Manitoba elected a new provincial government on Oct. 3, with the New Democratic Party (NDP) soundly defeating the incumbent Progressive Conservatives (PC).
To help the lawmakers adjust to their new roles, the government, led by Premier Wab Kinew, has appointed a transition team of 11 Manitobans to advise them as they ascend a steep learning curve.
Christopher Adams, adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, says transition teams often consist of business leaders and experts in public administration.
“But this team appears to be a little light on experience in business or economics,” he says. “Instead, it represents the different groups that are relevant to the present-day Manitoba NDP. There is important political value in that.”
The members of the transition team with the closest connection to construction are Bea Bruske, president of Canadian Labour Congress; Tanya Palson, executive director of Manitoba Building Trades; and Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.
Bruske, who hails from Winnipeg, says she’s “thrilled and honoured” to be named to the transition team.
“We’ve already had an in-person meeting that everybody on the team attended,” she says. “In the future, there will be smaller meetings of transition team members with similar areas of interest, such as labour.”
Bruske says the NDP win was a very good thing for Manitoba’s workers.
“The Tories were not good for us at all,” she says. “For example, it took far too long to negotiate collective agreements. The priorities of the new government will be very different, and labour is looking forward to the change.”
Bruske says reviving the province’s health care system is the most important challenge the new government faces.
“It also must relieve the many pressures Manitoba workers are under,” she says. “To name just a few, they need wage increases to keep up with the cost of living, more comprehensive occupational health and safety regulations and anti-scab legislation.”
Bruske says the relationship between employers and workers needs to be reset from how it was under the previous Manitoba government.
“We want to see more balance,” she says. “We know it can’t be all one way or the other, but there needs to be a change. Under the previous government it was tilted in favour of employers for too long.
“I’m optimistic about the new government. It’s pledged to be a problem-solver and find good solutions for all Manitobans, not just some.”
Palson says she’s glad that institutional, commercial and industrial construction (ICI) “has a seat at the table again.”
“Many people in Manitoba, even some who work in construction, don’t appreciate the importance of ICI to the construction industry or the provincial economy as a whole,” she says.
Palson would like to see more investment in ICI construction by the provincial government.
“Total ICI spending in Manitoba depends to a great extent on what the public sector does,” she says.
Manitoba Building Trades has a detailed wish list for the new government.
“In addition to an injection of capital investment in new projects, for starters we would like to see a job training strategy that aligns with economic development, a change in the apprenticeship rules, and community benefit agreements or project labour agreements,” says Palson.
Rebeck says the Manitoba Federation of Labour is “super-excited” about the change in government.
“Labour will surely benefit from the change,” says Rebeck. “Under the former PC government there was a war on labour, particularly workers in the public sector. All Manitobans, not just labour, will do better now.”
Adams says with the right people on the government transition team, it can be of great value.
“The real transition work, however, comes from the civil service, especially the deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers,” says Adams. “They can make a big difference in helping the politicians adjust to their new roles.”
For a complete list of who’s on the transition team, click here.