U of M fails to ensure competent new teachers

By: Graham Lane

Published: October 28th, 2016 – Winnipeg Sun

It is unfortunate when ivory-tower bureaucrats force our children to pay a high cost for a
politically-correct policy. But, this is happening at the University of Manitoba.

A new policy passed by the University’s Senate requires that graduating teachers represent a
rainbow of diversity. Great, except will they also have the intellectual and practical skills needed
to be the excellent teachers Manitoba students need? Parents know their children need to
compete for jobs with students from other provinces and countries.

Beginning in 2017, the University’s faculty of education will admit 55% of students based on
having the highest admission scores, the other 45% will be admitted on the basis of a variety of
self-identified diversity categories.

Indigenous candidates will get 15% of the spots; LGBTTQ people will have 7.5%; people with
physical, mental, psychological, sensory or learning disabilities will have 7.5%; those thinking
they have been treated badly “based on their perceived racial background, colour and/or
ethnicity” will have 7.5%; and people who have not had an opportunity for university study
because of social, economic or cultural reasons will have 7.5% of the spots.

Fortunately, two retired U of M academics, Hymie Rubenstein and Rodney Clifton, have written
a scathing analysis of this policy (published in the Canadian intellectual journal, C2C).
Rubenstein and Clifton note that at present the faculty of education already has very low
admission standards. Applicants are accepted with grades as low as a “C” in courses they seek to
teach, together with a meagre Grade Point Average of only 2.5 (the lowest standard for admission
to any post-baccalaureate degree program at the university). Students with GPAs of 2.5 could be
selected over students with GPAs of 4.5, if the former belong to one or more of the designated
categories.

Candidates may identify with as many categories as they want, no one will check to see if their
self-identification is true. If, for example, a candidate claims to be intellectually impaired or
socially disadvantaged, no one will ask for documentation.

For this reason, ‘smart’ student teachers with low GPAs will claim some disadvantages to elevate
their application into the 45% reserved for the special diversities categories. Consider, a recent
national study shows that between 20 and 25% of Canadian university students suffer from a
mental disorder. Truthfully, these students can legitimately claim to belong to this designated
category and be admitted, even if their illness is so severe that they will not be effective teachers.

With this new policy, Manitoba’s predominant university cannot be trusted to select and educate
the best student teachers. Consequently, the Department of Education in the provincial
government surely must step in and require that graduating teachers pass rigorous certification
exams, such as PRAXIS (which includes both knowledge and teaching performance
components), before certifying them to teach in Manitoba. Rigorous certification exams are, of
course, required in all serious professions: Chartered Public Accountants, Lawyers, Medical
Doctors, etc..

It is time that teachers are tested in the same way as other professionals to ensure that they are, in
fact, competent. Manitoba students should not need to pay for a foolish, politically-correct,
policy by the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba.

Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).

Carbon tax would hurt Manitoba

By: Graham Lane

Published: October 21, 2016 – Winnipeg Sun

Just like his father, Prime Minister Trudeau is going to unilaterally impose costly regulations
on Canada’s energy sector. What is the rational response to the new carbon tax? The rational
response for an individual is to start a green energy consulting company, take fat Liberal and
NDP contracts, and then leave the country. As Ontario is demonstrating, the only ones who
seem to benefit in the new “green economy” are the consulting industry.

What is the rational response from our provincial leaders? Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan
has shown the right approach – fight back. He is willing to take Ottawa to the Supreme Court
in order to defend provincial jobs. Where is our Premier Pallister: working to implement
Trudeau’s new tax to benefit his government’s deficit problem.

Manitoba will be hurt by a new carbon tax. Industries like agriculture, forestry, manufacturing
and mining will face significant cost increases. Manitoba’s businesses – other than its
monopoly Crown corporation s – operate in an international marketplace. When the cost of
producing canola, lumber or nickel is pushed up by the new carbon tax, our companies will be
at a significant competitive disadvantage to suppliers around the world who don’t face a
“price on carbon”. Many may be forced to leave or downsize.

There was significant concern this spring over all the job losses in Northern Manitoba. But
these losses could pale in comparison to the shutdowns that come when the carbon tax
reaches its target of $50 / tonne. And, would it stop at $50?

There was little or no response from our new provincial government when the Prime Minister
unilaterally announced his new carbon tax. No Minister from Manitoba came out to defend our
jobs. The response, or lack of response, is something that we would have expected from the
old NDP government. In fact even the response from Alberta’s NDP, weak as it was, was more
forceful than the silence from Broadway.

The lack of “fight” in Manitoba’s government stems from the fact that it is musing about its
own carbon tax. If they think that federal Liberals have now given them political license to
move forward, their attitude needs adjusting.

The PCs have promised to reverse the provincial sales tax increase imposed by the NDP.
Though the promise applies only to the jump of 1%, not the earlier extension of the tax to
services. This will do us no good if a decrease in the sales tax grab is simply offset by a new
carbon tax. Manitobans are bright people and can recognize a shell game when they see it.
No one will argue that polluters should not pay for their pollution. No one will argue that we
must care for our air, water and land. But the new carbon tax won’t accomplish any of these
goals. It is just another tax.

There is still time for Pallister to do the right thing. Manitoba needs a sensible approach to
environmental policies, one that does not put our economy at risk. We need tax policies that
make Manitoba a more attractive place to invest, not drive industries elsewhere.
We need our Premier to stand up for us when the federal government tries to impose
ideological programs that will cost us jobs.

Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).

Hydro cover-ups need scrutiny

By: Graham Lane

Published: October 14, 2016, Winnipeg Sun

Manitoba Hydro spreads ratepayer money across the north building unneeded dams and
questionable transmission lines. The utility uses contractors, lawyers and consultants. While
Manitoba’s Auditor General found much wrong with the former NDP government’s east-side
road efforts, he has yet to plumb the depths of Hydro’s actions.

Why audit the east-side effort but not Hydro? While the east-side authority spent hundreds of
millions of our money, Hydro spends billions.

The east-side authority has been wound-up, the manager dismissed and operations rolled into
the government’s infrastructure department. Disclosing misjudgments of the NDP’s east -side
organization makes good public and political sense. As for Hydro, the Pallister government,
having decided to continue the NDP-originated boondoggle, has yet to order an audit of Hydro’s
northern actions. Not hard to figure out why: while making Hydro theirs, best not to risk finding
out and publicizing their utility’s misdeeds.

If misdeeds were found and publicized, one can only speculate if it would affect funds to flow
from the continuing boondoggle to the new government’s coffers, or hurt an upcoming carbon
tax gambit being planned by the PCs involving Hydro.

Rumours abound about questionable actions of Hydro, its contractors and agents. Closing in on
a billion on ‘negotiations’ with First Nations and another $7 billion already gone on building
Wuskwatim (finished), Bipole III and Keeyask (well underway, with another $8 billion yet to
flush), billions pour through the hands of Hydro’s contractors, lawyers and consultants. Never
before in Manitoba’s history has so much been spent by a government agency. Yet no audit, no
inquiry, no review.

Avoiding independent scrutiny, Hydro lives a charmed life.

The utility’s former risk manager – named the New York whistleblower – raised alarms ten years
ago, well before the bulk of the boondoggle expenditures were spent or committed. She warned
of the risk of betting billions on long-term export contracts with American utilities to cover off
rising expansion costs. She reported her concerns: first to Hydro management, then to its
board, then to the-then Auditor General (who, having been a Hydro director and audit committee
chief before being named Auditor General, declared a conflict of interest), then to the then-
Ombudsman, police, PUB and, finally, a New York court. All to no avail.

The whistleblower was fired, no independent review conducted. Hydro spent over $4 million
defending against her claims. Why, to avoid scrutiny? Trouble is, if she had been taken seriously
ratepayers wouldn’t be in the disaster we now have.

BBE Constructors, a joint venture led by American giant Bechtel managing Hydro’s $7 billion
plus Keeyask project, is currently defending claims of unsafe working conditions and unfair
labour practices, claims sustained by quickly terminated Keeyask workers. BBE’s defence has
been assisted by Hydro; the Province’s workplace health and safety and labour agencies; even
the WCB. Whistleblowing is not healthy for complainants. The disaffected terminated workers
have been blocked at every turn, their complaints rejected and ignored.

Rumours abound of questionable actions of Hydro’s agents, some working to keep First
Nations’ happy with the utility. There’s lots more about untendered bush clearing and other
gilded-gifted contracts. Where is the auditor? Value for money?

More puzzling, why do the Tories want to wear this NDP mess?

Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).

Don’t dump on oil and gas

By: Graham Lane

Published: Winnipeg Sun, October 7, 2016

OPEC members call for a truce. Saudi Arabia and their oil-producing partners seek a balancing
of the supply and demand of oil. If the pact holds, expect the price of oil to jump – perhaps to
$70 to $90 per barrel (peak price was $145). Despite the hit on our pocketbooks, if oil prices
jump Canadians should cheer the price recovery.

The low price of the last two years has plagued not only OPEC but also Alberta, Saskatchewan
and Newfoundland Labrador – plunging their budgets deep into the red. That plunge contributes
to the federal government’s deficit, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, and Canada’s immense
trade deficit.

Calgary’s downtown has a 25% vacancy rate; Alberta’s unemployment rate has soared; the
loonie’s value has fallen 30%; and the drop of revenue from fossil fuels for the federal
government will soon impact provincial equalization transfers. Over the last twelve months,
employment gains were so modest that immigration was twice job growth. Both federal and
provincial governments are into stimulus funding, borrowing billions on the top the trillion
already owed. Worldwide, 350,000 jobs are gone, 60 private firms have collapsed, and countries
dependent on oil revenue are less stable.

In short, a higher oil price, particularly for western Canada, is GOOD news. But, there are
pockets of society that views oil price recovery as a BAD event. The negative voices come from
strident environmentalists and many First Nations. They forget that oil and gas has helped power
Canada’s economy for half a century; the wealth that fossil fuels bring fund all of us.

In 2014, Manitoba’s second highest dollar export was oil. Most Manitobans heat by gas, heating
by electricity is twice as expensive, and where do you think electricity prices are going? Let’s get
real: oil and gas are important and will be for decades to come. Other countries envy our
resources while we pussyfoot glacially through regulatory minutiae slowing if not stopping new
opportunities and pipelines. Have we lost our minds?

The federal government reluctantly gave the go-ahead for B.C.’s massive north-west liquid
natural gas project,, potentially $36 billion is to be invested. But, the federal Libs smothered
enthusiasm by attaching 190 more conditions: talk about splashing water on the prospect. When
last did you hear a government praise an oil and gas project?

Opportunities for Manitoba Hydro to employ natural gas to save money and reduce continental
emissions were blown by increasingly catastrophic choices. They went with Wuskwatim,
Keeyask, Bipole III and a Minnesota-Manitoba transmission line, instead of a Brandon gas plant.
Their choice will cost around $15 billion instead of $1 billion for the gas plant. We have flared
gas from oil wells in south-western Manitoba rather than using that gas for electricity generation.
As for the Minnesota-Manitoba line, it still lacks needed presidential and state approvals.
Wasting money and relying on American regulators and utilities brings high risk and even higher
rates. It would have been so much better to have built that gas plant – favoured even by former
NDP Premier Schreyer.

Our politicians need to recognize that our natural resources bring wealth, then welcome a
recovery in oil prices and support pipelines to get what we are lucky to have to market.

Graham Lane heads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).