By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — One day after being sworn in as Manitoba’s premier, Wab Kinew was looking at shaking up the board at a Crown corporation, changing some names in the senior bureaucracy and offering civil servants a virtual hug.
Manitoba Public Insurance, the province’s Crown-owned provider of vehicle insurance, is facing changes at the board level by the end of the week, Kinew said Thursday.
Some 1,700 unionized workers at the corporation have been on strike since late August.
“I would say that I think the situation at Manitoba Public Insurance, with the strike, is the one that demands the most immediate attention,” Kinew told reporters before his first cabinet meeting.
“I think we’ll have more news to share on that tomorrow,” Kinew said when asked specifically about board member changes.
Manitoba Public Insurance has faced questions over cost overruns on a major technology project and travel costs expensed by a former executive. There were leadership changes earlier this year under the former Progressive Conservative government, before Kinew’s New Democrats won the Oct. 3 election.
The corporation’s workers have been walking picket lines for several weeks in a dispute over wages. The corporation presented what it called a final offer last month, and the two sides appear headed toward binding arbitration.
Kinew hinted Manitoba Hydro could also face a shakeup. The utility’s board chair said earlier this year that charging different rates at different times of the day could be considered as a way to reduce energy demand at peak times. The New Democrats have criticized the possibility.
Kinew said he also wants to give civil servants a “hug” after years of fiscal restraint. The Tories cut positions and imposed wage freezes after taking office in 2016.
“It’s time for us to give the civil service in Manitoba a hug. These are the people who are high-performing professionals who want to do good things for the people,” Kinew said.
The new government changed up some senior members of the bureaucracy.
Sarah Thiele, president of the Transportation Association of Canada and a former assistant deputy minister, was named clerk of the executive council — the head of the public service. She replaces Kathryn Gerrard, who was appointed by former Tory premier Heather Stefanson.
There were also changes at the deputy minister level, including the appointment of Brian O’Leary as deputy minister of education. O’Leary was previously the superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division in Winnipeg.