First off, I would like to thank the Morris constituents who re-elected me on April 19. I am proud to represent the many communities in Morris, and in the new government of our great province.
While the historic results from the April 19 provincial general election still seem a bit surreal, the reality and enormity of the work ahead of us is quickly sinking in. With 29 new MLAs out of a total of 57, it is my hope that we can change the tone in the Manitoba legislature. Many visitors and school groups who have come and watched Question Period have commented on what had, at times, degenerated into little more than schoolyard squabbles. Although I am a relative newbie in the legislature, having been first elected only two years ago, seeing the wonder this building solicits in MLAs for the first time is an important reminder that we are here to represent not only our constituents and province, but to honour the institution we are fortunate enough to be a part of.
The very first order of business for the opening of the first session for the 41st legislature was the Speech from the Throne. The Throne Speech, in very broad strokes, outlines the priorities of the new government in the upcoming year. You can think of it as the "what you plan to do" as compared to the provincial budget, which will be presented May 31, "how you will do it."
With Premier Brian Pallister declaring our goal of making Manitoba the most improved province in all of Canada, the speech focused on several components.
Good jobs and strong economic growth will allow us to improve front line services in health care and education. The fiscal challenges are significant; the full extent of which was not previously disclosed to Manitobans. The first step in restoring prudent fiscal management is to conduct a comprehensive value-for-money review across government. As well, we announced the creation of the Premier’s Enterprise Team, which will be comprised of business leaders who will make recommendations to enhance economic opportunities.
Of primary concern to much of the Morris constituency, given our history of flooding, is to ensure long-term targeted infrastructure investments (of no less than $1 billion per year) become a priority.
When it comes to better care for all Manitobans, many constituents have told me first-hand how frustrated they are with lengthy wait times for health care. We will be launching a Wait Time Reduction Task Force made up of experts who will guide our decisions as we implement initiatives to reduce the time Manitobans wait for specialized or emergent care.
Another high priority is developing a comprehensive mental health strategy which will include mental health and addictions programs and services emphasizing better co-ordination, treatment and access. For far too long a stigma has existed around them and by working together we can provide the kind of mental health services that will benefit all Manitobans.
We will restore Manitobans’ right to have a say in major tax increases through a public referendum. We will establish a fixed election period to foster greater participation and certainty for all involved. And we will ensure that byelections take place within six months of vacancy so Manitobans have their voices heard in the legislature.