Becky Barrett (born May 1, 1942) is a retired politician in Manitoba, Canada. She was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1990 to 2003, and was a cabinet minister in the New Democratic Party (NDP) government of Gary Doer from 1999 to 2003.

Becky Barrett
Manitoba Minister of Labour and Immigration
In office
January 17, 2001 – June 25, 2003
Preceded byposition created
Succeeded bySteve Ashton
Manitoba Minister of Labour
In office
October 5, 1999 – January 17, 2001
Preceded byMike Radcliffe
Succeeded byposition restructured
Manitoba Minister responsible for Multiculturalism
In office
October 5, 1999 – June 25, 2003
Preceded byRosemary Vodrey
Succeeded bySteve Ashton
Manitoba Minister charged with the administration of The Workers Compensation Act
In office
October 5, 1999 – June 25, 2003
Preceded byMike Radcliffe
Succeeded bySteve Ashton
Manitoba Minister charged with the administration of The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act
In office
October 5, 1999 – January 17, 2001
Preceded byLinda McIntosh
Succeeded byGord Mackintosh
Manitoba Minister responsible for the Civil Service
In office
October 5, 1999 – January 17, 2001
Preceded byMike Radcliffe
Succeeded byGregory Selinger
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Inkster
In office
Preceded byKevin Lamoureux
Succeeded byKevin Lamoureux
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Wellington
In office
Preceded byriding created
Succeeded byConrad Santos
Personal details
BornMay 1, 1942
Political partyNew Democratic Party

Early life and careerEdit

Barrett was born in Florida, USA, and moved to Canada in 1975. She has a Master's degree in social work from the University of Manitoba (1979), and was a social worker before entering political life.[1] Barrett was the Manitoba NDP's director of organization during the 1980s.[2]


Opposition member (1990-99)Edit

Barrett was elected in the north-end Winnipeg riding of Wellington in the 1990 provincial election, defeating Liberal candidate Ernie Gilroy by over 1,200 votes. The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba won a majority government in this election, and Barrett was appointed as the New Democratic Party's family services critic in opposition.[3] In June 1991, she criticized Premier Gary Filmon's sudden announcement that Winnipeg's child and family services would be brought under a single agency.[4] Barrett later criticized the Filmon government for cutting several Manitobans from social assistance programs without making investments in education, job creation programs and skills upgrading.[5] She also brought forward a private member's bill that, if passed, would have required the Manitoba Office of the Children's Advocate to report to the legislature rather than the Minister of Family Services.[6]

Barrett also served as her party's justice critic.[7] She called on the Filmon government remove provincial judge Bruce McDonald from office in 1993, after McDonald was reported as telling a female complainant to "work something out" with a man accused of assaulting her.[8] McDonald was later forced to resign from the bench after the Winnipeg Free Press uncovered a pattern of questionable behaviour in his decisions.[9] Barrett also called for Manitoba to ban pellet guns in 1993, when a 14-year-old girl required hospitalization after being shot in the leg.[10]

Barrett led the Manitoba NDP's candidate search committee in the buildup to the 1995 provincial election, and placed an emphasis on recruiting women and minority candidates.[11] She was personally re-elected, defeating her Liberal opponent by almost 2,000 votes. The Progressive Conservatives won a second majority government provincially, and Barrett was named as her party's urban affairs critic.[12] In May 1998, she unveiled her party's platform for revitalizing the city of Winnipeg. Highlights of the platform included giving more power to city councillors and residents' associations, providing tax incentives for inner city renewal, guaranteeing stable funding for schools, renewing several aboriginal programs and enacting a new anti-gang policy.[13]

Minister of Labour and Immigration (1999-2003)Edit

The New Democratic Party won a majority government in the 1999 provincial election. Barrett did not run for re-election in Wellington, but instead challenged popular Liberal incumbent Kevin Lamoureux in the neighbouring division of Inkster. She won by 143 votes. Barrett was regarded as a strong ally of incoming premier Gary Doer,[14] and there was little surprise when she was chosen as a member of his first cabinet.

Barrett was sworn in as Minister of Labour on October 5, 1999, with responsibility for administering the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act and the Workers Compensation Act, as well as for the Civil Service and Multiculturalism.[15] On January 17, 2001, her position was renamed as the Minister of Labour and Immigration, and she was relieved of responsibility for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act and the Civil Service.


Barrett's primary accomplishment in office was to reform Manitoba's labour laws, reversing many of the decisions made by the right-wing government of Gary Filmon during the 1990s. Her reform legislation, introduced in July 2000, made union certification automatic if 65% of employees sign membership cards, allowed interim certifications, ensured that employees would not be fired for convictions involving minor offenses, and gave employees the exclusive right to approve or reject arbitration if a labour dispute dragged on more than sixty days.[16] Barrett argued that the changes were necessary to correct a decade of imbalance under the previous government.[17] The bill was met with intense opposition from the business community and, in response to criticism, Barrett changed the bill to give either party in a labour dispute the right to call for binding arbitration after sixty days.[18] Barrett also allowed parents to take more time off work after the birth of their children,[19] and increased Manitoba's minimum wage by 25 cents for every year of her tenure in office.[20]

Following extensive consultations, Barrett subsequently introduced reforms to Manitoba's workplace safety legislation in 2002. These changes gave workplace safety and health inspectors the right to fine employers who ignore safety violations, required employers to ensure their workers receive proper safety training, and required a written health and safety program for all workplaces with more than twenty employees.[21] Some business groups again opposed these messages, though on this occasion Barrett received support from the labour movement and the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.[22] Barrett's reforms also made Manitoba the first province in Canada to provide compensation for firefighters who develop certain types of cancer while on the job.[23]

Barrett established an arm's-length complaints office for Manitoba's Autopac program in April 2000,[24] and signed an official proclamation in the same month to commemorate the 13 Winnipeg civic workers who had been killed on the job since 1978.[25] One month later, she announced the hiring of eight new workplace safety and health inspectors.[26] She announced a new round of civil service hiring in early 2001, with a particular focus on employment equity.[27] Late in her term, she announced that Winnipeg paramedics would be added to a list of essential services not allowed to strike.[28]

Barrett also held a series of public hearings into Manitoba's pension legislation in 2003, in the first full review of the legislation since 1984.[29]


Shortly after her appointment to cabinet in 1999, Barrett successfully pressured the federal government to more the double the number of immigrants Manitoba was able to recruit for skilled jobs.[30] Manitoba's percentage of Canadian immigration increased in the years that followed, and the federal government again increased the number of targeted recruitment positions in 2001, 2002 and 2003.[31] In 2001, the Doer government introduced a medical licensing program to bring foreign-trained doctors into Canadian practice.[32] Barrett also worked with the federal government to ensure Canada's ratification of the International Labour Organization's convention 182 against child labour.[33]


Barrett introduced legislation in 2000 to recognize Holocaust Memorial Day in Manitoba.[34]


The opposition Progressive Conservatives targeted Barrett as a vulnerable minister after the business community's harsh response to her labour reforms in 2000. She was also criticized for approving a plan that would have allowed Manitoba Public Insurance to divert part of its annual surplus to infrastructural repairs at three Manitoba universities in late 2000. This plan provoked significant opposition, and was later reversed.[35]

In late 2002, Barrett announced that she would not be a candidate in the next provincial election.[36] Her last major act in office was to sign a new agreement with federal Immigration Minister Denis Coderre in June 2003, to increase the total immigration to Manitoba to 10,000 persons per year.[37]

Federal politicsEdit

Barrett supported Alexa McDonough's successful bid to lead the federal New Democratic Party in 1995.[38] She later served on a committee that reviewed the federal New Democratic Party's outreach strategy in 2001,[39] and supported Bill Blaikie's campaign to become leader of the federal NDP in 2002-03. Barrett ran federal Member of Parliament Pat Martin's re-election campaign in the 2006 federal election.[40]

Since 2003Edit

In 2006, Manitoba Auditor General Jon Singleton released a report that was strongly critical of the management of the Manitoba Workers Compensation Board under its former chairman, Wally Fox-Decent. In the resulting controversy, it was noted that Barrett had received a written complaint about Fox-Decent from former WCB chief executive officer Pat Jacobsen in March 2001. Barrett chose to refer the matter back to the WCB board of directors, a decision that some critics later described as an abdication of ministerial responsibility.[41] Barrett's successor Nancy Allan argued that she acted properly, as the WCB board held legal authority over the matter.[42] For his part, Fox-Decent rejected Jacobsen's complaint as a "poison pen" letter from a disgruntled employee.[43]

Electoral recordEdit

1999 Manitoba general election: Inkster
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democratic Becky Barrett 3,501 44.45 +14.22 $22,767.00
Liberal Kevin Lamoureux 3,358 42.64 -7.50 $23,318.00
Progressive Conservative George Sandhu 1,017 12.91 -2.88 $27,661.71
Total valid votes 7,876 100.00
Rejected and declined ballots 50 0.63 0
Turnout 7,926 72.27 +4.82
Electors on the lists 10,967
New Democratic gain from Liberal Swing +10.86
1995 Manitoba general election: Wellington
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democratic Becky Barrett 3,788 54.04 +8.03 $17,825.00
Liberal Osmond Theodore Anderson 1,996 28.47 −2.22 $16,303.64
     Progressive Conservative Steve Place 1,226 17.49 −2.77
Total valid votes 7,010 100.00
Rejected and declined ballots 47
Turnout 7,057 66.97 −1.28
Electors on the lists 10,537
1990 Manitoba general election: Wellington
Party Candidate Votes %
New Democratic Becky Barrett 3,484 46.01
Liberal Ernie Gilroy 2,324 30.69
Progressive Conservative Clyde Perry 1,534 20.26
Progressive Neil Schipper 128 1.69
Independent Walter Diawol 68 0.90
Independent Stephen Keki 35 0.46
Total valid votes 7,573
Rejected ballots 44
Turnout 7,617 68.25
Registered voters 11,161


  1. ^ Mia Rabson, "Barrett's decision to exit politics may signal vote near", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 November 2002, A3.
  2. ^ Ian Stewart, Jim Walding's nomination to constitutional defeat, (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2009), p. 101.
  3. ^ "Manitoba sets mass training blitz to fight satanism, abuse of children", Toronto Star, 21 September 1990, A4.
  4. ^ "Decision denounced", Globe and Mail, 25 June 1991, A6.
  5. ^ Arlene Billinkoff, "Just adding to the misery", Winnipeg Free Press, 16 November 1993.
  6. ^ Arlene Billinkoff, "Child advocate kept on a leash", Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 1993.
  7. ^ David Roberts, "Senator resigns to become judge", Globe and Mail, 11 February 1993, A4; Glen MacKenzie, "Criminologist can't get excited' over latest data", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 August 1994.
  8. ^ Paul Samyn and Ruth Teichroeb, "NDP calls for removal of judge", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 March 1993; Ruth Teichroeb, "McCrae vows to hold judge accountable for abuse stand", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 April 1993.
  9. ^ Ruth Teichrob, "Defiant judge resigns McDonald cites stress on family", Winnipeg Free Press, 7 December 1993.
  10. ^ "NDP calls for ban on pellet guns", Winnipeg Free Press, 15 June 1993.
  11. ^ Paul Samyn, "Election", Winnipeg Free Press, 21 March 1995.
  12. ^ Paul Samyn, "Who's calling the shots?", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 September 1995, A3.
  13. ^ Doug Nairne, "NDP unveils vision for city", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 May 1998, A1.
  14. ^ Doug Nairne, "Would-be cabinet maker has house full of choices", Winnipeg Free Press, 25 January 1999, A4.
  15. ^ "MANITOBA GOVERNMENT: Doer administration installed in office", 6 October 1999.
  16. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Biz leaders call labour law changes 'pretty scary stuff'", Winnipeg Free Press, 7 July 2000, A1; Becky Barrett, "Labour Act aims for fairness" [editorial], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 July 2000, A15; Becky Barrett, "Manitoba labour" [editorial], National Post, 4 August 2000, C15; David Kuxhaus, "Tories take final swipe at labour law", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 August 2000, A3. The aspects of the bill dealing with arbitration were later modified so as to take into account charges of bad-faith bargaining. See Mia Rabson, "Binding arbitration still a sore point", Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 2003, A6.
  17. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Business battles NDP", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 July 2000, A1.
  18. ^ "Coalition of 16,000 employers joins fight against Manitoba labour bill", Canadian Press, 27 July 2000, 5:45pm; David Kuxhaus, "NDP bends on besieged labour bill", Winnipeg Free Press, 13 August 2000, A1; Paul McKie, "Business, labour dig in at hearings", Winnipeg Free Press, 15 August 2000, A3; Bill Redekop, "Labour ups ante in battle over bill", Winnipeg Free Press, 17 August 2000, A1.
  19. ^ "Bill to let parents take more time off work", Winnipeg Free Press, 7 December 2000, A5.
  20. ^ Sean O'Connor, "Minimum wage to hit $6.25", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 November 2000, A3; Helen Fallding, "Public to weigh worth of $6.25 an hour", Winnipeg Free Press, 13 March 2001, A11; Mia Rabson, "Minimum wage should rise to $8, activists say", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 May 2001, A9; "Manitoba minimum wage to increase 25 cents to $6.50 on April 1", Canadian Press, 28 December 2001, 11:35pm.
  21. ^ Mia Rabson, "Mothers claim safety fines would've saved their sons", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 2002, A6.
  22. ^ Mia Rabson, "Business outraged as NDP moves to toughen workplace safety law", Winnipeg Free Press, 26 April 2002, A1; "Editorial - Safer jobs", Winnipeg Free Press, 29 April 2002, A10.
  23. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Firefighters win battle for cancer compensation", Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 2002, A3; Joseph Brean, "Firefighters win battle for cancer compensation: Manitoba legislation could have ripple effect across Canada", National Post, 24 May 2002, A8.
  24. ^ "New office to handle Autopac's complaints", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 April 2000, A11.
  25. ^ Allison Bray, "Workplace deaths, injuries mourned", Winnipeg Free Press, 29 April 2000, A6.
  26. ^ Daniel Lett, "New safety inspectors to focus on 47 worst firms", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 May 2000, A5.
  27. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Doer boosting the civil service", Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 2001, A1.
  28. ^ "Strikes, lockouts outlawed for Winnipeg paramedics under proposed law", Canadian Press, 4 December 2002, 8:50pm.
  29. ^ "Public hearings to begin Monday on Manitoba pension benefit legislation", Canadian Press, 10 January 2003, 9:46pm.
  30. ^ David Kuxhaus, "Manitoba to double number of skilled immigrants", Winnipeg Free Press, 20 November 1999, A3; "MANITOBA GOVERNMENT: Immigration agreement expansion announced", Winnipeg Free Press, 22 November 1999.
  31. ^ Paul Samyn, "Manitoba immigration leaps", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 February 2001, A3; Mia Rabson, "Manitoba widens door to immigration", '"Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 2001, A3; Martin Cash, "Nominee immigration program gets bigger", Winnipeg Free Press, 12 March 2002, B3; "Canada and Manitoba Renew Immigration Agreement", 'Canada NewsWire, 13 November 2002, 04:02pm.
  32. ^ "First three Man. foreign doctors receive licences for rural practice", Canadian Press, 29 October 2002, 11:24pm.
  33. ^ "Ratification of child labour pact closer", Winnipeg Free Press, 5 February 2000, A2.
  34. ^ "A day to remember Holocaust victims", Winnipeg Free Press, 26 April 2000, A2.
  35. ^ "Pared-down cabinet maintains solidarity", Winnipeg Free Press, 15 October 2001, A9.
  36. ^ Mia Rabson, "Barrett's decision to exit politics may signal vote near", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 November 2002, A3.
  37. ^ "Canada and Manitoba sign new Immigration Agreement", Canada NewsWire, 6 June 2003; David Kuxhaus, "Province to double immigration", Winnipeg Free Press, 7 June 2003, A3.
  38. ^ Dan Lett, "NDP looks for way out of wilderness", Winnipeg Free Press, 14 October 1995, C9.
  39. ^ Carolin Vesely, "Left seeking right answers", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 September 2001, A4.
  40. ^ Daniel Lett, "New cash-crunch hampers candidates", Winnipeg Free Press, 6 December 2005, A12.
  41. ^ "The Doer government has steadfastly refused [...]", Canadian Press, 18 January 2006, 04:22pm.
  42. ^ Martin Cash, "Auditor slams NDP: Ex-minister's response to complaints under fire", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 January 2006, A1.
  43. ^ Martin Cash, "Former CEO 'still shocked' by rebuff", Winnipeg Free Press, 18 January 2006, A4.