Manitoba's leader of the Opposition is calling on Premier Brian Pallister's government to take immediate action and address the root causes that have led to a recent rise in violence in the province.
Ahead of the winter session, New Democratic Party Leader Wab Kinew said his caucus plans to push the Progressive Conservatives to address poverty, public health and education in an alternative throne speech delivered to reporters Thursday morning.
"Since the provincial election, we have seen an unprecedented crisis of violence, of liquor store thefts, of homicide, of public health issues like (sexually transmissible and blood-borne infections) outbreaks and other social challenges unfold in our province," said Kinew, surrounded by his caucus at the legislature.
"At this point, the cuts and the absence of investments to deal with the root causes of these problems, on the part of our provincial government, is making this situation worse."
Kinew’s immediate demands include asking the province to commit $500,000 in annual operational funding for the Bear Clan Patrol and make predictable increases to funding for municipalities.
"Bear Clan has shown their worth. They’ve proven they have an ability to interrupt some of the violence that we see in our communities," he said, adding the organization is now willing to take its work to the next level by partnering with schools.
Stable funding would cover existing operating costs and allow them to work with schools to tackle violence in those facilities, he said.
As for lifting a freeze on municipality funding, Kinew said predictable increases would help maintain policing levels despite a spike in homicides.
"That would allow the Winnipeg Police Service and other police forces to continue the important work of maintaining programs like Project Devote (a joint Winnipeg police-Manitoba RCMP task force dealing with missing and murdered exploited persons cases) and to maintain the tradition of holiday checkstops in Manitoba," he said.
Kinew also spoke about long-term investments such as a pilot program that would allow community organizations such as Mama Bear Clan and Aboriginal Youth Opportunities to be made available to schools so outreach workers could connect students with support services.
"We think that schools can be hubs for turning the tide of poverty and violence in our communities," he said.
Also on Kinew’s agenda this session is pushing forward K-3 classroom size caps, the end of using mandatory overtime to staff hospitals and introducing legislation to protect and regulate companies that hire independent contractors.
The leader also hinted at revisiting daylight savings in Manitoba during his speech Thursday.
Chief Justice Richard Chartier, administrator of the Province of Manitoba, is expected to give the official speech when the winter session officially begins Tuesday. He is standing in for Lt.-Gov Janice Filmon, who underwent surgery for breast cancer at the end of September.
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Updated on Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 1:02 PM CST: corrects name of person giving official speech