March 28, 2020

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Political bluster largely ignored the big picture

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Can anyone recall our farmers getting much love on the campaign trail?</p>


Can anyone recall our farmers getting much love on the campaign trail?

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/4/2016 (1440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Remember the environment, climate change and global warming?

The planet may be in dire peril, but nary a syllable was uttered by the three main party leaders that anyone's noticed over the past few weeks.

The Greens probably had something to say about saving the planet, and had they gone into the election with anything like the numbers the Liberals had in the polls, the mainstream media may have paid the Greens some notice. Our bad.

All must be well with agriculture, because except for the Liberals favouring a break on the farmland school tax rebate, can anyone recall our farmers getting much love on the campaign trail?

In a province that floods rather regularly, flooding wasn't much of an issue. Corollary effects of flooding, yes, that got attention, when the NDP tried to explain why it had needed another point on the PST and when the Tories were alleging conspiracies around Tiger dams.

But flood mitigation, ideas and projects on how to protect us, how and when and where to move unimaginable amounts of water with the greatest protection and the least damage? Any promises must have slipped right by all the mainstream media. Maybe someone put something about it somewhere on Twitter.

Speaking of disasters, did any leader let slip the words "water bombers"?

OK, so you can't define the universe over the course of a 35-day election campaign, but if there is time to devote to giving women a PST break on a cut and colour at the salon, to putting $700,000 of public money into a curling centre of excellence, or to a $1-million slush fund for extra school fees that works out to $5 a student, then maybe the Big Picture didn't always get its due.

Everyone knows ambulance fees and parking charges at hospitals are exorbitant, but they're just nibbling around the edges of an enormous health-care system. Who offered a solution to the mental-health crisis?

We have a childhood obesity epidemic, but where was that topic during the election? Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said she'd have schools provide mandatory daily physical activity, but was unaware of what already programs already exist and had not considered which core subjects would give up class time for more exercise.

The leaders tiptoed around the edges of education as gingerly as they ventured into health issues.

A short campaign may not be the best place to address the inequities of a $2.25-billion public education system based on the assessed values of property within arbitrary geographic areas, but hardly anything of systemic substance got talked about. Conservative Leader Brian Pallister would emphasize the development of reading skills, and the Liberals would scrap the 2008 moratorium on closing small schools.

By the way, if you read really, really far down in the Conservative platform Pallister released a couple of weeks back, you'll find he's promised teachers they can write whatever they want on a report card (including descriptions of a child's behaviour) and will have the discretion to mark students appropriately on their work, which may mean giving a failing grade without having the world come down on a teacher's head. But the Tories didn't make a big deal out of a couple of significant changes that may have, to resort to jargon, resonated with some stakeholders.

The parties made some promises around post-secondary bursaries and scholarships, and about converting student loans into grants, but they ignored the two issues vital to post-secondary education. Provincial operating grants are basically a percentage increase — and, oh yeah, will there be any? — on whatever the schools previously received, and not geared to per-student funding. Manitoba has the third-lowest tuition among Canadian provinces and it is capped at an increase of provincial growth — an arts undergrad student carrying a maximum course load would have to pay at least $2,000 a year more to have our universities enjoy Saskatchewan revenue levels.

We could go on. Social-housing improvements, bettering the lives of indigenous people, urban sprawl, development of natural resources, services for newcomers. Just speculating, but the leaders may not be aware we have provincial parks.

NDP Leader Greg Selinger and Pallister each spent 35 days accusing the other of being more evil, while Bokhari failed profoundly to offer a discernible ideology.

Where was the vision for a better Manitoba?


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