Social Impact Bonds wrong direction for Manitoba’s social services – CUPE

Today the Manitoba government announced the opening of a request for proposals for Social Impact Bonds, a scheme in which private companies profit off social service delivery.

“There was a time when the private sector would simply make philanthropic donations as part of their corporate responsibility to the community” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Social Impact Bonds take that corporate philanthropy and turn it into a private money-making scheme”.

While Pallister claims that Social Impact Bonds would foster “private-sector innovation,” these companies will seek to invest in only the non-government agencies that would see profitable outcomes, rather than programs that seek to address long-term root causes of many of societies deep and complex issues, including poverty.

“Social Impact Bonds are like P3s, for social services. We have the in-house expertise we need to deliver social services right here in Manitoba,” said Egan. “There’s no need to outsource the financing, planning and evaluation of social programs to consultants and corporations”.

For more information on Social Impact Bonds, see these helpful links:

Profiting form children: a child care social impact bond in Chicago

https://cupe.ca/profiting-children-child-care-social-impact-bond-chicago

CUPE Table Talk: Social Impact Bonds: The next horizon of provatization

https://cupe.ca/social-impact-bonds-next-horizon-privatization

CUPE Economy at Work: Economics 101 – Decoding Social Impact Bonds

https://cupe.ca/economics-101-decoding-social-impact-bonds

Pallister government passes reckless legislation – CUPE

Winnipeg – With the conclusion of the 41st Legislature, the Pallister government is willfully passing legislation that will disrupt health care, hurt working families, and will leave Manitobans with more questions than answers, says CUPE Manitoba.

“Pallister’s government is willfully passing irresponsible and ill-conceived legislation that leaves more questions than answers,” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba.

Terry Egan, CUPE Manitoba President

“This whole session the government has acted like amateurs by tabling ill-conceived legislation, and Manitobans will suffer because of it”.

In a sitting that lasted past 3 am, the government passed legislation including Bill 28 (Public Services Sustainability Act) which imposes wage freezes on public sector workers, Bill 29 (Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act) which forces union representation votes in health care, and Bill 19 (Efficiency Manitoba Act) which carves PowerSmart out of Manitoba Hydro, among other legislation.

“Is Bill 28 constitutional? Is Bill 29 necessary? Is Bill 19 really efficient? We believe the answer to these questions is ‘no’,” said Egan.

“Rather than discussing these issues with workers, this government has neglected it’s responsibility to negotiate, and has instead opted to push through reckless legislation just for the sake of pushing it through.”

CUPE, along with the Manitoba Federation of Labour has expressed numerous concerns that Bill 29 will unnecessarily disrupt health care services, and that Bill 28 is unconstitutional because the government refused to meaningfully negotiate at the bargaining table.

Bill 19 was filibustered by a Conservative MLA who, along with CUPE and Opposition parties raised concerns that the legislation was unnecessary.

The government also made sweeping changes to health care, including mandating significant cuts, closing ERs and other programs, cancelling important community funding, and more.

“The government uses their majority to pass all their legislation no matter what people say, but they should never forget that the people are watching, and we’re taking notes,” said Egan.

“We’re putting this government on notice that if they continue on this path of cuts, reckless lawmaking, and lack of respect for dialogue, then they’ll have more trouble down the road”.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing over 643,000 members.

In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 25,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

CUPE 998 Opposed to Bill 19

Winnipeg – CUPE Local 998 (representing workers at Manitoba Hydro, including in the PowerSmart program) will be on-site to voice opposition at the Legislative Committee hearings on Bill 19 tonight.

Bill 19 (Efficiency Manitoba Act) seeks to carve out the PowerSmart program from Manitoba Hydro and establish a separate energy efficiency crown corporation.

“PowerSmart is an important program housed in Manitoba Hydro that helps Manitobans achieve energy efficiency targets and savings,” says Chris Mravinec, President of CUPE 998.

“It makes no sense to divorce our public energy efficiency program from our public hydro”.

The government re-scheduled committee hearings to tonight at 6pm, after failing to pass committee hearings on May 11 following numerous presentations, including from CUPE 998, and an hours-long filibuster by Conservative MLA Steven Fletcher.

“We hope the government comes to its senses on Bill 19 in ‘round-two’ of committee hearings”, says Mravinec.

CUPE Local 998 launched an online petition that has garnered over 300 signatures and numerous comments since it was launched on May 17.

For more information contact:

(204) 391-7939 Chris Mravinec, President CUPE 998

(204) 801-7339 David Jacks, CUPE Communications

Pallister’s P3 schools plan lacks transparency, accountability

Today Premier Brian Pallister announced the construction of four new schools in Manitoba to be designed, built, financed and maintained through a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model.

“Pallister isn’t telling the whole story when he tries to pitch P3s to Manitobans,” says Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “P3s in other jurisdictions have cost more in the long-run, with less accountability over taxpayers dollars”.

The Auditor General of both Nova Scotia and Alberta have raised serious concerns with the use of P3s in education in those two provinces, citing excessive costs, failure to meet contract requirements, lack of transparency, and insufficient proof that the projects provided value for money.

“There is an over twenty-year history of P3 schools in Canada. P3 schools are not new, are not innovative, and have not been successful,” said Moist. “Premier Pallister should learn from the mistakes of Nova Scotia and Alberta and stay clear of this disastrous policy.”

“Pallister’s plan to introduce a finance-maintain P3 model doesn’t make financial sense, as government can borrow at lower interest rates than private companies,” said Moist. “P3s will also cut corners to save money for themselves at the expense of the infrastructure they are conveniently paid to maintain”.

P3 schools under this model can be trapped in 30-year maintenance contracts with private conglomerates making it difficult for schools themselves to operate efficiently. These contracts are often hidden from the public as “proprietary” property of private companies.

Pallister’s plan also includes hiring “an advisor” to determine whether building design-build-finance P3 schools will be more cost-effective than the traditional design-build model. However, whether the public will have any way to review the advice provided by this “advisor”, or whether this “advisor” will be an independent third-party is yet to be seen.

The Pallister government recently introduced legislation to repeal the province’s P3 Accountability and Transparency legislation, claiming it was “red tape” for private corporations to access public dollars. Aspects of this legislation include the requirement for an independent, arms-length body to perform a publicly reviewable value for money review.

“If the Pallister government truly supported a value for money review, and believed in transparency and accountability as he campaigned upon, he would not be moving ahead to scrap the P3 Accountability and Transparency legislation,” said Moist. “If ever there was a time for robust legislation around P3’s, it would be when the province is considering greater reliance on the P3 model.”

“We believe every taxpayer’s dollar that this government spends should be transparent and accountable,” said Moist. “Scrapping P3 transparency legislation and then building four P3s makes it pretty clear that Pallister is in this for business interests rather than public interests.

Experience from other jurisdictions:

Nova Scotia Buys 2 P3 Schools for $12.9m

Alberta government scraps P3 funding model for new schools

Province Abandoning P3 Model for 19 New Alberta Schools

Nova Scotia government to buy 12 P3 schools for nearly $86M

P3 School Projects Blasted by AG Report

CUPE Saskatchewan Fact Sheet on P3 Schools

Case Study: P3 Schools in Alberta

 

Manitoba budget leaves doors wide open for privatization

Winnipeg – CUPE Manitoba is concerned that the provincial budget announced today leaves the door open for the unchecked privatization of public services and programs, while eroding existing public services.

The government recently announced that current P3 Accountability and Transparency legislation will be eliminated, and echoed this move in today’s budget.

CUPE MB President Kelly Moist speaking to the Canadian Press at the 2017 budget scrum

“This government insists that public transparency and accountability is a ‘regulatory burden’”, said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “We believe the public has the right to know the details of private contracts that are receiving public dollars”.

The budget’s language of “new”, “innovative”, and “collaborative” approaches to the government’s long-term care investments is also concerning, considering this language is often double-speak for privatization.

“The province must invest in more public personal care home spaces and reject for-profit beds,” said Moist. “As more and more Manitobans move into personal care homes, we need to ensure a strong, fully public system is available to them so dollars go directly to the care Manitobans deserve, instead of private profit.”

There is no clear commitment that the 501 new childcare spaces announced in the budget will be fully public.

CUPE is also concerned with the continued emphasis on Social Impact Bonds as a medium to deliver public social services and programs.

“While the budget references a ‘Made in Manitoba’ Social Impact Bond program, there is very little detail in what programs and services will be affected,” said Moist. “We are pleased however that the government is interested in supporting community Social Enterprises, and hope the government continues to support community-led initiatives and leaves private for-profit corporations out of it”.

“The government has already broken it’s promise to protect public services and the workers who provide them by closing ERs, laying off hundreds of Hydro workers, and imposing wage freezes on workers province-wide” says Moist. “We need to strengthen – not cut or privatize – our programs and services and this budget does not give us much confidence”.

Accountability and Transparency for P3 privatization model is not “red tape”, it’s an essential public protection

CUPE MB: Pallister’s proposal to repeal P3 Legislation is a step backwards

Basic public consultations, accountability and transparency are needed, not “red tape”

Winnipeg – The Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba has serious concerns about legislation introduced today by the Pallister government to repeal a law that provides basic measures for accountability and transparency when it comes to public-private partnerships.

Section 14 of the Pallister government’s Bill 24- The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act proposes to eliminate the existing Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act, in its entirety.

The P3 Transparency and Accountability Act contains basic but essential protections for public investments and access to services,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “How can Premier Pallister call the P3 Act “red tape”? It provides minimum provisions for a fair process on P3 projects, most of which involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and long-term contracts.”

“P3 projects are controversial for a reason,” added Moist. “These projects often take public funds and oversight and turn them over to a for-profit entity. Why would any government want to repeal a law that protects the public interest and public funds?”

CUPE has raised concerns in the past about P3s. The existing legislation only provides basic protections and access to information. In one case in Portage la Prairie, for example, CUPE raised concerns that a wastewater treatment plant renovation and expansion worth hundreds of millions of dollars would cost the public more through a P3, key financial information was not made available to the public, and there was no serious effort to engage in public consultations. CUPE is concerned that P3 projects routinely have poor results on every measure of public interest, from quality of service to timelines and cost.

“The people of Manitoba have always been on the hook for any problems resulting from using the P3 model for public projects. If the P3 Act is eliminated, we will be on the hook and blindfolded,” concluded Moist.

“If Premier Pallister wants to show Manitobans he is committed to his promise to protect public services, he will cancel his plans to repeal The P3 Transparency and Accountability Act, and strengthen it instead.”

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Keep Power Smart in Manitoba Hydro!

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For more details about the polling results, click here.

Visit the CUPE Local 998 website here for more information.

Manitoba budget offers minor funding increases to public services

Social Impact Bonds give rise to concern

The Pallister Government’s first provincial budget offers minor improvements to many important areas of the public sector, says CUPE Manitoba.

“We are pleased to see this government’s continuation of funding to health care, education, post- secondary education, and social services,” says Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “In an environment where cuts would have been the ‘easy way out’, we are pleased that this government listened to Manitobans, and has instead maintained or increased funding to many key public services”.

CUPE Manitoba applauds funding commitments to the Aboriginal Academic Achievement Fund, which will help ensure Community Liaison Workers in the Winnipeg School Division have the tools they need to perform their important work. These workers were under threat of significant job losses and funding cuts in early 2015.

CUPE also hopes the new Premier’s Enterprise Team will include representatives from labour, which were included in the former government’s Premier’s Economic Advisory Council.

However, the government’s ongoing pursuit of Social Impact Bonds causes serious concern.

“While we are pleased that the Manitoba Government has not implemented major cuts, we are very concerned with this government’s ongoing promotion of Social Impact Bonds,” says Moist. “Social Impact Bonds are an abdication of government responsibility for marginalized or vulnerable people, and we must reject these profit-making schemes”.

Additionally, while many mandate letters to the newly appointed Ministers call for increased involvement from the private sector, including in childcare, there is no mention of increased private involvement in the budget documents.

“We still need to see how exactly this funding is rolled out,” says Moist. “We need a strong commitment from this government that they will not privatize or contract out any public services”.

Budget Highlights:

  • 3.5% increase to health
  • Funding increases to the Aboriginal Academic Achievement fund
  • 1.4 % increase to education with 2.5% increase to initiatives for at-risk youth, literacy
  • 2.5% operating grant increase to universities
  • 4.5% increase to Child and Family Services

Budget Lowlights:

  • Commitment to Social Impact Bonds
  • No commitment to oppose privatization and contracting out
  • No commitment to increasing the minimum wage