A government bill to protect highway construction workers appears to be on the chopping block because of a political squabble between the NDP and Opposition Progressive Conservatives.
Bill 2, which would double fines against drivers who speed through construction zones, has been stuck in first reading since it was introduced Nov. 15, despite three attempts in the past week by the NDP to move it through the legislative process so it can be passed when MLAs rise on Thursday.
NDP house leader Andrew Swan said if Bill 2 does not get consent from Brian Pallister's Tories on Monday to go to second reading, it's unlikely the new legislation can be in force for the spring road construction season.
"I think it's unbelievable that there would be any questions or doubts in this matter," said Charlene Harrison, whose daughter, Brittany Murray, was killed three years ago while working as a highway flagwoman. "Is it going to take someone else being injured or killed before they realize how important safety is?"
'Is it going to take someone else being injured or killed before they realize how important safety is?'
Murray's father, Neil Murray, was equally critical.
"It's just another delay and another opportunity for someone to not come home safe," he said.
The NDP needs consent from the Tories to move the bill into second reading and committee because it is not included on the sessional order -- the deal between the parties on what bills are to go to a vote before the end of the day Thursday.
"Frankly, I hope we get that agreement," Swan said of Bill 2. "We know that Manitoba families know it's a very important bill. We know that the safety of highway workers is extremely important.
"Now we're not sure it's going to able to be law before the next construction season takes place and that's a shame. It's unfortunate that it's come to this."
PC house leader Kevin Goertzen said the Tories have legitimate questions about Bill 2, particularly on liability issues, for which the government was slow to reply.
He said the Tories are concerned the NDP is attempting to have the bill debated on top on what's included in the sessional agreement between the parties.
"We have about 25 bills we have to deal with in the next four days," Goertzen said. "There's a lot of planes in the air we've go to try to get down."
Goertzen said if a bill to protect road workers was so vital, the NDP would not have wasted an afternoon this week on a resolution urging Ottawa to begin discussions with all provinces to abolish the Senate.
He also said the NDP can call the house back the week of Dec. 9 to deal with Bill 2.
"There's lots of people who work in December and I'm prepared to be one of them," Goertzen said. "I gather that the eggnog circuit is coming up and people want their fruit cake, but it' not going to hurt anybody to spend a few extra days here."
Bill 2, the Safety of Workers in Highway Construction Zones, would amend the Highway Traffic Act to allow law enforcement to impose additional fines of $7.70 for each kilometre per hour of excess speed, an increase from the current $5 per km/h of excess speed.
Labour and Immigration Minister Erna Braun has said it means the fine for speeding in a designated construction zone would be almost double the fine for speeding elsewhere. The bill also allows police to issue speeding tickets where no workers are present in keeping with laws in other provinces.
The proposed legislation is in response to Murray's death in October 2010. Murray, 21, worked as a flagwoman for Mulder Construction, which was resurfacing Highway 207 between the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 15, when she was hit by a 70-year-old driver going nearly double the speed limit.
Michael Blostein was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing death earlier this year. Blostein testified he believed the speed limit was still 90 km/h and he did not reduce his speed to 60 km/h as warned by signs because he didn't see any workers until he hit Murray. The Crown is seeking a new trial.