Most Tory bills pass as Manitoba legislature wraps up
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Legislation to expand private liquor sales didn’t make the cut, but laws to free up the use of pesticides, cut the theft of catalytic converters and get rid of the public-sector wage freeze did.
A turbulent session of the Manitoba legislature was set to end Thursday night.
The Progressive Conservative government also passed a bill that imposes new debt limits on Manitoba Hydro.
Bills that would allow more private liquor sales and simplify liquor service licensing for restaurants and bars will be revived in the next session, which will kick off Nov. 15 with a throne speech that outlines the Tories’ plan for the next year.
“We will reintroduce those bills or bills that are similar to that in the next session because we think and we think that Manitobans believe our current liquor laws are outdated and need to be modernized,” government house leader Kelvin Goertzen said.
Other bills on the majority PC government’s legislative agenda had already passed or were expected to late last night.
The most contentious piece of legislation — Bill 36 (the Manitoba Hydro Amendment and Public Utilities Board Amendment Act) — caps hydro rate increases at five per cent or the rate of inflation or whichever is less, and lowers the amount of debt the Crown corporation will be allowed to carry. It also limits the authority of the Public Utilities Board to question or challenge decisions made by or for it, and requires rate application hearings every three years rather than annually.
It’s a new version of an earlier PC bill that the government withdrew last fall after former premier Brian Pallister resigned.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew bragged that his party had put a wrench in the government’s plan.
“Our Manitoba NDP team is very proud to have been able to delay the PC’s bill 36,” he said Thursday. “We delayed it this year to give you the chance to learn more about the harmful changes to the Public Utilities Board that the PCs are making.”
Goertzen countered that his government brought back the bill because it will benefit Manitobans.
“This is about ensuring there is rate certainty and not rate shock for Manitobans,” he said. “It’s really, really important in this time of high inflation, and when we know there are a lot of cost pressures, that we can ensure that there’s cost certainty.”
The NDP wants the government to freeze hydro rates.
The government house leader said the budget implementation bill, which was expected to pass Thursday night, will help Manitobans with inflation.
“There’s a lot of things within the budget that are about affordability and lots of new expenditures on health care,” said Goertzen, who is also justice minister. He was hopeful two other bills that were not guaranteed passage would win support of the house on Thursday night.
One of them — the Hospitality Sector Customer Registry Act — aims to limit human trafficking and requires hoteliers to collect information about customers and turn it over to police in human trafficking investigations.
The Disclosure to Protect Against Intimate Partner Violence Act allows a person who believes they might be at risk of violence from a current or former partner to apply to receive information about the risk that partner poses to the person or the person’s child.
The bills that passed were to be granted royal assent by acting Chief Justice Diana Cameron, who stood in for newly appointed Lt.-Gov. Anita Neville.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Thursday, November 3, 2022 7:19 PM CDT: Image updated