Observers seek big-picture throne speech

Advertisement

Advertise with us

The Progressive Conservative government will set out its legislative agenda for the next session Tuesday — as it gears up for an election in 2023, while facing multiple crises in health care, homelessness and cost of living.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $19.00 every four weeks. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled anytime.

The Progressive Conservative government will set out its legislative agenda for the next session Tuesday — as it gears up for an election in 2023, while facing multiple crises in health care, homelessness and cost of living.

Premier Heather Stefanson hinted last week the Manitoba throne speech will address affordability issues and measures to tackle violent crime and safety concerns.

“I think you can expect to see more along those lines,” Stefanson said at an unrelated Nov. 8 event at Fort Whyte Alive in Winnipeg. Her government has also used words such as “bold” in recent days to describe its plans for the legislative session ahead.

At 1:30 p.m., Lt.-Gov. Anita Neville is to deliver the speech from the throne, opening the fifth session of the 42nd legislature.

Ruth Bonneville / Pool - Winnipeg Free press / The Canadian Press

At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Lt.-Gov. Anita Neville is to deliver the speech from the throne, opening the fifth session of the 42nd legislature.

Last year’s throne speech — the first with Stefanson as premier — promised a “new beginning” and “new vision for a strong economic and social recovery” based on “collaboration, co-operation and reconciliation.”

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is hoping this year’s message picks up on those themes and goes further, with three items on its wish list, including additional affordable housing.

“We have a new (Winnipeg) mayor, a new council, a new direction. We’re hoping that that translates into a new, more collaborative approach to the issues facing our province’s largest urban centre,” chamber president and chief executive officer Loren Remillard said Monday.

“We need to send a very strong message to the international business community that not only are we open for business, but Manitoba is an easy place to do business, is a receptive place to do business.”

Chamber members are also hoping to hear details about what direction the province’s economic advisory council and tax reform commission will take, but housing affordability is key, he added.

“For businesses, this is a critical issue,” Remillard said. “There was a time when that was one of the things we led with, when we go around the world to attract people, is Manitoba’s cost of living is one of the best in the country. It still is a great value, but it’s becoming more and more expensive to live here.”

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

“We have a new (Winnipeg) mayor, a new council, a new direction. We’re hoping that that translates into a new, more collaborative approach to the issues facing our province’s largest urban centre,” chamber president and chief executive officer Loren Remillard said Monday.

The capital city and province need to work together to plan for the right mix of housing at the right speed — especially with Manitoba relying on immigration to meet its workforce needs, he said.

“You can either really embrace and celebrate it and it can be very positive or it can be something that washes over you and hits you hard.”

It’s one of the major challenges the PC government is facing, amid inflation at a 40-year high, rising cost of living and what prominent Winnipeg businessman Mark Chipman recently described as a “humanitarian crisis” of homelessness and addiction, in addition to a health-care sector human resource crisis the province pledged $200 million toward combating last week.

The one bright spot may be on the economic front, with the province close to balancing its books after the COVID-19 pandemic brought on the worst economic and health-care crisis in Manitoba history.

Global credit rating agency DBRS Ltd. last week gave the province and Manitoba Hydro an “A,” but said a possible change in government next year due to an election adds an element of policy uncertainty.

After being on track to eliminate its deficit prior to the pandemic, Manitoba reported a $2.1 billion deficit for the 2021 fiscal year, $706 million last year, and is expecting a $202 million deficit this year.

The lower projected budget deficit is the result of a combination of increased revenues due to inflation and stronger-than-expected economic growth, said University of Manitoba economics and labour studies Prof. Jesse Hajer.

Instead of once again issuing education property rebate cheques to property owners, the government should be directing help to those struggling the most and building decent affordable housing, said Molly McCracken, Manitoba director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Instead of once again issuing education property rebate cheques to property owners, the government should be directing help to those struggling the most and building decent affordable housing, said Molly McCracken, Manitoba director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Manitoba has the fiscal capacity to spend more to target those most affected by skyrocketing prices: single parents, those below the poverty line and the working class,” she said Monday.

The think tank is calling for a minimum “living wage” of $18.34 per hour and legislation to give workers 10 paid sick days a year.

To deal with the labour shortage, the PC government could help the 78,000 underemployed and unemployed Manitobans get into the job market by funding adult education and training in fields with shortages, McCracken said.

No matter what the throne speech says, the government can expect to run into a “wall of skepticism,” said Paul Thomas, University of Manitoba political studies professor emeritus.

The throne speech is about “creating an image for the government and offering voters optimistic promises about what they’ll deliver,” he said.

“People will be waiting to see how you’re going to deliver on this.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Report Error Submit a Tip

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Local

LOAD MORE