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Province to spend $10M on ‘Green Team’ funding for summer jobs

Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba provides $10 million for Green Team jobs program
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister updates Manitobans Tuesday on the latest COVID-19 measures.

The province announced $10 million in spending for “Green Team” projects and jobs on Tuesday.

The program gives money to community groups, municipalities and provincial parks to hire young people over the summer for environmental work.

The funding will help support about 2,000 jobs this summer, Pallister said.

It is almost double last year’s $5.5 million and is aimed at ensuring young people can get work despite COVID-19’s economic fallout, Pallister said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Manitoba not allowing ‘family bubbles’, not an easy decision: epidemiologist

“We know that the private sector is struggling right now … so it’s important that we, through our government programs, up our game,” he said.

The announcement came one day after Manitoba Hydro said it plans to temporarily lay off 600 to 700 employees for a four-month period as part of government-wide cost-cutting to deal with the pandemic’s fiscal impact.

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Crown corporations, universities and other public bodies were told by the Progressive Conservative government last month to map out three scenarios for reducing labour costs from May through August — by 10, 20 and 30 per cent.

READ MORE: Manitoba Hydro laying off hundreds of employees in $11M cost-saving measure

The temporary layoffs at Manitoba Hydro work out to more than 10 per cent of the full-time equivalent positions listed in the utility’s last annual report.

Pallister said the temporary job cuts at the Crown utility are justified because there is less work being done. Some construction projects have been scaled back during the pandemic and door-to-door meter readings in residential areas have been suspended.

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He also said keeping Hydro spending down will prevent the debt from climbing.

“You can ignore the pandemic, increase the debt at Hydro … and then we’ll just have less money to work with going forward and a longer period of (economic) recovery.”

Manitoba Premier defends cuts to public service, crown corporations during COVID-19
Manitoba Premier defends cuts to public service, crown corporations during COVID-19

The union that represents many office and technology workers at the utility said employees are already facing heavy workloads because of hundreds of job cuts the Progressive Conservative government undertook after winning the 2016 election.

“I know that CUPE members are working flat out and were already strained by the hundreds of people laid off in the last few years,” said Liz Carlyle, a negotiator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Unionized workers offered alternatives such as job-sharing, Carlyle said, but were told by the utility that the only options were temporary layoffs or a temporary eight per cent wage cut.

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The utility said Tuesday it is willing to look at some options, but did not mention specifics.

“Manitoba Hydro remains open to working with our bargaining units to look at ways we can achieve the required savings, and minimize the impact on our employees and the service we provide to Manitobans,” Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen wrote in an email.

Health officials reported one new COVID-19 case in Manitoba Tuesday, continuing a trend of zero or single-digit daily increases.

READ MORE: 1 new coronavirus case reported in Manitoba

The new case is related to a small cluster at a workplace in western Manitoba that had previously reached 10 people. Officials said there was no cause for public concern, because affected workers and their close contacts were self-isolating.

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Manitoba has had 290 confirmed and probable cases since the pandemic began. Seven people have died.

–With files from The Canadian Press

Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba’s top doctor says province could move to next reopening phase near end of May
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba’s top doctor says province could move to next reopening phase near end of May

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.