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Winnipeg Free Press



Opposition NDP block Manitoba budget for second day

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Manitobans won't get a peek at the Pallister government's 2020 budget until Monday, at the earliest.

For a second consecutive day, the Opposition New Democrats employed procedural tactics Thursday to disrupt proceedings in the legislature, bringing the government's legislative agenda to a halt.

The procedural manoeuvres also delayed the introduction of Finance Minister Scott Fielding's budget, which had initially been scheduled for release Wednesday.

Tory Premier Brian Pallister blasted the NDP strategy Thursday, saying the Opposition should not be playing politics during a global pandemic.

"Blockading the work of the legislature is wrong," he told reporters at his office.

The NDP said its aim was not to block the release of the budget, but to slow a flurry of planned government bills, party Leader Wab Kinew has said, will "do damage to schools, to pensions (and) to jobs."

When the Manitoba legislature convened Thursday at 1:30 p.m., the NDP unsuccessfully sought unanimous agreement to change the order of business in the house to have Fielding deliver his budget speech and table his budget documents.

The Opposition has said its main concern all along has been the more than 20 bills the government is poised to introduce — not the budget itself.

Introduction of bills is generally the first item of business on the assembly's order paper.

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 on Wednesday March 11, 2020. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

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 on Wednesday March 11, 2020. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

Government house leader Kelvin Goertzen said the government was not about to change longstanding rules to accommodate the NDP. He told the legislature the rules and procedures "allow for a democracy to properly function."

He said the NDP proposal would have prevented the health minister the opportunity to update MLAs about the coronavirus outbreak and to answer their questions about the global pandemic.

NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine argued the government could inform the public about the pandemic outside the chamber.

"There is the opportunity for the health minister and the premier himself at any given time, at any given moment, to go outside and give a press conference and to disseminate important information for Manitobans," she said in the legislature.

"Blockading the work of the legislature is wrong." – Premier Brian Pallister

Pallister said the government would continue to attempt to introduce its budget in the usual manner.

"We are going to continue with the business of government and the priorities of Manitobans," he said. "I'd encourage the Opposition to do the same."

While he acknowledged the government had intended to introduce about 20 bills on budget day, he rejected the Opposition's notion it was trying to ram them through the legislature without proper debate.

Manitobans can't learn what's in the bills if they aren't introduced, he said. The passage of bills is a months-long process that includes public hearings, he added.

"The NDP is unwilling apparently to allow presentation of bills they have yet to read," he said. "They're playing on the fears of people who have legitimate fears. They don't need to add illegitimate fears to the mix."

The New Democrats are apparently attempting to stall the introduction of at least some bills until mid-March, after which their passage is not assured this spring, according to house rules.

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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