March 25, 2019

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Legislators to battle in brief session

Short sitting expected to be 'intense' as election nears

Premier and NDP Leader Greg Selinger at a news conference Tuesday, flanked by cabinet ministers Flor Marcelino (left) and Melanie Wight.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Premier and NDP Leader Greg Selinger at a news conference Tuesday, flanked by cabinet ministers Flor Marcelino (left) and Melanie Wight.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/2/2016 (1125 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TO paraphrase a popular song, Manitoba MLAs return to the legislature today for a good time, not a long time.

There are only 12 sitting days scheduled before the fifth session of the 40th Manitoba legislature concludes and the writ is dropped, signalling an election set for April 19.

The session’s final days are expected to be a raucous affair, as the three parties represented in the legislature position themselves for the vote.

Under the rules, the formal campaign could begin as early as March 15.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/2/2016 (1125 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TO paraphrase a popular song, Manitoba MLAs return to the legislature today for a good time, not a long time.

There are only 12 sitting days scheduled before the fifth session of the 40th Manitoba legislature concludes and the writ is dropped, signalling an election set for April 19.

The session’s final days are expected to be a raucous affair, as the three parties represented in the legislature position themselves for the vote.

Under the rules, the formal campaign could begin as early as March 15.

On Tuesday, Premier Greg Selinger served notice he isn’t waiting for the writ to drop to get the show going.

While a pre-election blackout that prohibits government announcements is in force, that didn’t stop Selinger, as NDP leader, from promising that, if re-elected, he would target nine downtown surface parking lots for redevelopment.

"We just think this is an important moment right now in the future of the downtown," the premier said when asked about the timing of the announcement. "And it’s a good time to get out in front and show that we have good policies and good initiatives that we can use to take the downtown to the next level."

Manitobans can expect more campaign- style announcements — from government and Opposition parties — before the writ is dropped as the line between the campaign period and the pre-writ period continues to blur.

The post-Christmas resumption of the legislative session will not begin with a budget, as it so often has in recent years. The NDP doesn’t plan to present a formal budget before the election. Instead, it will offer a scaleddown fiscal update. That won’t occur until March 8, after which only four sitting days are scheduled.

Progressive Conservative House Leader Kelvin Goertzen says the Opposition will focus on the need for a pre-election budget in the coming days.

"We believe that the budget is already finished, and Greg Selinger shouldn’t be hiding it," the Steinbach MLA said. "People have a right to know how bad things are and how bad Greg Selinger has managed the economy. And hiding the budget and not releasing it gives people a feeling that things are probably worse than they could even imagine."

The government has 17 bills before the house and intends to introduce a few more before the sitting ends. The session began Nov. 16, with the speech from the throne, and recessed Dec. 3.

Included among the carryover bills are measures providing leaves from work for victims of domestic violence and protection against stalkers.

Goertzen said the NDP can’t expect its entire legislative agenda will be passed in a few short days.

"We will not obstruct bills, but it is very, very unlikely that a great number of bills will pass in (12) days because I don’t think that would be respectful to people who expect that bills will have a reasonable amount of time for debate in the legislature," he said.

Winnipeg political scientist Paul Thomas said he expects an "intense" session, one in which the Opposition will attempt to generate "a lot of headlines and bad news for the government," particularly during question period.

He said he expects Selinger’s opponents to try to be "very imaginative" in their tactics to obtain maximum media coverage.

"Otherwise it’s like shouting in the dark. It just goes on but it doesn’t really reverberate beyond the hallways of the legislative building," he said of the legislature debates.

Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said she doesn’t have high expectations for the short legislative sitting. She said she expects a lot of "recycled" promises from the governing NDP, similar to its pledge Tuesday to work to redevelop downtown surface parking lots.

Bokhari said she also expects "a higher level of fear-mongering" from the government as it attacks its opponents in a bid to improve its standing with voters.

A December Probe Research poll pegged NDP support among decided voters at 22 per cent compared with 43 per cent for the PCs and 29 per cent for the Liberals.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 6:11 AM CST: Adds photo, adds missing text

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