September 23, 2020

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Winnipeg Free Press



NDP obstructionism cheap political theatre


Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/3/2020 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What does an opposition party do when it has nothing concrete or intelligent to offer the public as an alternative to government’s legislative agenda? It childishly uses procedural delays in the legislative assembly to temporarily block the introduction of a provincial budget.

That’s what happened Wednesday in Manitoba, at the hands of NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his caucus.

It’s a long-standing parliamentary tradition that duly-elected governments are allowed to introduce budgets on a set date. Guests are invited (from both sides of the house), interest groups and other stakeholders take time off their regular duties to come to the legislature to consider the content of the budget, and the democratic process of debating government’s taxation and spending plans for the year begins.

People are free to praise or criticize the budget as they see fit once it's unveiled. It’s called democracy.

The NDP used procedural tactics to stall the introduction of the 2020 Manitoba budget, Kinew said, because it wanted to prevent the Tory government from introducing a series of bills, which were posted on the legislative order paper.

The argument makes no sense, as opposition MLAs haven’t even seen those bills.

The name of a bill is first posted on a notice of motion, and is eventually introduced for first reading. From there, opposition members are free to praise or criticize the bill and even delay its passage; under house rules, the Opposition can hold back some bills until the fall for further debate and consideration. But the content of the legislation in question hasn’t even been released yet.

People are free to praise or criticize the budget as they see fit once it's unveiled. It’s called democracy.

What Kinew showed Wednesday is he’s still not ready for prime time. Given the length of time he’s been in his position (acquiring the role in 2017) and the fact he’s shown little progress in developing into an effective opposition leader, he may never be ready for prime time.

He either got bad advice from equally inexperienced and ineffective staff, or he made the atrocious decision on his own; maybe it was a little of both. Apparently there’s no one in the NDP caucus room who can stand up and give leadership a reality check when it comes up with a harebrained scheme like blocking the introduction of a budget.

What it demonstrates is how little the NDP has progressed since the disastrous years under premier Greg Selinger. The NDP caucus continues to be fractured and rudderless, and has shown few signs of developing into a credible opposition party that can form government one day.

It’s a mystery what Kinew expected to accomplish from Wednesday’s antics.

Sabotaging longstanding parliamentary convention doesn’t go over well with the public. The budget will eventually be introduced. The Pallister government will pass its budget. And the NDP’s poor judgement will be remembered as nothing more than a misguided attempt to gain attention.

That’s what political parties do when they don’t have viable, well-thought-out alternatives to government policy. They stage stunts. They seek to distract. When a party has nothing else to offer, they resort to obstructionism.

Manitobans have a right to see what’s in the Pallister government’s budget. It affects people’s lives. The current government was re-elected last year with a solid majority. It has the right to introduce a budget.

That’s what political parties do when they don’t have viable, well–thought–out alternatives to government policy. They stage stunts. They seek to distract. When a party has nothing else to offer, they resort to obstructionism.

If Kinew and NDP MLAs are opposed to aspects of the budget, it’s their right — indeed their duty — to scrutinize it and explain to the public why they believe it should be changed. They can move amendments. They can speak at committee, in the house, and hold news conferences.

They don’t have a right to attack and disrespect the parliamentary process — which is what they did.

Hopefully, with some second, sober thought, the NDP will do the right thing and allow the budget to proceed Thursday, ending this ridiculous charade. They’ve made a mockery of the legislative process and themselves.

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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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.

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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