Early in 2020 Manitoba’s Department of Families issued a 12-page document: Shared Priorities, Sustainable Progress: The Department of Families 12-Month Strategy. The document received little attention in the media and most Manitobans will have not heard of it.  That’s too bad. It provides further insight into the provincial governments plans in a number of policy areas important to Manitobans. It also provides more than a few hints as to what we might expect in the 2020/21 Manitoba budget.

The strategy includes much talk of “modernizing” and “transforming” public service and “innovative management practices”.  All buzzwords for the Pallister governments agenda to privatize and downsize government.

The strategy includes 10 priority areas including: Leadership Framework, Agency Relations and Contract Management, Community Living disABILITY Services, Children’s disABILITY Services, Employment and Income Assistance, Housing, Child and Family Services, Early Learning and Child Care; a new “social innovation office” and plans to develop the remaining three standards under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

Here are a few tidbits to give you an idea on where this strategy is like to take us.

As described in this article the transformation proposed with regard to housing is to transfer management and ownership to the private sector (profit and non-profit). As described in this article that strategy has not worked well in other jurisdictions and this article describes how cities like New York have found that we need more investment in public housing, not less.

The Strategy has a lot to say about “agency relations”, the government’s plans to
“review spending”, and meet with “community partners and stakeholders to generate innovative approaches…” This ‘innovation’ will presumably occur through the newly established Social Innovation Office.  This “hub for social Innovation” will focus on more privatization through – you guessed it – social impact bonds.

The Manitoba government has moved forward with two social impact bonds to date. One to support Restoring the Sacred Bond, an innovative program aimed at keeping kids out of care (not sure why the government couldn’t have just funded that directly).  The other is a partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart to help people quit smoking. Huh? Shouldn’t our public health system be doing that?

As for early learning and childcare, despite the evidence that shows the importance of publicly funded universal access to non-profit childcare, the Manitoba government aims to focus on private sector/ for-profit childcare expansion.

These are just a few examples of what we have in store as Manitoba “transforms” and “modernizes” our social safety net. Check out the Strategy to learn more, and brace yourself for a rocky ride!