Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Can't you dig into why they're so lazy?

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After another tiresome article (Pallister's mansion: the sequel, Dec. 11) regarding Brian Pallister's purchase of a home (with his own money), I'm wondering who would be interested in reading repeated drivel about this stuff, other than the chattering classes?

It seems obvious that Free Press reporters assigned to cover the Manitoba legislature have nothing more substantive to do with their time, and little wonder -- the legislature, yet again, is no longer in session.

It seems to me those same reporters could do some research and reporting on why our lazy legislature and its 57 MLAs spend more time out of session than they do in.

We pay our MLAs a basic annual salary of $85,564 to be legislators, but how can they be legislators when the legislature is rarely in session?

The current (40th) legislature was elected on Oct. 4, 2011, and the NDP were returned to government with their fourth consecutive majority. They convened the first session of the new assembly with a throne speech on Oct. 20, 2011. After nine sitting days, the house recessed.

What substantive business did our MLAs accomplish after nine days? Nothing. How many bills were introduced and passed? None. As soon as the throne speech debate was concluded, the government closed the legislature and kept it closed for 61/2 months.

The session at long last resumed on April 17, 2012, with the introduction of the 2012 provincial budget and the subsequent debate. Once the budget was passed, MLAs reviewed departmental spending estimates and considered a scant number of government bills, most of which were crammed into the last couple of weeks of the session. Then the government recessed the house on June 14. This time our MLAs sat for a whole 39 days. The mind boggles.

A full five months later, the government called a new session of the legislature on Nov. 19. It sat for a total of 13 days before recessing on Dec. 6. In those 13 days, one bill was passed and received royal assent.

Some 18 other government bills were introduced, but nothing will be done with them until the government brings the legislature back into session, probably in about six months.

And for this paltry 52 sitting days in 2012, we pay our MLAs $85,564? And we pay the premier and ministers even more? As tax-paying citizens of Manitoba, should we not all be outraged that these 57 men and women spend so little of their time doing the job they were actually elected and are paid to do?

The aforementioned information was researched without much difficulty. So I'm wondering why the Free Press legislative reporters (who have loads of time on their hands for at least the next six months) couldn't dig a bit and let the public know just how lazy our legislature has become over the past number of years.

Perhaps even the editors of this newspaper might be stirred out of their lethargy to write a critical editorial or two as to why our lazy legislature is in darkness most of the year and what should be done to reverse this intolerable situation.

Surely to goodness bringing to public awareness the laziness of the legislature is by far more important and deserves much more critical reporting and commentary from the Free Press than repetitive gossip about how much an MLA spent buying a house with his own money.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 A17

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