Margaret Sweatman – Letter to Premier Brian Pallister

April 21, 2020

“Critics fear long-term effects of Pallister order for staffing cuts at post-secondary facilities”   [from April 20]

Dear Premier Brian Pallister:

I’m learning that your government desires to cut funding to the operating functioning of our universities by 10 to 30%. And I think about the peeling veneers on our shabby but fully functioning environment at The University of Winnipeg where I work, and the biohazard of the carpeting.

Now from isolation I talk to my students on the phone and by email, edit their work on my laptop at home, I hear their anxieties about their rent, their lost part-time low-paying gigs, and their declining futures. As my free-floating pension continues to dive in value, I read statements from financial institutions telling me to “stay the course,” do not divest, do not panic. And I think about your government’s intention to divest in a panic, to strip our education system.

I’m confounded by an irrational betrayal by our provincial government. As we battle a virus, I learn that the Pallister government is at risk of becoming one. The Pallister reactions will attack what is most vital to our lives. It’s disturbing that a political organization could be so terribly unwitting about what goes on between teachers and students in the strenuous, daily efforts of learning and progress.

There is no reduced need for our services at the universities. Quite the opposite: students are pouring in, and they need our professional attention more than ever.

The precipitous actions against the education sector in this crisis reveal a government afraid and reactionary. Like populists, the Pallister government diverges from leadership to a bullying antipathy for its own citizens. If the province could borrow a slogan from any financial institution and “stay the course” our shared investment in learning will gain in value. If not, the Pallister government simply bankrupts everyone, and certainly bankrupts our students.

Margaret Sweatman

Associate Professor, Dept. of English

The University of Winnipeg