Activists resist Pallister’s claim covid crisis justifies deeper cuts


BRIAN PALLISTER ISN’T GETTING A CLEAR SHOT. Winnipeg activists have come back to life to see to it.

The citizen’s activist group Communities Not Cuts (CNC) got back into action in time for May Day. Their aim is to expose how Manitoba premier Brian Pallister is using the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 as an excuse to push even harder for his austerity agenda with even deeper cuts to public spending.

Resistance quick to build

A CNC online callout for ideas about how to challenge Pallister got instant, enthusiastic and strong response. The group decided to hold a “honkathon and stake sign protest” at the legislature on May Day.

“We decided to invite as many people as possible to come to the ledge with their cars,” says CNC activist Brendan Devlin. “Stay in their cars, and effectively honk incessantly outside the legislative building.

“So people came in cars, some people came by foot. Some people came on bikes, and it was very noisy.

“We also encouraged everyone, even if they couldn’t come, to make a sign. And we arranged to pick up and transport those signs to the ledge so that we could stake them in the garden at the legislative building in Manitoba.”

Making things worse

Pallister was pushing hard for a deep cuts austerity agenda before the covid crisis. Many critics questioned his numbers then. They make even less sense now,  given the economic crisis brought on by the covid shutdowns.

“Pallister is using this tactic of throwing out big numbers as an excuse to say that we will be suffering a lot,” says CNC activist Shaden Abusaleh. “He’s been dodging questions and using this sort of tactic. It’s a fear mongering tactic.

Criticism of Pallister comes from all along the political spectrum. “Not only is it going to be hurting Manitobans immediately and in the long run,” says Shaden, “but it’s hurting the basic foundation of our economy.

“It makes absolutely no sense to be reducing government spending when we’re expecting a deep recession.”

Live streaming the action

CNC organizers broke new ground with the honkathon by live streaming the event as it was happening. People could tune into a webinar as they’re driving around honking, and folks could also tune into from home.

“We couldn’t have people speaking at a rally and like passing the mic to one another or anything like that,” says Brendan. “And so the solution we thought was to host an online webinar, which I think actually ended up being probably more informative than a lot of speakers at rallies can be. And also in itself quite engaging.

The CNC held another honkathon, sign protest and live stream on May 13—while the legislature was in session, so the MLAs could hear it all.

More to come

CNC is now hosting workshops online to keep the discussion and momentum going. “There’s also an appetite to go beyond hackathons,” says Brendan. “We’re hoping that these workshops will provide fresh ideas, fresh perspective and we’re eager to move forward.

“I can’t stress enough that we’re really trying to get anybody and everybody who’s interested involved, whether they have a background in organizing or not.

“What we’re seeing right now in Manitoba is that the opposition to Brian Pallister’s agenda is quite widespread. And what we’re hoping to do with these workshops is take some initial steps to organize that widespread opposition and bring people into our fold to whatever extent they’re comfortable with.

“One of our hopes is to put together a list of demands from different community groups that target different communities within Manitoba to ask what their demands do look like,” says Shaden.

“We don’t have the answer of how to best serve each and every community, but we would like to bring folks together to work out the best ways to resist.”

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