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This article was published 3/10/2018 (1085 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dougald Lamont’s first step up to the front bench wasn’t a cakewalk.
The Manitoba Liberal Party leader, who was elected MLA for St. Boniface in July, took his seat in the legislature Wednesday, and said he was honoured to serve as second opposition leader and "raise the level of debate."
"Our job is not just to make the government’s job harder through obstruction, but to challenge them to be better, so we can all deliver government that works for everyone, not just a few," Lamont said, as his mother looked on from the gallery.
Lamont rose to ask two questions: one about professional conduct in the house, and a second about debts related to Investors Group Field.
"My question for the premier is whether he and his caucus will join us in rebuilding trust for Manitobans by giving straight answers to the questions put to them," Lamont said to start.
"Yes, certainly Madame Speaker, we’ll do that," Tory Premier Brian Pallister answered, before wishing Lamont the best in his new position. "I certainly accept his invitation for all of us to do better, because that is certainly what we strive to do here."
There were two more exchanges on the topic, with Lamont suggesting government members stop heckling and Pallister noting he didn’t want to put limits on freedom of speech.
Next, Lamont asked: "Can the premier make it crystal clear how and when the bailout deal for the Investors Group stadium was reached, and how students, seniors and families can apply for such generous debt relief now that the premier has set a precedent?"
"It would be wrong, I think, for the member to create the false impression we were doing anything but cleaning up the mess that we inherited (from the former NDP government)," Pallister responded. "We’re making transparent issues that were covered up for years."
Earlier, the premier made the first ministerial statement of the day, announcing Manitoba would be "saying no" to carbon taxes. It wasn’t clear what Pallister meant until minutes later, when the government issued a news release explaining the province plans to scrap its carbon tax plans, while still following through with the rest of its climate and green plan.
Asked whether he regretted not questioning government about the major policy flip-flop on the floor, Lamont said he would have brought it up had the announcement been made clear. He pointed out MLAs aren’t allowed to use cellphones during question period (though they can pass notes), so he didn’t know the government had released a release.
Ultimately, bringing up members’ conduct in the house off the hop was important to Lamont.
"I’ve been sitting there (in the gallery) for months and months, and it’s been frustrating to see the same questions over and over again, the same answers — a lot of heat, but not a lot of light... There’s that kind of partisanship, so that people will just dismiss what another person is saying because they are saying it," he said.
"Sometimes, it goes beyond just trying to score political points. This is not just trying to make people look bad. We’re bringing this up because this is a really serious problem."