March 30, 2020

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ABOVE THE FOLD

NDP blocks budget

Premier calls Opposition tactics 'fear on display'

It was the budget that never was.

In an unprecedented turn of events, the Opposition NDP employed procedural delays in the legislature on Wednesday to prevent the Pallister government from introducing its budget.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said his party stalled the business of the legislature to prevent more than a dozen bills the Opposition believes will be damaging to Manitobans.

Premier Brian Pallister said the NDP's tactics were disrespectful to Manitobans.

He said due to the budget delay he is cancelling a planned trip to Ottawa Thursday morning for a meeting with the prime minister and his fellow first ministers.

"It's disrespectful and it's fear on display," Pallister said of the Opposition tactics after the legislature had adjourned for the day.

A list of bills Manitoba government plans to introduce:

Minor Amendments and Corrections Act, 2020

Election Financing Amendment Act

Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) and Related Amendments Act

Minor Amendments and Corrections Act, 2020

Election Financing Amendment Act

Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) and Related Amendments Act

Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment

Climate and Green Plan Implementation Act

Water Resources Administration Amendment Act

Reducing Red Tape and Improving Services Act

Consumer Protection Amendment Act

Horse Racing Regulatory Modernization Act (Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act and Pari-Mutuel Levy Act Amended)

Election Financing Amendment and Elections Amendment Act (Government Advertising)

Advanced Education Administration Amendment Act

University College of the North Amendment Act

Civil Service Superannuation Amendment Act

Public Utilities Ratepayer Protection and Regulatory Reform Act (Various Acts Amended)

Public Health Amendment Act (Food Safety and Other Amendments)

Public Schools Amendment Act

Public Schools Governance and Financing Act (Public Schools Act Amended and Public Schools Finance Board Act Repealed)

Planning Amendment and City of Winnipeg Charter Amendment Act

Building and Electrical Permitting Improvement Act (Various Acts Amended and Permit Dispute Resolution Act Enacted)

Labour Relations Amendment Act

Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act

Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation Amendment Act

"They're afraid to debate bills they have not read. They're afraid to discuss a budget they have not seen. They're afraid to have a debate that they know they cannot win. If this budget was anything but good news for Manitobans they wouldn't have delayed it, would they?"

While the NDP said the government could have introduced the budget without Finance Minister Scott Fielding delivering his budget speech, Pallister said that would have disrespected longstanding procedures.

"We're going to follow the traditions of budget presentation that have been parliamentary traditions for a long, long time," he said.

Kinew said the NDP wasn't trying to prevent the budget from being introduced as much as it was trying to stall a large number of bills from being introduced.

Wab Kinew speaks to the media about delaying proceedings in the chamber at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Wab Kinew speaks to the media about delaying proceedings in the chamber at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

"The Pallister government is trying to ram through over 20 aggressive pieces of legislation that are going to do damage to schools, to pensions, to jobs and affect many, many people across Manitoba," Kinew told reporters afterwards.

"We are standing up against this provincial government under Brian Pallister's reckless agenda," Kinew said, calling it "a hidden agenda."

The government served notice of the potential introduction of a flurry of bills late Tuesday. When the legislature convened at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the introduction of bills was to be the first order of business, followed by other House business before the budget speech was to begin in mid-afternoon.

That is when the news media begins to report the contents of the budget to the public.

"The Pallister government is trying to ram through over 20 aggressive pieces of legislation that are going to do damage to schools, to pensions, to jobs and affect many, many people across Manitoba." — NDP Leader Wab Kinew

But the NDP never allowed any of that to happen, introducing repeated points of privilege in the legislative chamber that took the entire afternoon.

The NDP is attempting to stall the introduction of the bills before a looming mid-March deadline so that they cannot be assured passage before the summer recess.

"By virtue of us standing up today and halting this legislative agenda, we're giving Manitobans an extra six months to look at these bills," and to challenge them, said Kinew.

He said the Opposition party proved on Tuesday it was willing to act in a bipartisan manner on the coronavirus issue, he said, when it co-operated to pass an emergency bill to spend $35.2 million on emergency health supplies.

Manitoba Liberal Party leader, Dougald Lamont, speaks to the media on Wednesday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Liberal Party leader, Dougald Lamont, speaks to the media on Wednesday.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said both the governing PCs and the NDP "showed complete contempt for each other and for the democratic process."

"The PCs have introduced a whole ton of bills that they wanted to smother by doing it all on budget day (so we) wouldn't notice," Lamont told reporters.

"They're introducing bills where there are supposed to be major reports coming out," he said, pointing to the K-12 education review and a commission looking at the planning process.

Ahead of those reports being made public, the province introduced bills Wednesday that affect public schools governance and a City of Winnipeg charter amendment that would change the way planning is done in the City of Winnipeg — indicating the provincial government was paying lip service to consulting with the public, the Liberal leader said.

"We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. There are processes you have to respect. Otherwise you're writing a blank cheque to the premier." — Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

"They're willing to spend all kinds of money to consult with people then do whatever they want," said Lamont. The PCs "threw the first punch" in Wednesday's budget bout "by slipping a fast one past voters," Lamont said.

"We live in a democracy not a dictatorship," he said. "There are processes you have to respect," he added, such as asking questions of the premier. "Otherwise you're writing a blank cheque to the premier."

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said this is the first time in recent history that procedural tactics have delayed the provincial budget.

Thomas likened the legislature rules to "political weapons" being used by both sides. As they played out Wednesday, the tactics could reinforce stereotypes that politicians care more about their own self-interest than the public interest.

"The budget is the single most important political event of the calendar year nowadays, especially with this government being all about eliminating deficits... lowering taxes, so the budget is a key document for Premier Pallister, and lots of planning goes into this. Lots of time and money is spent preparing the budget," Thomas said.

"To send everybody home without anything happening beyond procedural shenanigans is disappointing to a lot of people, no doubt. And for a lot of people, they won't even take much time to think this kind of games-playing is why we despise politicians these days."

— with files from Katie May

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

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.

Read full biography

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ABOVE THE FOLD

Larry Kusch and Carol Sanders:

NDP blocks budget

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister speaks to media after the tabling of his party's provincial budget was filibustered by the opposition NDP at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Wednesday.
MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Wab Kinew speaks to the media about delaying proceedings in the chamber at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. 
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