Five key Manitoba issues as House of Commons resumes

OTTAWA — The House of Commons had a rowdy return to work Monday, as the Liberals kicked off the fall session by trying to push through key platform promises ahead of next October’s election.

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This article was published 17/09/2018 (1469 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The House of Commons had a rowdy return to work Monday, as the Liberals kicked off the fall session by trying to push through key platform promises ahead of next October’s election.

This fall, Canadians will hear all about cannabis legalization, asylum seekers crossing into Quebec and the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline. But closer to home, here are five issues on the top of Manitoba MPs’ agendas:

 

Trade

Appointed trade-diversification minister this summer, Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr is in charge of getting businesses to look beyond the United States to export their goods and services. On Monday, Carr kicked off debate on the legislation to ratify a trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.

But economic data show Canada’s existing trade deal with the European Union has led to minimal growth in Canadian exports, and far more European imports.

Kevin Lamoureux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader (Patrick Doyle / The Canadian Press files)

Trudeau’s visit to Winnipeg this month included Canada Goose’s launch of another jacket factory in the city, and the Liberals have highlighted the company’s moves into Asian markets as an example for other firms.

But Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen told reporters the Liberals have bogged down NAFTA negotiations by choosing to “lecture on things like gender rights and the environment.”

She claimed Trudeau “just seemed to tick a lot of people off” with the spectacle around his trip to India and snubbing Japan during trade talks.

 

Social policy

The federal Liberals have justified running a forecasted $18.1-billion deficit by launching a housing strategy, benefit reform and beefed-up baby bonus, wrapping these initiatives together as a poverty-reduction strategy.

They’ll soon be under pressure to show how this debt is actually making a dent in places like downtown Winnipeg.

Transcona-Elmwood MP Daniel Blaikie said a "pitiful amount" of money is coming upfront, with much more promised beyond five years from now. "It’s so far in the future […] it’s kind of fantasy money,” he said.

But Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux said boosting the Canada Child Benefit has had a huge impact on his own riding, and will eventually help people in the North End reach the middle class. “It’s the middle class that drives the economy,” he said.

 

Public safety

Winnipeg’s rate of violent crime is double the national average, which city police attribute to a rise in methamphetamine use. Meanwhile, rural communities across the Prairies say poorly resourced RCMP detachments are leaving their homes vulnerable to robbers.

The Liberals have voted to have parliamentary committee study both these issues. None of the three main parties has a detailed policy on either topic.

Bergen said the government ought to consider “tougher penalties, and certainty of penalties,” instead of a bill tabled this spring that would roll back some sentences, which she said “sends a very weak message.”

Meanwhile, expect the government’s gun-reform bill to shore up support and fundraising from both the Liberals’ and Tories’ voter bases.

 

Seniors/pharmacare

Trudeau appointed a minister for seniors’ issues this summer, to help craft policies on everything from dementia to elder abuse. Trudeau’s visit to a West Kildonan retirement home this month illustrates the Liberals’ efforts to solidify support with seniors.

Kevin Lamoureux said his riding has been buoyed by an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and he expects the same from some form of pharmacare, though the Liberals have yet to reveal how far that policy will go.

The finance minister has already said they plan to fill gaps in existing private and public insurance plans, instead of replacing them with universal pharmacare. Blaikie said that undermines the seniors’ minister.

“If there’s no clout for that minister to be able to reach across departments and build a strategy, then it really is just window-dressing. And I’m concerned that might be happening,” he said.

 

Carbon tax

The Liberals’ largest point of contention with the provinces is their federal carbon tax, with Ontario and Saskatchewan outright rejecting a levy that comes into force in January.

Manitoba is sticking to a flat tax, which will fall short of escalating federal targets in 2020. The Liberals have pledged to turn a blind eye until then, and hail the Pallister government as an example for others.

That puts Manitoba’s Tories at odds with their federal cousins, whose central policy plank is to kill any carbon tax.

Meanwhile, as Conservative House leader, Bergen said the Tories will use "as many roadblocks as possible" to stall a bill aimed at reforming how officials regulate energy projects.

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