Questions For The Candidates

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society posed a series of questions to the leaders of Manitoba’s three official parties to help members make an informed vote on Election Day.

The questions focused on priorities for education, strategies for improving teachers’ quality of working life and reducing poverty, as well as a few light-hearted ones.

The Green Party of Manitoba did not participate in our questionnaire. Their education platform can be viewed here.

Some answers have been lightly edited for space considerations.

 

MB PC Party Leader Brian Pallister’s Responses

1. What are your top priorities for improving public education?
On January 23, 2019 the Manitoba government announced the establishment of a nine-member commission to undertake a comprehensive, independent review of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system.

The purpose of the review is to improve outcomes for students, to ensure long-term sustainability and enhance public confidence in Manitoba’s education system. With the exception of a boundaries review in the 1990s, a comprehensive examination of Manitoba’s elementary/secondary education system has not occurred since the late 1950s. It is long overdue. This review will shape K-12 education in Manitoba for this generation and beyond.

The commission was provided six areas of focus to guide their work in making recommendations to government, those being:

1. Long-term vision – What should the goals and purpose of kindergarten to Grade 12 education be in a rapidly changing world?

2. Student learning – What are the conditions required to achieve excellence in student achievement and outcomes in Manitoba?

3. Teaching – How can teachers and school leaders become most effective?

4. Accountability for student learning – How can the education system develop a stronger sense of shared accountability for student learning?

5. Governance – What type of governance structures are needed to create a co-ordinated and relevant education system?

6. Funding – What actions are required to ensure that the education system is sustainable and provides equitable learning opportunities for all children and youth?

2. How will you address the high rates of poverty in Manitoba that inhibit children from succeeding in school, and subsequently in life?
Pathways to a Better Future: Manitoba’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (https://www.gov.mb.ca/povertyreduction/pubs/pathways_to_a_better_future.pdf) represents our government’s plan to reduce poverty in Manitoba.

The strategy includes a focus on the following six priority areas:

1. Investing in Manitoba’s future prosperity through supports to children and youth.

2. Working together to improve health outcomes and standard of living.

3. Promoting economic inclusion through employment, education and training.

4. Facilitating partnerships and supporting community-based organizations.

5. Strengthening client-centred service delivery.

6. Making positive change through social innovation.

As a result of our government’s past and current initiatives, Manitoba experienced the greatest improvement in child poverty and is no longer considered the child poverty capital of Canada. Manitoba’s child poverty rate decreased from 16.4 in 2015 to 11.9 percent in 2016, and then to 9.5 percent in 2017. In total, 6,000 fewer Manitoba children were living in poverty in 2017 compared to 2016.

3. How will you ensure that public schools operate effectively, and that all children achieve academic success?
As outlined in response to your first question, the purpose of our K-12 review is to improve outcomes for students, to ensure long-term sustainability and enhance public confidence in Manitoba’s education system. Our administration believes that the public school system needs to be fully and sustainably funded both on the capital and operations side, so that students can learn in optimal environments from the very best teachers. That is why funding to the public school system has increased by more than $26 million dollars since the Progressive Conservative Party came into office.
4. What will your party do to improve teachers’ quality of working life and value their contributions?
One of the six focus areas for the K-12 commission is teaching, with a specific view to answering the question, how can teachers and school leaders become most effective? We will rely upon the advice of the commission in how to best empower teachers, improve their working life and best value their contributions.
5. A fully functioning Bureau de l’education française (BEF) is essential to the quality of French-language education in Manitoba. What are your plans to ensure that the BEF continues to provide a level of service and expertise that is deserving of Manitoba’s students?
Our administration fully agrees that a fully functioning Bureau de l’éducation française (BEF) is essential to the quality of French-language education in Manitoba. That is why we have made investments large and small to best support the BEF in undertaking its work to support French- language education. For example, in 2018 work began on two financial-literacy documents to support the Grade 12 Mathématiques au quotidien (Consumer Math) curriculum: one on the financing of vehicles and the other on financing a home. We believe these kind of practical skills for those students who select these streams are the kind of opportunities that should be available for students who study in both English and French. Apart from targeted investments such as the above, BEF has worked with the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (DFSM) to ensure that school division is supported in a sustainable way. The budget for the DFSM is $95 million dollars this year, up from $85 million in 2016/17. In addition to sustainable operating funding for French-language Education, our government has made significant capital investments in support of French-language education in Manitoba.
6. Who is your hero, and why?
My dad who had to learn to walk again when he got polio at age 12.
7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Not enough.
8. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why?
At a meeting recently I asked those around me to help find my glasses, they were in my left hand!
9. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?
Tell me what is closest and I’ll tell you!
10. What was the last book you read?
The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Carloine Van Hemert.

 

MB NDP Party Leader Wab Kinew’s Responses

1. What are your top priorities for improving public education?
My top priority is ensuring every student is able to have the one on one time with their teacher they need to ensure their success in our public education system. That means keeping class sizes small, ensuring students and teachers have the resources and supports they need, like Educational Assistants, and ensuring there is predictable and stable increases to funding for our education system. I also want to help students overcome the barriers they face even before they get to the classroom.
2. How will you address the high rates of poverty in Manitoba that inhibit children from succeeding in school, and subsequently in life?
If a child is hungry in school, every teacher knows that prevents them from reaching their full potential. Addressing poverty starts before children enter the school doors. It requires a complete plan to make sure Manitobans have good paying jobs, proper housing and health care, safe communities, quality recreational services and healthy foods. We will be announcing concrete measures about our holistic plan to eliminate poverty when we launch our platform during the formal campaign period.
3. How will you ensure that public schools operate effectively, and that all children achieve academic success?
Public schools work best when we listen to front line educators like teachers and educational assistants and involve parents in the decisions about education. We need to make sure local voices are represented and heard and that decisions about the education system are made with the best interests of students in mind, not arbitrary fiscal targets. That’s why we would fire the PC Government’s current education commissioners, like Clayton Manness, while listening to the submissions many teachers, front line workers, and parents spent a lot of time on envisioning a better future for our public education system. What I’ve heard from teachers is that if we want to improve literacy and numeracy we need to address the barriers kids face outside of the classroom which can include poverty and related challenges like nutrition but also include things like mental health, the intergenerational impacts of colonization and challenges at home. Our plan addresses these issues.
4. What will your party do to improve teachers’ quality of working life and value their contributions?
When teachers tell me we need to help kids overcome the obstacles they face outside of the classroom what they are really getting at is we should have mental health professionals looking after mental health, social workers focusing on the social issues and a poverty plan to alleviate poverty so that we can have teachers focus on what they do best – teach. One of the first acts an NDP government would take would be to repeal Bill 28. It is an unconstitutional piece of legislation and we would return to the bargaining table. Working collaboratively and cooperatively with teachers would be the first step to addressing the challenges they face in the classroom. Another immediate step we would take would be to restore the small class size initiative. We know teachers cannot teach to the best of their abilities when they have too many students to supervise. That’s why it’s important to give teachers the tools they need in the classroom.
5. A fully functioning Bureau de l’education française (BEF) is essential to the quality of French-language education in Manitoba. What are your plans to ensure that the BEF continues to provide a level of service and expertise that is deserving of Manitoba’s students?
We will take immediate steps to restore the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Bureau de l’education francaise if elected as well as restoring and hiring the vacant positions that have been eliminated from that area. Our party helped create the Bureau and we are committed to ensuring that every student in Manitoba can receive the best French-language education possible. Mon but est d’être un premier ministre capable d’engager et d’appuyer la communauté franco-manitobaine dans sa langue maternelle.
6. Who is your hero, and why?
My hero is Tecumseh, a very smart person who, by turning back the Americans in the first year of the war of 1812, is one of the reasons we don’t have to salute Donald Trump today.
7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
I aim for 8 hours of a sleep a night but with a one year old at home and a job with interesting hours I don’t usually make it.
8. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why?
I was embarrassed by my 11-year-old son on the basketball court recently. Like a lot of Manitobans my kids and I have gotten really into the NBA and followed the Raptors championship run. One evening recently my son crossed me up. He dribbled the ball a couple times. I went one way, he went the other, my 14-year-old witnessed it and heckled me mercilessly.
9. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?
I love burgers. I’ve been trying to eat less meat for environmental reasons so I was pretty excited to have a really good tasting beyond meat burger at Folk Fest recently.
10. What was the last book you read?
I’m always reading to my kids, in particular I read to our youngest in Ojibwe everyday because we want him to speak our language. The book I’m reading him right now is a unilingual Ojibwe picture book called “Awesiinyensag” which means “Little Animals.”

 

MB Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont’s Responses

1. What are your top priorities for improving public education?
We want to make sure that students fulfill their potential. We need better graduation rates. From K-12 we need to make sure that kids are getting literacy, numeracy. We are interested in a curriculum review. As a parent with four children in the public school system, I have been frustrated with the math curriculum. The Pallister Government only sees education as a cost and is looking for ways to cut them. This is wrong. Quality public education is about teaching people about the world, each other and society. Education is a great leveler because anyone from any background can learn new ideas and skills that help them fulfill their potential. Education is also one of the foundations of a modern economy. Graduates can earn more and businesses are better off with workers who are smarter and have better skills.
2. How will you address the high rates of poverty in Manitoba that inhibit children from succeeding in school, and subsequently in life?
Poverty reduction has been almost non-existent in Manitoba for a generation. Under the PCs and NDP, the social housing allowance was frozen at 1992 levels for over 20 years. Basic needs under EIA are still less than they were 27 years ago. The number of people on EIA is at a record high, over 71,000 Manitobans. We have a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach plan for reducing poverty, including changing EIA’s mandate to “getting people out of poverty,” focusing on creating “good jobs” – full-time jobs that are 35 hours a week with benefits, as well as other programs.
3. How will you ensure that public schools operate effectively, and that all children achieve academic success?
We need to make sure funding is equitable so that schools with greater needs are funded adequately. Schools often end up delivering and paying for programs or services that are separate from education – including mental health and social work. It is proper for these programs to be delivered in schools, but they shouldn’t come out of the school budget. We also believe the province should pay a greater share of public schools without relying so much on property taxes. The focus for children needs to be about making sure they are as good as possible at whatever they are good at. Aside from academics, we need to balance with trades, vocational, arts and other skills.
4. What will your party do to improve teachers’ quality of working life and value their contributions?
Supporting teachers is key towards having a successful education system. Teachers do so much more than just teaching children literacy and numeracy. Teachers prepare every single Manitoban for the rest of their lives, and sometimes they may even save lives. Manitoba Liberals believe that the voices of teachers belong at the forefront when governments are developing policy around not just education but our children and our youth. They know better than most what barriers are children are facing, and how best to support them as individuals.
5. A fully functioning Bureau de l’education française (BEF) is essential to the quality of French-language education in Manitoba. What are your plans to ensure that the BEF continues to provide a level of service and expertise that is deserving of Manitoba’s students?
It is appalling that the Pallister Government eliminated the Bureau de l’éducation française, especially at a time when enrollment in French Immersion is at record highs. We will restore the BEF and reinstate a bilingual ADM.
6. Who is your hero, and why?
Gord Downie. He started as a singer in a bar band. They spent their lives writing beautiful songs about people and places across Canada that no one else seemed to care about and turning them into something sacred. He was a shaman. And when he was diagnosed with cancer, he went out with his friends to ask us all to celebrate with him. That is very, very brave. He wasn’t dying, he was showing us how to live.
7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
In a row, usually about two. Total, 7-9.
8. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why?
I was delivering a speech in French and realized my elementary school principal was in the audience, and realized I had to work twice as hard on my grammar, conjugations.
9. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?
After a day of doorknocking in the summer heat, a slurpee or a DQ blizzard with smarties AND oreos.
10. What was the last book you read?
A book about the history of biblical debt forgiveness, called “…And forgive them their debts…”, by Michael Hudson. It is the story about how, for thousands of years, countries in biblical times kept stable by forgiving personal debt and returning land to small landholders and farmers in a jubilee year. The original translation of the Lord’s Prayer is not “forgive us our trespasses” – it is “forgive us our debts” and it really means personal financial debts. It was widespread and important way of restoring balance to economics and societies in debt crisis. The writing on the Rosetta Stone is about debt forgiveness. Forgiveness is underrated.