"What Difference of Opinion?” PC and Goertzen’s Far-Right Network are in Lockstep

Manitoba per capita funding for private school students has increased 55 times faster than public

Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dougald Lamont is renewing his call for Premier Brian Pallister to fire his education Minister, Kelvin Goertzen, for participating in a webinar with a network of far-right politicians and policymakers from Germany, Russia, the US and Brazil. Lamont says Joachim Kuhs of Germany's Alternative for Deutchsland (AfD) was only the most extreme of the politicians in the forum. Kuhs, a Member of the European Parliament, sits on the board of AfD an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee party whose ranks have included Holocaust deniers and Neo-Nazis. "Goertzen has defended himself by saying it is important to talk with people with different views, but are his views on public education really any different from Ted Cruz or Betsy DeVos?" says Lamont. "Goertzen and Pallister are pretending to be moderate while quietly pushing an extreme-right agenda on education and more." As proof, Manitoba Liberals point to the Pallister government pushing policies that are identical to those enacted by far-right governments on the call.

The two largest contingents on the call were officials and politicians from the US and Brazil. In April, Brian Pallister and the PCs demanded 30% cuts from colleges and universities, and a requirement that they retool courses to better match "labour market" supply and demand. Last year, the Brazilian government made the same demand, a 30% cut to universities which threatened the closure of departments like philosophy and sociology. The same "labour market" argument has been made in dozens of U.S. states, including Wisconsin. The Russian government also massively cut colleges and universities. The Pallister government has undermined school boards and frozen funding to public schools while increasing funding to private schools. Betsy DeVos, who was a headliner on one of Goertzen's conferences, has done the same - and so has Brazil.

Under the Pallister government, public school enrolment is growing faster than private schools, but private school funding is going up more - 55 times faster per capita for private student.

- Public school funding per student increased 0.16% in 3 years (15/16-18/19).

- Private school funding per student increased 8.95% in 3 years (15/16-18/19).

Lamont says there is a reason for identical policies and similarities in legislation: the Pallister government - like Brazil and many US states - are relying on advice, ideas and "turnkey" generated by a far-right corporate front group, the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC). ALEC allows U.S. corporations to write legislation that has been used to undermine public education, health care, unions, and even elections in many states. One of the participants on the forum was Patricia Rucker, a Republican State Senator from West Virginia, who is the State Chair for ALEC. "When you look at the Pallister government's legislative agenda and those of these other far-right governments, you see a carbon copy of bills that are being used across the US and around the world," says Lamont. "The Pallister PCs are following a made-in-America playbook to dismantle decades of progress. The fact they are willing to share screen time with extremists makes it that much more unacceptable."