Wolseley constituency report
Lisa Naylor is the NDP MLA for Wolseley.
Recent articles of Lisa Naylor
After a summer spent connecting with community members in Wolseley and hearing your concerns, I know that the greatest challenge Manitobans are facing right now is access to quality and timely health care. Community members shared many challenging experiences, including long wait times for diagnostic tests and surgeries and unacceptable waits for emergency care. I’ve also spoken with health-care providers who are dealing with mandated overtime. Unfortunately, no matter how hard staff work, it’s never enough to meet the demand in a broken system. Our team is advocating for government accountability and investments in health care, every single day in the Legislature.
Last spring, the Progressive Conservative government put forward many bills that will make life harder and more expensive for Manitobans. Two of these bills are Bill 22 (The Environment Amendment Act) and Bill 36 (The Manitoba Hydro Amendment and Public Utilities Board Amendment Act).
Bill 22 gets rid of cosmetic pesticide restrictions, meaning that products previously restricted from lawns and boulevards, owing to prior safety and environmental concerns, will be back on the market. This change is disappointing, and a step back in environmental protections that so many Manitobans have supported. If this bill passes, use of these pesticides will increase in our communities and be allowed in municipal parks and near schools. Increased exposure to these chemicals increases cancer risk and affects those with asthma, which is bad for the health of people and pets. Manitoba is the only jurisdiction in North America going backwards on this issue.
Another issue that we know Manitobans are facing right now is affordability. But, instead of helping ease the cost of living, the PC government has introduced Bill 36, which will raise Hydro rates at a time when life is already getting much more expensive. Bill 36 will increase Hydro rates by up to five per cent every year and will allow the PCs to set rates rather than independent experts. That’s just wrong.
Welcome back to school for our families and friends. It’s been an eventful summer meeting with constituents, attending events and hearing more about the issues that are top of mind for Wolseley residents.
With the return to school, I have heard from a lot of parents and families about plans for their kids and their concerns about education. We all want the best for our kids, and that’s why it is so important that funding for education keep up with the growing needs of our classrooms. Unfortunately, the Progressive Conservative government is not doing its part. In 2016, the province paid for 62.4 per cent of the core operating costs in public education. Now, in 2021-2022, the province’s share is down to 56.4 per cent. This puts pressure on our schools to do more with less. When comparing the numbers year over year, the province has cut their contribution to the core funding of public education by $20 million during this past year alone.
These decisions make it difficult for schools to plan for the future as they struggle to meet student’s needs. The PC government has not been a good partner. As the auditor general of Manitoba recently reported, only 15 per cent of school leadership agrees with the statement that the PC government is taking appropriate action to help our kids to recover from the pandemic.
I have also heard a lot from families concerned about affordability. Inflation is really making it more difficult for many people and wages are just simply not keeping up. That’s why I was disappointed to learn that the PC government plans for this fall will keep Manitoba with the second-lowest minimum wage in the country. Like many people, we want a living wage so that no one working full time has to live in poverty.
As your MLA, I have been focused on the priorities of Wolseley, which reflect the needs of most Manitobans — health care, education, affordability, and action on climate change and reconciliation.
Manitobans were looking for hope in the 2022 budget — hope for health care, hope for an economic recovery and hope for a better future for their kids, but this budget let Manitobans down. Action on reconciliation demands investments in housing, health care, mental health, and education to help repair the damage of the past, but also to establish good opportunities, good health and well-being for Indigenous people going forward.
Premier Stefanson cut funding to hospitals, emergency rooms and front-line workers and did not set a timeline to clear the surgical backlog. Critical areas of our hospitals have vacancy rates of 20 per cent or more. Funding below inflation is not going to address the challenges faced in our hospitals and emergency rooms or the long wait time for an ambulance.
Budget 2022 fails to keep life affordable for regular families, as Hydro bills and the cost of everyday essentials increase. At the same time, this government has refused to raise the minimum wage, which is soon to be the lowest in the country. Most Manitobans who work for minimum wage are adults and many are women with children, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They are also the ones who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
These past two years have been tough on all of us. Manitobans are looking for some hope and for a brighter future. The Legislative session resumed in March and our caucus has been hard at work introducing new legislation to help make life more affordable and equitable. NDP MLAs have introduced private member bills to address pay equity in the workplace, to provide menstrual care products for free in schools, and to protect renters from unfair rent increases.
We know that many of you are struggling with our broken health-care system, waiting in pain while the surgery backlog gets worse. Many of you are health-care workers, burned out and tired of being ignored throughout the pandemic. The Progressive Conservative government introduced its budget on April 12. Our team asked them to fix the health-care system. The government needs to hire more nurses and front-line health care workers, to end the surgery and testing backlog and to improve seniors care so Manitobans can age with dignity.
I know that many Wolseley constituents are also concerned about the health impacts of Bill 22 which is on the government’s current legislative agenda. This bill amends the environment act, which regulates the use of pesticides and bans cosmetic use of certain chemicals from municipal and residential lawns. The planned amendments will also permit the unrestricted sale of these pesticides at retail outlets.
Most provinces have legislation similar to the current law in Manitoba, but we are the only province moving backwards on this issue. This raises significant concerns for young families worried about the health of their children or pets playing on lawns or in municipal parks. Repealing this legislation is a move that goes against the advice of the Canadian Cancer Society and the Manitoba College of Family Physicians, among others.
We returned to the Legislature in late November for a short session made historic by the reading of a land acknowledgement that will forever remain a part of the daily rituals of the Legislative Assembly.
I am proud to serve in the Legislature as part of a team that includes five Indigenous MLAs, all of whom helped to get us to this place. Wab Kinew is the first Indigenous leader of a political party in Manitoba. Amanda Lathlin was the first First Nations woman ever elected to the Manitoba Legislature.
Nahanni Fontaine is the first Indigenous house leader. Bernadette Smith and Ian Bushie are also strong Indigenous leaders; Bernadette has an MMIWG family member and Ian is the first sitting MLA to live on reserve and to previously have served as chief of a First Nation.
Land acknowledgments matter because they keep us thinking about and talking about the history of our province and our country. They matter because they commemorate Indigenous peoples’ relationship to the land and the fact that colonization has not and cannot erase their connection to the land.
Although many of us are returning to a near-normal life thanks to vaccinations, Manitobans continue to struggle with changed circumstances and uncertainty, owing to the pandemic.
However, during the toughest months of the pandemic, the Progressive Conservative government made things even harder through health-care cuts, wage freezes, interference in bargaining, and the looming threat to the public education system through Bill 64.
We returned to the legislature in the fall, and I’m so glad to report that the government withdrew Bill 64, along with the four other bad bills the Manitoba NDP delayed last spring. The government’s withdrawal of these bills is a direct result of citizen action. Bill 64 was defeated because of your front-lawn signs, participation in town halls, and emails and letters to government.
Later in the session, I voted against the budget implementation bill that cut funding for health care and other government services. I also had the chance to speak out on behalf of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association. Government interference in bargaining impacts recruitment and retention of staff, which has a real and negative impact on students’ education.
I’ve heard from a lot of people over the summer concerned about unhoused folks who are staying in Wolseley public spaces including many of our parks and along the river bank.
Most people I talk to are compassionate and concerned for the safety and well-being of everyone in our community. Others are angry and frustrated about violence, theft and property damage.
Everyone in Manitoba should have a safe place to live with dignity and access to the services they need.
The growing number of makeshift shelters in our city is a symptom of much deeper provincial and federal policy problems on housing, poverty, and homelessness.
This summer our beautiful blue prairie sky has been largely hidden by the dull, grey haze of forest fire smoke.
Forest fires affect all Manitobans. Those near the fires live in constant fear of losing their homes and being forced to evacuate. For many this summer, that fear has become a reality. Those of us in urban areas such as Wolseley are also affected, though in different ways.
Many of us love to spend our summers in nature. Whether hiking, camping, or going to the cottage is your passion, fires restrict where we can travel and what kind of activities we can engage in.
Many people think Manitoba is relatively safe from the impacts of climate change, but this is not the case.
Now that public health restrictions are slowly easing thanks to Manitobans’ commitment to getting vaccinated, Wolseley families are looking forward to a great summer of safely reconnecting with loved ones and enjoying everything our beautiful province has to offer.
Unfortunately, the joys of summer will be dampened by the PC government yet again making life less affordable for Manitobans.
We recently learned that the Progressive Conservative government is planning to raise Manitoba Hydro rates 2.5 per cent each year for the next three years and is once again going around the Public Utilities Board to avoid giving Manitobans any input.
This comes after already raising rates by 2.9 per cent in December 2020 – also without any PUB oversight – meaning Hydro rates for Wolseley families will be going up 5.4 per cent in less than a year.
This past legislative session has been unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we do our jobs as MLAs, both in the chamber and engaging in our communities.
I look forward to the day that we can all gather again, and until then I hope I can help keep you informed about what’s going on in your Legislature.
I think many people in Wolseley were disappointed by the number of bad bills brought forward by the PCs this year. During the pandemic, when Manitobans needed to feel supported and safe, this government continued to cut services that matter to you and your family and only prioritized their own political needs.
At the end of May, the PCs used their majority to pass a record number of bills. This includes Bill 33, which gives the Minister of Education the power to decide which post-secondary programs should have higher tuition than others. Bill 47 opens the door for the privatization of childcare. Bill 71 is a massive tax giveaway for wealthy Manitobans on the backs of regular families.
Just about every family in Manitoba has faced new financial hardships since the onset of COVID-19. Low-income families in Wolseley have been hit hard, many working frontline jobs and putting themselves at risk to afford rent and groceries. Now the PCs are leaving them even further behind.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve heard from many in our community who are worried about increases to their rent. It’s no wonder why: last year, every single above guideline rent increase that Manitoba landlords applied for was granted by the Residential Tenancies Branch, with no exceptions. At an apartment block on Wolseley Ave, renters were faced with a $300 above guideline increase in the fall.
It’s not just these increases making life harder for renters, though. As renters continue struggling to make ends meet, the Pallister government is now forcing them to take an additional $700 hit with their Bill 71.
This legislation puts big cheques into the pockets of the most well-off Manitobans while slashing benefits for renters. It will decrease the $700 tax credit that all renters in Manitoba currently receive by 25 per cent this year, an immediate loss of $175, while eventually phasing out the tax credit altogether. What’s more, these renters’ landlords will receive cheques in the mail for 10 per cent of their education property taxes on every property they own this year — potentially thousands of dollars, while renters are left worse off.
March 2021 was our first month back in session at the Legislature this year and there’s already lots going on. It’s very important to me to keep our community informed about this government’s legislative agenda because many of the bills the Pallister government has brought forward will impact the lives of people living in Wolseley.
I know all Manitoba families are concerned about their children’s education. In March, the Pallister government released its K-12 education report along with Bill 64, the Education Modernization Act. This bill is going to dissolve school divisions and consolidate decision-making power with the Pallister government.
This is concerning as it is school divisions, not the province, which took the lead in keeping our kids safe and continuing their learning during COVID-19. The pandemic has shown that we need local leadership in order for students to thrive but this new plan is heading in the opposite direction.
Wolseley residents also very concerned about Bill 57, the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act. Bill 57 gives the government power to levy significant fines against Manitobans who choose to protest in areas deemed “critical infrastructure” by the provincial government, which includes grocery stores, personal care homes, banks, and even the Manitoba Legislature. This is an unconstitutional attack on Manitobans’ freedom of assembly and an attempt to silence Indigenous land protectors and climate activists - that’s why we’ve committed to delay Bill 57 from becoming law.
When it comes to climate change, we have run out of time to delay action. I know many of us in Wolseley are deeply concerned about ensuring the habitability of our planet and are willing to make drastic changes to our society to protect the future of our children and grandchildren.
One of those changes we have to make is kicking our carbon dependency. Carbon pricing is a well-established and proven strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The federal carbon pricing plan, if approved past 2023, will see the carbon price increase $15 per year starting in 2023, rising to $170 per tonne of pollution in 2030. Most of these funds will be returned to consumers and the remaining revenue will be reinvested in Canada’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, incentives for purchasing zero-emission vehicles, home retrofits, and investments in natural capital like trees, wetlands, and agricultural lands.
Here in Manitoba, the Premier has continuously flip-flopped on carbon pricing - indecision we can’t afford in a crisis. He committed to carbon pricing in his 2016 campaign, then promptly refused to sign onto the federal plan. In 2017, he introduced the Made in Manitoba Green Plan with a flat $25 carbon price, but abandoned it one year later. Pallister then proceeded to waste taxpayers’ money with a lengthy court challenge of the federal carbon price, which is still ongoing. In March 2020 he reintroduced the $25 price, pending a one per cent reduction in the PST, but this has been deferred owing to COVID-19.
The fall sitting of the Legislature came to a close in December and we don’t return until March, so I’d like to take this opportunity to report back to the people of Wolseley on the events of the past few months.
The political process should be accessible and transparent to all Manitobans and I am grateful to have this platform to share information with constituents.
My top priorities as a legislator are to stand up for Wolseley constituents, all Manitobans, and to fulfill my role as environment and climate change critic.
The Pallister government continues to disregard the environment — except for when it can profit from it. The most recent example of this is the premier’s move to privatize provincial parks by selling off cottage lots on park land. This is a slippery slope towards taking park lands out of the hands of Manitobans, leaving our parks vulnerable to exploitation. Provincial parks are valuable sources of both recreation and carbon sequestration, something we all benefit from. I will not stand by and allow the government to privatize such valuable ecological and social resources.
Over the summer months, I reached out to you to hear your needs and experiences of living in the various communities in the Wolseley constituency.
Our community needs survey ran from July through the middle of September and was conducted online, over the phone and in person through some community service agencies.
The response was amazing. Constituents were generous with their time and shared a lot about their experiences, their needs and their concerns for fellow community members.
I heard that you are looking to your representatives to provide more support for unhoused members of our community, a strategic plan to dismantle racism, accessible mental health supports, addiction treatment and solutions that get to the root cause of addiction, as well as requests for support to increase safe routes for biking and walking and more tree care to help preserve and replenish our amazing tree canopy.
This year’s return to school was quite different and I have heard concerns from many parents, educators and students about the weeks and months ahead.
I was so relieved that pressure on government from our official opposition team, together with the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and parents led to masks being mandated for students in grades 4 to 12.
As we move back into school and fall season a number of socially distanced events have recently taken place or on the horizon.
First up is the annual Pride Run. I have participated in this run as a volunteer since its inception, but this year I took part by walking on my own, raising awareness and funds.