The Shock Doctrine in Manitoba During COVID-19

For Immediate Release (Winnipeg, Treaty One): A new report finds that the Manitoba government accelerated privatization efforts and weakened democracy while Manitobans were preoccupied with the COVID – 19 pandemic. 

“The Shock Doctrine in Manitoba: How the Provincial Government Pushed Privatization and Weakened Democracy During COVID-19” is by Nicholas Pauls Harder and Molly McCracken 

The Shock Doctrine, a term coined by journalist Naomi Klein, is when governments exploit a crisis to establish controversial and questionable policies while citizens are too distracted by the crisis to respond and resist effectively. 

Harder and McCracken find the Manitoba government used a Shock Doctrine approach based on an analysis of publicly-available contracts, provincial documents, and media reporting during COVID in the following ways:

1. Increasing Privatization of Public Services: Responsibility for public services in healthcare, childcare, and business are being turned over to private companies. The pandemic provided the province an opportunity to route at least $208 million new dollars through private firms. 

“Provincial contracts with private medical care providers were virtually non-existent in 2018. Our research shows that by 2022 these had grown to $30 million in Manitoba” – says Molly McCracken, CCPA Manitoba director. 

2. Weakened Democracy: The Manitoba government rushed through provincial bills with no explanatory text, weakened the Freedom of Information Act, and reduced transparency from provincial departments has weakened Manitoba’s ability to hold its government to account.

The problems of privatization of public services are well-documented, and include increased costs; lower quality services; reduced accountability; fractured distribution and reduced flexibility.