Protesters who oppose the Pallister government’s cuts to jobs and services took to the streets for an hour-long "honk-a-thon" outside the legislature Wednesday as politicians met inside for question period.
More than 100 vehicles, some bearing signs that read "Stop cuts to our future" and "Cuts hurt", circled the building during a socially distanced protest in which drivers honked their horns and used noisemakers.
'The idea of putting people out of work during a recession is probably one of the worst ideas that this government has ever had' — Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew
The noise was a "vocal show of just how widespread the opposition is" said Brendan Devlin, an organizer with Communities not Cuts, a local group that he said opposes the Pallister government’s "austerity approach."
"The pandemic has triggered an economic crisis and we think it’s actually time that the government come in and invest in communities and invest in recovery from the economic crisis this is causing," he said.
Pallister has faced widespread criticism for the layoff of 700 workers at Manitoba Hydro, a move he said is justified as he claimed there is less work for Hydro workers.
While several MLAs watched the protest, NDP Leader Wab Kinew took part by waving a sign that read: "Flatten the curve, not the recovery."
"The idea of putting people out of work during a recession is probably one of the worst ideas that this government has ever had," Kinew said.
Devlin said "short-term concerns about the deficit and the budget" have taken precedent over investment in Manitoba’s recovery after the pandemic.
"We don’t know what’s going on in Pallister’s head, but it’s hard not to notice that his response to the pandemic has been to double down on precisely the same sorts of lines and rhetoric around the deficit and the need to balance the budget and that being the overriding priority," he said.
"It’s been the overriding priority of this government since they’ve come to power, they’ve only doubled down on it in the pandemic."
Cayden Carfrae, a youth worker, arrived at the protest on his bike. He said his work made the harmful effects of service cuts apparent and that he came out to call for "a solution for all, not just for tax-paying citizens in higher-end neighbourhoods."
"I can see how these people are affected by it, how it makes them feel emotionally, and how disconnected Brian Pallister can be from the communities that make Winnipeg as strong as it is."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at 7:14 PM CDT: Adds photo