Right in the centre - Keep them poor and uninformed


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Last week I wrote about the danger of the elites and allowing an elite group of people run organizations. The organization in question last week was the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba. I outlined how, over a few decades, a once vibrant, grassroots party let its organization and leadership to become, at best, mediocre. I got some definite feedback on that subject.

Another thought came to me today and that is, “Why do governments like keeping people poor and uninformed?”

I think the answer is surprisingly simple. Poor, uninformed people are easier to control and keep dependent on governments. Think about it. Why are there so many poor people in the Middle East? Palestine (Gaza), Syria and many African countries are very poor. But we have lots of poverty in Canada too. Thousands of homeless people live in Canadian cities and towns. Many First Nations communities have high levels of poverty and a low level of basic services.

Rich people don’t need government intervention as much as poor people do, so there is, generally speaking, a lower level of dependence on government among richer people.

The bigger the level of dependence, the bigger the government. The higher the level of dependence, the more bureaucrats you need and that way the government unions get bigger and have more say in government policy. It’s a vicious circle.

Governments have always been that way. Manitoba was part of the old North-West Territories but it was also part of the very old (1670) land grant from the King of England to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Millions of acres of land, with almost no European population, was given by a King’s Charter. For the first 200 years, the population was made up of Indigenous people, a few fur traders and explorers. By the 1860s, there were also many Metis people who fished, hunted, trapped fur bearing animals, traded in various goods and services and farmed. The Government of Canada decided to expand and bought a parcel of land from the HBC and decided also to survey the land with a view to development. Just so you can be assured that governments haven’t changed much, Canada didn’t tell the residents around Red River about their intentions. The residents didn’t like the risk that their land could be confiscated. After a period  of ever increasing tension, Louis Riel objected and took some military style action. It’s a long story, but the bottom line is the Metis and other residents of the Red River area neither wanted government interference nor did they want to be dependent on government. The Government of Canada totally botched their intentions and communications.

Riel set up a provisional government and council. Some violence erupted and three men died violent or accidental deaths. One of the deaths was an execution. It wasn’t pretty, but out of the turmoil and violence, Manitoba was born.

Many will argue that Louis Riel was wrong and that his actions in 1869, and his later actions in 1885, were treasonous. That’s a valid argument, but it is also valid that had Riel and his followers not stood their ground, more violence may well have happened. As is often the case, a senior level of government didn’t have a hot clue about local traditions, values, customs or conditions. They assumed that they were dealing with poor, uninformed people who obviously must be told how to live in dependence on government.

Riel made a number of mistakes, but I have long argued that he should receive recognition and he did in 1992 when then Premier Gary Filmon declared that Riel was the Founder of Manitoba and there is more to come soon. Premier designate Wab Kinew is quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press as saying, “This fall, when our team returns to the Manitoba legislature, one of the first bills that we are going to bring forward is an Act to bestow upon Louis Riel the honorary title that reflects who he truly is — which is Manitoba’s first premier,” premier-designate Wab Kinew told the crowd of thousands gathered at the Red River Métis Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg on Saturday, who responded with a standing ovation.

The 1992 recognition of Riel was a good move and that was done by the PC Party. Yes, the party that I described above as “a once vibrant, grassroots party”.

It would appear that this move by Wab Kinew is a good move, as was the move by Filmon. 

As I said, Riel made mistakes, as did Filmon and so will Kinew. The successes of Riel and Filmon came from listening to the local people. If Kinew does the same, he will have success as well. His step of recognizing Riel holds some promise.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.