Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government introduced five bills in the house Thursday: four that previously died on the order paper and one that will likely help it escape some further critique from the auditor general.
Finance Minister Scott Fielding introduced Bill 21 (Workers Compensation Amendment Act), which would establish the Workers Compensation Board as a separate entity, "not a reporting organization within the meaning of the Financial Administration Act," the bill reads.
The government has repeatedly come under fire by auditor general Norm Ricard for not counting the WCB as a reporting entity in its summary budget statements, which Ricard has said overstates the size of the provincial deficit.
Bill 21 also expands the definition of workplace accidents to include occupational diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute reactions to traumatic events, among other amendments.
Fielding also reintroduced Bill 12 (Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act) and Bill 16 (Labour Relations Amendment Act).
The former would change some wording around workplace discriminatory actions, referring to them instead as "reprisals" and legislating they be reported within six months after any alleged incident occurred. Maximum fines would increase, with the potential of racking up million-dollar penalties (as opposed to the previous $500,000 maximum). For the latter bill, changes would include transitioning toward private-sector mediation services.
Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler reintroduced Bill 14 (Public Sector Construction Projects (Tendering) Act), which would result in construction contracts issued by government and other public bodies not require successful bidders to have unionized employees.
Central Services Minister Reg Helwer reintroduced Bill 9 (Public Services Sustainability Amendment Act).
The province last floated the bill in October before a court challenge launched by several unions began hearings this month. Unions are challenging the constitutionality of the original bill, which froze public-sector workers' wages temporarily, thereby undermining collective bargaining rights, they argue.
In the amended bill, the government notes a minister "may approve a collective agreement that provides for modest increases in additional remuneration."
The matter is still before the courts, where a provincial justice will consider the Public Services Sustainability Act as originally put forward.
NDP MLA Lisa Naylor (Wolseley) brought forward a private member's bill to strengthen Manitoba's reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, stating if new targets aren't met, cabinet ministers would lose portions of their salaries.
The bill is unlikely to get support from the majority Tory government.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.