fast approaching, the truth is I probably have less time ahead of me than behind me.
With this in mind, I have been choosing to abandon behaviours and choices that don’t bring me joy, to quote the great Marie Kondo.
When I shared my article about my inspiration, Jane Jacobs, on social media I received a bit of pushback about my thoughts. I always love these criticisms as they can either strengthen my convictions or can help me grow and change. This one did a bit of both.
The criticism I received was regarding my opinion that ordinary citizens are the best people to tackle complex issues; people argued that at some point professionals are needed to do a proper job.
I agree. Professionals do have a place in the creation of community but many of the complex issues that our mature neighbourhoods are seeing can’t be solved by planners and engineers. It takes a grounded effort. Neighbourhoods function more like ecosystems where everything is connected intricately and in ways that can’t be captured by zoning codes, bylaw changes, or street design.
Great neighbourhoods are those in which citizens feel they are active participants; where they can make a difference. As much as planners would like it to be tures, they are not created by the best zoning codes.