Sectors wait for details in throne speech wake
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Reaction from municipalities, labour and business to the Progressive Conservatives’ self-described bold throne speech was mixed, with many stakeholders searching for clarity on the Manitoba government’s path forward.
Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said the capital city also shares the province’s priorities when it comes to fighting crime.
“Right now, the crime severity index in the city of Winnipeg is too high,” he said Tuesday, following the throne speech.
He applauded the province’s commitment in recent weeks to spend millions to fund an arrest-warrant police unit and spend more on the Downtown Community Safety Partnership.
“We need to make sure Winnipeg’s downtown is safe, so people have the confidence to be in our downtown — not only to visit but to live in the centre of our community, as well.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant financial challenges for the city and he will be continuing discussions with the province to assist with that impact, Gillingham said.
“It’s incumbent upon me as the mayor to make sure the province understands the financial challenges we face as a city and the funding limitations.”
The speech from the throne contained some positive nuggets for municipalities amid a multi-year freeze on operating funding, including increased support for libraries and recreation centres, Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Kam Blight said.
“The devil is going to be in the details,” he said of the government’s broad agenda. “They touched on some real key issues for municipalities, which is public safety, health care and economic development, so we’re very pleased with that.
“We’re going to continue to work very hard to pressure the government to eliminate the operating basket funding freeze and increase funding to all municipalities.”
Some labour groups were pleased with increased commitments to public employees, while others raised alarm over language surrounding the private delivery of health care.
Talk of job growth is encouraging and the commitment to raise wages for early childhood educators is an important step, Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba president Gina McKay said.
“But where we need to see more movement is in the legislation. We need to see the move away from economic growth being tied to private-public partnerships. We need to preserve and move forward on public-sector jobs,” McKay said.
Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Kyle Ross agreed the throne speech included encouraging language around the public service but more is necessary.
“Since the government first started talking about reinvesting in the civil service last year, just one civil service position has been added back for every ten jobs cut by this government since 2016. There are chronic staffing shortages across the board in the civil service,” Ross said.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said she’s awaiting details about the promised capital investments in Winnipeg hospitals, but took issue with the province increasing its partnerships with private health-care providers.
“MNU strongly and firmly believes in our universal, public health-care system. This is not the way to go,” Jackson said.
“Our government’s focus should be whole-heartedly placed on strengthening our public health-care system so that it will be there for all Manitobans, no matter their economic status.”
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Chuck Davidson said its members are expecting the government to act quickly on its throne speech promises to make Manitoba more competitive to attract investment and bolster its workforce by incentivizing people to stay in the province and increasing immigration numbers.
“I think what we’re going to be looking for is a level of urgency on some of these measures. We need them to move quick.”
— with files from Carol Sanders
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.