Wednesday, May 5, 1993

The House met at 1:30 p.m.








Mrs. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Second Opposition):  Mr. Speaker, I beg to present the petition of J.L. Meyer, Dale Julius, Darryl Julius and others urging the government of Manitoba to consider keeping the Misericordia Hospital open as an acute care facility.

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Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood):  Mr. Speaker, I beg to present the petition of Nadine Claeys, Shannon Francey, Claudette Gagnon and others requesting the Minister of Health (Mr. Orchard) to consider restoring the Children's Dental Program to the level it was prior to the 1993‑94 budget.




Mr. Speaker:  I have reviewed the petition of the honourable member (Mr. Plohman).  It complies with the privileges and the practices of the House and complies with the rules (by leave). Is it the will of the House to have the petition read? [agreed]

Mr. Clerk (William Remnant):  The petition of the undersigned citizens of the province of Manitoba humbly sheweth that:

       WHEREAS Manitoba has the highest rate of child poverty in the country; and

       WHEREAS over 55,000 children depend upon the Children's Dental Program; and

       WHEREAS several studies have pointed out the cost savings of preventative and treatment health care programs such as the Children's Dental Program; and

       WHEREAS the Children's Dental Program has been in effect for 17 years and has been recognized as extremely cost‑effective and critical for many families in isolated communities; and

       WHEREAS the provincial government did not consult the users of the program or the providers before announcing plans to eliminate 44 of the 49 dentists, nurses and assistants providing this service; and

       WHEREAS preventative health care is an essential component of health care reform.

       WHEREFORE your petitioners humbly pray that the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba may be pleased to request the Minister of Health (Mr. Orchard) consider restoring the Children's Dental Program to the level it was prior to the 1993‑94 budget.




Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister of Environment):  Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the Supplementary Information for Legislative Review, 1993‑1994 Departmental Expenditure Estimates for the Department of Environment.


Introduction of Guests


Mr. Speaker:  Prior to Oral Questions, may I direct the attention of honourable members to the Speaker's Gallery, where we have with us this afternoon the Honourable Bob Mitchell, the Saskatchewan Minister of Justice, and the Honourable Eldon Laudermilk, the Saskatchewan Minister of Gaming.

       On behalf of all honourable members, I would like to welcome you here this afternoon.

       Also present with us this afternoon, we have from the Westwood Collegiate, fifty Grade 11 students, under the direction of Mr. Richard Ford.  This school is located in the constituency of the honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism (Mr. Stefanson).

       On behalf of all honourable members, I would like to welcome you here this afternoon.

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Net Family Income

Provincial Comparisons


Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition):  Mr. Speaker, my question is to the First Minister.

       Yesterday, Stats Canada confirmed what many Canadians were feeling, that their real family income had declined, and it declined in fact in 1991 by some 2.6 percent.  We noted that in the 1990 budget, the Premier and his ministers had said that Manitoba will feel the consequences of their economic policy, and in fact, we will lead the nation in terms of economic performance in 1991.

       Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we see that the family income declines in Manitoba are double that of the national average.

       I would like to ask the Premier why his economic policies have led to a decline in family income in 1991 based on the stats that were released yesterday, more than double that of the national average of Canada under Conservative policies here in Manitoba.

Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier):  Mr. Speaker, I know the member may not recall this so I will refresh him, that 1991 was the year the government froze public sector wages for some 45,000 public servants which, obviously, is a very high percentage of the workforce.  Along the way, as well, because of our strong intent to get inflation down and to keep the burden off the taxpayers of Manitoba, other private sector employers followed suit.  Indeed, during that year, we had one of the lowest increases in salary and wage levels in a long, long time.  That is the single greatest factor vis‑a‑vis Manitoba versus other provinces.

       I might say, of course, the news that flows from that, which is positive news, is the news we had from Statistics Canada that indicated that in 1992 and '93, the net after‑tax income of Manitobans would be increasing by $600 million in their pockets to spend as a result of this government not raising taxes, not raising the tax rates on personal taxes and in fact lowering personal taxes by 2 percent in its 1989 budget‑‑$600 million more for Manitoba taxpayers to spend, massively increasing their disposable income over that of all of the other provinces in Canada as a result of those efforts that we had to, regrettably, put in place in 1991.

Mr. Doer:  Mr. Speaker, the Premier has obviously not been briefed on the statistics, as many other provinces also had wage freezes in the public sector in the same year, in 1991.  The family income decline in Manitoba was 6.2 percent.  That was last place, just like the economic performance was last place in 1991.

       Why were we in eighth place in 1989?  Why were we in ninth place in terms of family income in 1990?  Why are we now going down to last place, dead last, in 1991, under the Filmon economic policies that are killing this province, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Filmon:  The member does not understand that you can do what New Democrats do and that is to increase the incomes‑‑I do not mean Saskatchewan New Democrats, who are doing a good job.  They are doing an excellent job; they understand economic reality. They are responsible, Mr. Speaker‑‑totally different from the irresponsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition and his people, who would raise public sector wages and then tax more from all the taxpayers and leave the net disposable income at the lowest levels in Canada.

       That is why, as I say, Stats Canada, a month or so ago, put out the figures that said because we have frozen tax rates and in fact reduced personal income tax rates in this province, that $600 million more of disposal after‑tax income will be in the hands of taxpayers in this province in 1993, the largest per capita increase of any province in Canada.

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Mr. Doer:  Mr. Speaker, if we took all the forecasts from this Premier, his selective forecasts‑‑next year we will be first in the country; the year after we will first in the country; we will be, we might be, perhaps we will be.

       I am talking about bottom‑line results, last‑place results, dead last in terms of the private sector investment in 1991, dead last in manufacturing investment in 1991, dead last in construction starts in 1991.  Now we see the results‑‑dead last in family income, last place.

       My question to the Premier is:  Why are we going from eighth place to ninth place to 10th place?  Why are we behind every other province?  Why are we way behind any other western Canadian province?  Why are we below the national average?  Why are you performing in last place in all these major economic indicators?

Mr. Filmon:  Mr. Speaker, again, I repeat, we took the difficult choices in 1991 to freeze public sector wages, despite the fact‑‑[interjection] No, they did not.  You do not even understand that.  The member opposite does not understand.

       The fact of the matter is, we took the difficult choices so that we would protect all of the taxpayers of Manitoba, not just the people whom the member opposite speaks for when he was president of the MGEU.  He brings those arguments into the House; he fights against public‑sector wage reductions‑‑but in doing it, we have done what is best for all Manitobans.

       The proof of the pudding is what Stats Canada put out a month ago, which says there will be $600 million more after‑tax net income in the hands of all Manitobans to spend, the highest increase of any province in the country.  That is what Manitobans want, Mr. Speaker, and that is what they are getting under this administration.


Child and Family Services Agencies

Impact Funding Reduction


 Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows):  Mr. Speaker, last year this government cut funding to the Fight Back Against Child Abuse Campaign.  The government did this even though the organization had dedicated volunteers who raised thousands of dollars fighting child abuse.  Despite petitions signed by thousands of Manitobans, including workers in the field, the Minister of Family Services repeatedly refused to budge on this issue.  Now, over 180 Child and Family Services staff have written to the minister telling him that the cuts in service are going to put more children at risk.

       Does the minister now acknowledge that these cuts are counterproductive and do indeed put more children at risk?

Hon. Harold Gilleshammer (Minister of Family Services):  Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated to the member before and in Estimates in the last few days, I had the opportunity to meet with the presidents of the agencies and the executive directors of the agencies.

       They recognized that in society at this time there was less money available and that the government would be making a slightly smaller contribution to the agencies.  They accepted that challenge, and the basic services provided by the agencies will be continued.

Mr. Martindale:  Mr. Speaker, it is true, I did ask questions of this minister in Family Services Estimates, and his responses were totally inadequate.  Today's newspaper story verifies‑‑

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.  The honourable member for Burrows, with your question, please.

Mr. Martindale:  Does this minister agree, since once again, the director of the Winnipeg Child and Family Services agency has said that his staff will not be able to provide the services to children they are mandated to provide and he shares the concern of the staff‑‑does the minister now agree with that statement?

Mr. Gilleshammer:  Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled by the contradiction the member is putting forward.  The other day he was complimenting the minister and the department on being able to provide those services for Manitobans.

       The board and the staff of the agency obviously have decisions to make.  The primary function of the agency is the protection of children, and there are no children at risk due to these funding cuts.

Mr. Martindale:  Will the minister agree that with 3,000 fewer hours of staff to provide service and with cuts to preventative programs, the elimination of a grant for volunteer co‑ordinators, that fewer staff resources are being provided, particularly for prevention, and this is going to mean more costly costs at the other end of the system when more children are apprehended and taken into care?

       Will the minister agree that this is the long‑term outcome and that more children are at risk?

Mr. Gilleshammer:  Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, in our meetings with the board members and the staff of the agencies, they recognize that there are changing times out there.  They are aware that some of the funding will be reduced, but the basic services of the agency will be proceeded with.

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Chemical Warehouse‑Fisher Branch

 Public Hearings


Mr. Paul Edwards (St. James):  Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment.

       Yesterday, I raised concerns about the government's desire to fast‑track the Assiniboine River diversion project, and today, Mr. Speaker, regrettably, I have to raise yet another project with this minister in which the minister is attempting to fast‑track approval through the department.

       The proposal for a chemical warehouse and fertilizer storage facility in Fisher Branch was spoken about by an expert in the Water Resources branch of this government, and the quote is as follows:  Manitoba Pool could not have chosen a worse site in Manitoba if they had tried.

       That is the statement from the Water Resources expert in this government's Natural Resources branch.

       My question for the minister:  Why would that type of opinion be expressed by the government's own experts?  Is this government fast‑tracking this process and refusing to hold any public hearings on this issue?

Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister of Environment):  Mr. Speaker, it is very seldom that the environmental process is accused of being very fast, but I want to assure you and assure the member that is certainly not the case.

       The fact is, we are still waiting for some information from Manitoba Pool Elevators.  The department has recommended that hearings not be held based on the information that has been brought forward, but we have a number of appeals that have brought information forward subsequent to that, and no final decision has been made.

Mr. Edwards:  Mr. Speaker, the process is fast when you ignore most of it with the complicity of the government.

       Now, Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister, again, supplementary question:  What evidence is he relying on that supports the siting of this facility when no environmental assessment has been done by the proponent, and the proponent, Mr. Arason, admitted on February 4, 1993, that the company had made some mistakes in getting approvals from provincial and municipal governments and that they probably in the final analysis did not go as far as they should have?

Mr. Cummings:  Mr. Speaker, I hope the member is not implying that the Department of Environment should also take over the responsibility for planning, because one of the first mistakes that was made in this project was that the planning process was not fully completed in terms of their desire to get on the site and do some work.

       I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that this is, as I recall, an elevator building, and with it potentially would be associated fertilizer storage and potentially chemical storage.  The company can well not proceed with all aspects of that and there may well be some separation of that, and that may in the end be the deciding factor in what process this project goes through.

Mr. Edwards:  Mr. Speaker, this government has approved without any public hearings the chemical warehouse and the fertilizer storage, so let not this minister try to distinguish those aspects of the point.

       My final question for the minister, Mr. Speaker:  Why, when this has been such a divisive issue in that community, will the minister not do what is sensible and prudent and hold public hearings, clear the air, hear all of the facts and hear the people who have a direct interest in this project and in living in that community?

Mr. Cummings:  Mr. Speaker, obviously, the potential Leader of the Liberal Party has been out ferreting out whatever environmental issues he can on his rural tours.

       I have been dealing with the member from the official opposition who represents that area in terms of exchange of information, and, frankly, the assumption that conclusions have been reached on this project seems to me to be overstating his position.

       I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there are requests for additional information that have not yet been answered that will drive the decision.


Emergency Room Physicians



Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan):  Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the government on reversing its position of yesterday and appointing a mediator to deal with the doctors' emergency room situation.

       Because this is such an important issue dealing with public safety, I would like to ask the minister today to advise us when the mediation process is going to commence and whether or not the government as well will be at the bargaining table or only the hospitals negotiating at arm's length of the government.

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Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, I realize my honourable friend wants to attempt to take some credit.  My honourable friend made the suggestion but I think clearly the engagement of Wally Fox‑Decent yesterday when negotiations were ongoing would have been improper, but given that statements made indicate an indefinite period of time for resolution, government decided that we would attempt to facilitate the process and have Mr. Fox‑Decent help.

       Mr. Speaker, I would hope that we can commence the process today.  That depends on agreement by the MMA to accept the services of Mr. Fox‑Decent, and I believe if he is available, certainly we are.  In the event that later today that does not occur, then certainly tomorrow is a very, very definite possibility.

Mr. Chomiak:  I thank the minister for answering the first part of my question.

       The second part is:  Who is at the negotiating table on behalf of the government?  Is it the hospitals or is it the government together with the hospitals that will be at the negotiating table with respect to this mediation process?

Mr. Orchard:  Mr. Speaker, let us not advance one issue before another.  First of all, now, maybe a decision or maybe acceptance of Mr. Wally Fox‑Decent has been made by the MMA, but as of approximately 1:30 that was not the case.

       Should agreement be made, then we will have to make the decision as to whether we wish to be actively at the table or whether we would simply have the parties resume with the advantage of having Mr. Fox‑Decent, who has, I think, a fairly substantial track record, was instrumental in resolving the last strike by doctors in the province and achieved a resolution at that time with the MMA.

Mr. Chomiak:  Mr. Speaker, given that evasive answer, there is no wonder that there is a strike going on.

       My final supplementary to the minister is:  Can the government outline what their position is specifically concerning the agreement the doctors thought they had reached with the government last December, what the government position is with respect to that agreement?

       The Premier said they were close; the minister has not taken a position; the doctors were convinced there was an agreement. Where are they at with respect to that agreement?  What is outstanding?

Mr. Orchard:  Again, I want to caution my honourable friend that neither he, as an MLA of a union‑supported party should, nor should I, engage in negotiations, which my honourable friend is trying to do.  But I will reiterate for my honourable friend the three points that I made earlier today.

       Firstly, contrary to some stated allegations, the financial commitment by government has not changed, despite the fact that in many areas over the last number of months we have reduced financial commitments in a number of areas reflective of the serious financial situation this province, this nation, finds itself in.  We have not reduced our financial commitment.  It remains the same.

       Secondly, Sir, I hope that there is agreement to Wally Fox‑Decent to act in the capacity he did in 1990 to end the strike, and, thirdly, I would hope that the MMA asks the striking emergency room doctors to return to work in anticipation of a resolution with Mr. Wally Fox‑Decent's able assistance.


PostSecondary Education

Student Financial Assistance


 Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley):  Mr. Speaker, yesterday at three o'clock, in what is becoming known as the Tory bad news hour, the Minister of Education announced that she is cutting funding to students by a further $2.3 million and eliminating student bursaries.

       Would the minister tell us whom she consulted with before making such a significant change and would she tell us where it fits with Duff Roblin's university review and, frankly, is there any point in having a review if she is making these weekly ad hoc cuts to post‑secondary education?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training):  Mr. Speaker, the question shows how very little my colleague the critic knows about the announcement yesterday.

       She seems to feel that the only post‑secondary students are those students who are university students, and I would like to tell her, for her information, that post‑secondary students include university students, college students, students in training programs and vocational programs.

Ms. Friesen:  I am flabbergasted by the reply when my question was‑‑

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.

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Ms. Friesen:  Will the minister tell us the impact of these changes on rural Manitoba, particularly on Brandon University, where many of those students, a very high proportion of those students, are on some kind of social assistance?

       Could she table the report that I presume her department has done?

Mrs. Vodrey:  Mr. Speaker, we have maintained access for the supplementary assistance through Manitoba Student Financial Assistance but we have now made that into a guaranteed loans program.

       However, Mr. Speaker, we have also maintained for those most needy students a Study Assistance portion, which would be the third supplementary level for students.  Students would first apply for the first supplementary level, being the Canada Student Loan; the second supplementary being Manitoba Student Financial Assistance; and the third supplementary level being the issue of Study Assistance.

Ms. Friesen:  Well, now we have heard the parroting of the news release again.

       I would like to ask the minister:  Has she made any effort to discuss the impact of these changes in northern Manitoba, and did she in particular discuss this with the economic commission of northern Manitoba?

Mrs. Vodrey:  Mr. Speaker, I maintain, to the honourable member, that this allows access to supplementary assistance for post‑secondary students.  Perhaps the other choices the member would have preferred would have maintained the same amount of money, had students apply for bursaries on a first‑come, first‑serve basis and have a large number of students unable to have any supplementary access, or perhaps, the other alternative the member would have liked would have been to reduce the amount of money available.

       Instead, in terms of fairness, we have introduced a program which still allows access to that supplementary funding for post‑secondary students.


Emergency Room Physicians

Strike Justification


Mr. Gulzar Cheema (The Maples):  Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

       The minister has said in reply to the member for Kildonan (Mr. Chomiak) that the government has not changed the financial position.  Can the minister then tell us what is the major cause of the strike today?

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, if I knew that answer, there would not be a strike, and I am not trying to be facetious.  The financial commitment made by government has not changed.  There is one issue which I am not going to divulge because it is a bargaining issue that we are definitely opposed to that is being proposed by the MMA.

       We think that proposal will sound very reasonable to Manitobans in the resolution of this dispute.  Mr. Speaker, we have maintained our commitment, and I say that was not the easiest task before government, given significant reductions in transfer payments, EPF, adjustments to the per capita formulas, et cetera.

       So we maintained that commitment because we recognized that this group of physicians on salary was not adequately compensated in comparison to other opportunities in the nation.




Mr. Gulzar Cheema (The Maples):  Mr. Speaker, the patients are saying, well, the minister has a commitment, the MMA has a commitment, so what is the problem then.

       Mr. Speaker, they want to know whether they are going to get into another seven or eight days of strike, and we want to know from the minister, what are the main issues which are impending so that at least patients can know where to go.

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, with the hoped‑for agreement of Mr. Fox‑Decent to undertake the role that he did to achieve a resolution in 1990 of a strike, I would hope that with that process in check, Manitobans, Winnipeggers would know where to go, and that is to the emergency rooms with emergency physicians returned to their jobs in the confidence that Wally Fox‑Decent, in his very skillful role, can achieve a resolution which has seemed to have eluded the two parties to date, even though the financial mandate and commitment by government has remained consistent.


Patient Safety


Mr. Gulzar Cheema (The Maples):  Mr. Speaker, can the Minister tell us if, for the last nine days, there has been any major disaster, any impending disaster?  If not, then if there is no resolution of the problem, the weekend is coming, can the minister assure the patients that the proper quality care will be provided?  Then the Department of Health has to take some responsibility, because it is already two weeks into the strike.

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier in the week, the circumstance in terms of the two teaching hospitals, St. Boniface and Health Sciences Centre, they were able to cope.  Certainly there were circumstances where there was delayed provision of medical attention.  Compared to the normal circumstance, certainly that is not a satisfactory circumstance.

       That, of course, is always the difficulty you have when there is a strike by any care professional.  You certainly are not going to provide care in the optimum way that you would expect. However, the system has been able to cope to date.  I reiterate, with the hope for utilization of Wally Fox‑Decent, there is really no reason why emergency room physicians would not return to work for the weekend.

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Chemical Warehouse–Fisher Branch

Public Hearings


Ms. Marianne Cerilli (Radisson):  Mr. Speaker, with respect to the proposed fertilizer chemical storage facility near Fisher Branch, I have letters from Manitoba Cattle Producers' Association, Environment Canada weather station, the government's own policy co‑ordination branch of the Department of Natural Resources.  There are also aboriginal communities and farmers who are asking for a public hearing on this development.

       I would ask the Minister of Environment, why is he and the department insistent on not having a public hearing on this project?

Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister of Environment):  Mr. Speaker, the answer that I gave a few minutes ago is precisely the answer.  If you are talking about the Fisher Branch project, I still have information on my desk that has been brought in some cases subsequent to the original advertising of the proposal.  We also have not received all of the final information from the company. Decisions will be based on that when that information arrives.

Ms. Cerilli:  Is the minister then indicating that they are still open to the possibility of having a public hearing on this project?

Mr. Cummings:  Mr. Speaker, there are certainly possibilities of that, because, as a matter of fact, the Peguis band, among others, has asked for reconsideration of the information that went into‑‑and added additional information into the decision that was made regarding the licensing process.  The licence has not been finalized.  Certainly the information we have asked for from the proponent is not all there.  We will make a decision subsequent to that.


Environmental Assessment


Ms. Marianne Cerilli (Radisson):  Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us, other than having a public hearing, how will an assessment deal with the issues raised by the Department of Natural Resources for an alternative site because it is a sensitive ground water area, or as raised by Environment Canada that the building construction would inhibit a weather station from obtaining wind information?  How is another assessment possibly‑‑

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.

Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister of Environment):  Mr. Speaker, those concerns are all part of any determination on this project.  I have to tell you that there are a number of answers to the very questions that the member raises.  I am not in a position to recount all of those answers by memory, but I can tell you that, in the review of the project, while there were obviously concerns that were raised, there were also a number of answers to those concerns that were presented as well to the regulators who were involved.


Children's Dental Health Program

Funding Reinstatement


Mr. Gregory Dewar (Selkirk):  Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

       On a number of occasions over the past month, we on this side of the House have been trying to get the government to reconsider the cuts to the Children's Dental Program, a program which assists over 60,000 rural children in this province.  In Selkirk, in the Lord Selkirk School Division, a minimum of 250 children will no longer be able to get any dental care as their parents will not be able to pick up the associated costs.

       Does the Minister of Health have any studies justifying these particular cuts, or does he expect school divisions in this province to pick up the cost?

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, in answer to my honourable friend's last question, no, that is not an expectation that government has.  I do not know whether that is an expectation my honourable friend is expressing on behalf of the official opposition, however.  He may want to clarify that.

       Mr. Speaker, I have indicated that the decision to reduce the treatment program was not one easily taken.  It was a $3‑million reduction in budgetary requirements.  I think it is fair to say that the decision as made in Manitoba was not arrived at any easier than a similar decision in our sister province of Saskatchewan.

       Mr. Dewar:  Mr. Speaker, earlier the Premier was praising Saskatchewan.  Saskatchewan reduced the program.  They did not cut it like this particular government.

       Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister:  Why would he cut this program when dentists were charging less than the fee guide price, and many have already stated that the program has resulted in overall dental improvement in children and will eventually lead to the prevention of many of these costly procedures?

Mr. Orchard:  Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why we have retained intact the education prevention part of the program.  That is why, as I have indicated to my honourable friend, this government has flowed substantial dollars into communities in rural and northern Manitoba for the fluoridation of their water supplies in smaller communities.

       Mr. Speaker, I am led to believe that in that area, Manitoba is probably the leading province in Canada in terms of that preventative effort which helps to maintain all individuals' teeth in a healthy condition.  We have maintained the prevention and education component of the program.

Mr. Dewar:  Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister: Rather than spend $4 million on an American health consultant, could this minister keep this program since it benefits over 60,000 children in rural Manitoba?

Mr. Orchard:  Mr. Speaker, I recognize my honourable friend is attempting to be a knowledgeable individual, but he is doomed to failure if he does not recognize that the opportunities presented by the contract that St. Boniface, Health Sciences Centre and this government have engaged in represent a very significant opportunity to maintain level of service in our hospitals, to maintain and enhance‑‑in fact, enhance‑‑the amount of time caregivers spend with patients and present a significant opportunity for budgetary savings in a very difficult time.

       Alternatives such as other provinces have expressed would be the mode of the day, were we not to engage‑‑

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.


Rural Gasification Line Expansion


Ms. Rosann Wowchuk (Swan River):  Mr. Speaker, when this government presented their throne speech, we were pleased that with one section, they were following our advice, and that was to look at gasification of rural Manitoba.  However, that appears to be only an empty promise or a throne speech statement.

       In light of the fact that there is a desperate need for jobs in rural Manitoba, particularly with the many cuts that we have been seeing by this government, can the minister responsible for gasification let us know when we will see an expansion of lines in rural Manitoba?

Hon. Leonard Derkach (Minister of Rural Development):  Mr. Speaker, yes, I am pleased that in the throne speech there was mention made about the importance of at least doing a survey and a review of whether or not it would be possible for us to expand natural gas services to many of the rural communities that have expressed interest in receiving that service.

       Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that between the Department of Energy and Mines and my department, we have indeed launched on that kind of a review.  There have been some contacts made with communities, with suppliers of natural gas, to see whether or not it is in fact feasible and whether there is enough interest in many of our rural communities to move ahead with natural gas services to those communities.

Ms. Wowchuk:  Well, it looks like we are just going to have a review, because the minister knows there is a tremendous amount of interest in the Interlake and in the Swan River area.

       I want to ask the minister, since the Swan River people are interested in building an ethanol plant, but it is essential that they have an alternate source of energy, what answers has he got for those people?  Can they go ahead with their feasibility on ethanol, or is there no hope from this government on natural gas?

Mr. Derkach:  Mr. Speaker, the member for Swan River was at the very meeting that I was at with regard to the possibility of the location of an ethanol plant in Swan River.  Indeed, at that time, she heard me indicate to the community that this government was moving ahead with the necessary work that is required to do before we could say yes or no to natural gas in any community.

       Mr. Speaker, that work is ongoing at the present time, and as we reach decision points, we will certainly be informing communities and getting their participation in the projects.

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Ms. Wowchuk:  Will the minister admit that they are prepared to drain money out of rural Manitoba, they will take all the money through VLTs, but they are not prepared to invest in rural Manitoba to have some economic development?  When are we going to have some investment in rural Manitoba?

Mr. Derkach:  Mr. Speaker, about a week and a half ago we hosted a forum on economic development in rural Manitoba.  I was a little saddened when there was not any representation from the New Democratic Party at that forum.

       Although from time to time we have questions about rural Manitoba in the House, Mr. Speaker, certainly, there does not seem to be that interest when we have communities come forward with initiatives.

       Mr. Speaker, we are committed to natural gas in this province as the new lines . . . and as we can afford it.


Point of Order


Ms. Wowchuk:  Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to correct the record when he says we did not attend the meeting.  I would like to inform the House that we did not know about the meeting until two days before.  We were not invited.

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.  The honourable member does not have a point of order.

       It is clearly a dispute over the facts.


Bill 29 Enforcement


Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns):  Mr. Speaker, for three years this government refused to proclaim antisniff legislation that we all agreed to in this Chamber, and felt was good and would make a difference.  The excuse by the Minister of Justice (Mr. McCrae) was that the legislation was not enforceable, even though he never provided any evidence of that.

       Now he has introduced a new bill and we hear from law enforcement agencies, particularly Inspector Lou Spado of the Winnipeg police force, that it looks like there might be some loopholes in it, and I quote:  It looks like we are going to have to prove it was purchased for the purpose of sniffing and if the seller says that he thought it was not going to be purchased for that purpose, then he has got an out.

       I want to ask the Minister of Justice if he will now review his proposals to curb the sale of solvents to minors and put some teeth back into antisniff legislation.

Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Mr. Speaker, we have put teeth into this legislation that was not there before.  I think that when people like the one referred to by the honourable member have a chance to read their briefing materials before making their public statements, we might find that there will be support from law enforcement agencies, because our consultations with the City of Winnipeg Police prior to the reaction yesterday by Inspector Spado was far different.  So we hope that Inspector Spado will read his briefing materials, and we might hear more from him in the future.




Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns):  I want to ask the Minister of Justice if he is prepared to review his proposals to consult widely, as was the case with Bill 91 during the process for which the Minister of Justice himself was involved‑‑will he review that to ensure that this legislation has enough teeth in it to be able to convict those who wrongfully sell solvents to minors?

Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): That is the whole idea, Mr. Speaker.  That is why we have tried to improve on the bill brought forward by the honourable member. The honourable member has to remember, I supported her bill.  I hope she supports this one, because it is not a question of credit.  There is all‑party agreement that we need to do something about this.  So I do not care about the credit.

       I want to help protect children.  So does the honourable member.  So let us put aside all of the politics about who gets all the credit and who gets all the blame and work together to try to help children in this province.

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis:  Mr. Speaker, I am operating on the basis of good faith.  We do want to ensure legislation.


Legal Opinion

Tabling Request


Ms. Judy Wasylycia‑Leis (St. Johns):  I would ask the Minister of Justice if he would agree to table the legal opinion that this government says it had with respect to Bill 91 and the legislation that we passed three years ago.

Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Mr. Speaker, it is my hope to speak in a few moments at second reading and introduce this bill.  I will deal with the differences that exist between the present bill and the one previously, and with all the good faith I can muster.  I am trying to tell the honourable member that we have the genuine view that the bill that she had brought forward, on looking at it subsequent to its passage, we found these problems.

       We agreed with the honourable member's assurances beforehand.  We believed her assurances.  That was a mistake we made, and we have acknowledged that.

       The honourable member wants tabled written legal opinions. What we have in the form of a legal opinion is Bill 29 which is the result of three years of work in putting together a bill that will adequately protect children.

Mr. Speaker:  Order, please.  Time for Oral Questions has expired.




Mr. Speaker:  Prior to getting to Orders of the Day, I believe the honourable member for St. Johns would like to make a nonpolitical statement.  Is there leave? [agreed]

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns):  Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that today is International Midwifery Day and, on behalf of, I hope, everyone in this House, to extend our congratulations to those in Manitoba who have been working on this issue and seeking advances in the area of midwifery for many years.  In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the Manitoba Homebirth Network, to the numerous women's organizations who have been fighting for changes in this regard and to people concerned everywhere about choice with respect to birth.

       Mr. Speaker, the profession of midwifery is about the oldest profession in our society today.  I quote from an individual by the name of Violet McNaughton, who said in 1912:  The practice of midwifery dates back to the beginning of human life in the world.  At the supreme moment of motherhood it is probable that some assistance has always been required and given.  Its history runs parallel to the history of the people and its functions antedate any record we have of medicine as an applied science. To deny its right to exist as a calling is to take issue with the external verities of life.

       Mr. Speaker, today is a time to acknowledge the work done in this area and to indicate our support for those seeking to provide choice and to pledge our commitment today to ensure recognition and respect for midwives in Manitoba.  Thank you.

Mr. Speaker:  I believe the honourable Minister of Health would like leave to make a nonpolitical statement.  Is there leave? [agreed]

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health):  Mr. Speaker, it is always my pleasure to join with my honourable friend in a statement where we offer similar sentiments.  This day is an important day.

       Sir, this government and my ministry is attempting, through the discussions‑‑oh, say, Mr. Speaker, I must apologize.  I was almost going on the verge of politics and introducing an element of politics.  I shall not do that.

       Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that all members of this Legislature would like to see the profession of midwifery formally recognized in this province and formally part of our health care decision.  Certainly, I believe efforts are well underway to lead us to that end goal, which would make this day one of indeed celebration in the future.

Mr. Speaker:  Does the honourable member for Crescentwood have leave to make a nonpolitical statement? [agreed]

Ms. Avis Gray (Crescentwood):  Mr. Speaker, I certainly am pleased, on behalf of my caucus, to join with other colleagues in the Legislature to recognize International Midwifery Day.  I noticed at lunch hour today that there was certainly a lot of interest generated.  They were speaking to a number of individuals who were obviously there to support this worthy cause.

       I think it is important to recognize that midwives certainly are a profession.  It is important that all of us in this House and society certainly treat the midwifery profession as such. They certainly provide a very valuable service to society.

       Midwifery is somewhat newer here in Canada and in North America than it is in other countries across the world.  I would certainly hope, and I hope my colleagues would join with me, that in fact the profession of midwifery continues to receive what it deserves in our society, that is, respect for their profession and that we will continue to work with this profession as we do with other health care professionals to ensure that there is a worthy and a quality service that is being provided to Manitobans.

       I do join with my other colleagues in wishing midwives across this province very well on the International Midwifery Day and also wishing well all of the individuals who have received the service of midwives.  Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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