The Pallister government has pressed the reset button on the Manitoba legislature, announcing a new legislative session beginning Wednesday with the speech from the throne.
It means dozens of bills introduced late last year and earlier this year will die, including one that would have given municipalities control over retail shopping hours.
Also paused are the government's efforts to amend pension and cannabis legislation, set new election financing rules and change the manner in which the Manitoba Public Utilities Board regulates major Crown corporations.
MLAs had been scheduled to return to the legislature Wednesday to pick up where they had left off in late May. A new throne speech hadn't been scheduled until mid-November.
But a dearth of sitting days in the spring due to COVID-19 and stalling tactics by the Opposition NDP prevented the government from making much headway on its legislative agenda.
Premier Brian Pallister wouldn't reveal his strategy Thursday for breaking any future legislative logjams, but he said the Progressive Conservatives were ready to do what it takes.
"We're quite prepared to go to the wall to get our issues brought forward and action taken," he said shortly after it was announced the current session was being prorogued.
"We're quite prepared to go to the wall to get our issues brought forward and action taken." ‐ Premier Brian Pallister
Among the new initiatives will be legislation to enhance paid sick leave for people affected by COVID-19. The legislation would follow through on an agreement with the federal government in July that saw Ottawa commit to fully fund the paid leave.
"We thank the federal government for taking that on and... there's some legislative support that has to happen as a consequence of that," Pallister said.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said his party served as an effective opposition in the spring, causing the government to regroup, but he doesn't underestimate the Progressive Conservatives.
"I think that after this throne speech the government is going to move aggressively and try to slip a bunch of big, dramatic changes to our schools, to our workplaces, to many things in Manitoba," he said. "They are going to try to slip those things through under the radar while many people in the province are rightfully preoccupied with fighting the pandemic."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he's disappointed that opposition MLAs will lose out on the opportunity to grill the premier and cabinet ministers during the budget estimates process, as had been expected, during the next few weeks.
"I think that after this throne speech the government is going to move aggressively and try to slip a bunch of big, dramatic changes to our schools, to our workplaces, to many things in Manitoba. They are going to try to slip those things through under the radar while many people in the province are rightfully preoccupied with fighting the pandemic." ‐ NDP Leader Wab Kinew
"It's a way for the premier and his ministers to avoid direct questioning... over everything they've either been doing or not doing for the past few months," he said.
Oddly, the province's justice minister issued a press release Thursday trumpeting the fact that the government had introduced (but not passed) legislation in March that would allow it to join a class-action lawsuit with other provinces against opioid manufacturers. Hours later, the government announced it was scrapping the current session. Presumably, Bill 51 will be reintroduced this fall.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said Pallister may be looking to give his government a fresh start.
"It's a way for the premier and his ministers to avoid direct questioning... over everything they've either been doing or not doing for the past few months." ‐ Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont
The government has taken some heat over how the reopening of schools was handled — and for what it has and hasn't done to help Manitobans cope with the pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued the House of Commons in the summer, and Parliament resumed last month with a federal throne speech. Meanwhile, some premiers have recently gone to voters seeking a renewed mandate.
"So, maybe (Pallister) has been following the example of what's been taking place elsewhere," Thomas said.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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.