The fourth session of the 41st Manitoba Legislature will focus on the province’s continued financial and economic recovery based on the Speech from the Throne delivered by Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon on Nov. 20.
Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government has a variety of goals for the remainder of its first term in power since the late 1990s, from reducing healthcare wait times to initiatives to meet challenges presented by climate change. However, the province’s finances, tax relief and improving the economy seemed to be set as the highest priorities moving into the new session.
“We must continue to make Manitoba Canada’s most improved province with lower taxes, better outcomes and a stronger economy,” Filmon said during her presentation to MLAs on Tuesday. “My government continues to make progress toward returning to balanced budgets, while also providing tax relief for Manitoba families and small businesses. It is reducing wasteful spending on administrative layers so it can invest more in front-line services and infrastructure.”
In this regard, the government has several initiatives it is developing or will continue to establish. These include streamlining Manitoba’s public service sector through cultural transformation; improving the management of public assets, particularly when it comes to Crown land; and the introduction of a new law allowing Manitobans to vote on major tax increases through referendum.
The government also touched on an intiative specific to Brandon. During the Throne Speech, Filmon noted the significance of the Keystone Centre and mentioned a plan established to keep it sustainable.
“Consultations with the City of Brandon and the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba regarding the future of Brandon’s Keystone Centre are now complete. A new governance and funding framework will be implemented to ensure the continued success of that important Westman facility,” Filmon said.
Other notable priorities for this year’s legislative session include:
• a plan to reduce wait times for medical procedures including joint replacement, cataracts and diagnostic imaging;
• a plan to guide improvements to mental health and addictions services;
• improving supports for victims of domestic violence by introducing pilot programming and legislation for a family resolution service;
• creating an entity to lead and support economic growth in Manitoba’s north;
• constructing 1200 new personal care home beds by 2025
• beginning in 2019, developing an annual report for the justice system that provides information on recidivism rates, time to deposition of offences and custody counts;
• the introduction of a Roadside Prohibition Program to address lower-level alcohol-related cases in a more efficient fashion through administrative penalties;
• conducting a review of the province’s child-education system through a Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education;
• initiatives to assist the agri-food sector in capitalizing on global market opportunities in protein extraction;
• and preparing for the province’s 150th anniversary in 2020.
The province’s “Made-In-Manitoba” Climate and Green Plan was also a component of the Pallister government’s sessional agenda. Considered a key part of Manitoba’s economic strategy, the plan will continue to invest in clean energy, climate mitigation and adaptation.
“Manitoba Hydro’s investments will reach $5.3 billion over the next five years, delivering clean electricity to Manitobans, Canadians and Americans, thereby reducing global emissions,” Filmon said, adding that the Climate and Green Plan has already established a series of programs and projects to reduce emissions and coal-based power generation has been eliminated.
“The Conservation Trust will soon announce its inaugural projects to enhance the resiliency of our natural infrastructure to climate change challenges such as flooding, storms and wildfires. Efficiency Manitoba will work to reduce energy consumption and the Expert Advisory Council will soon provide its advice as to how bests to achieve greenhouse gas reductions through carbon savings accounts.”
Following the opening of the legislative session, Premier Pallister said his government seeks to make Manitoba “the most improved province in Canada,” but suggested the economic, fiscal and infrastructural recovery will need time.
“Manitoba’s road to recovery is a long one, requiring both courage and care,” he said.