Headingley Correctional Institution
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, my question is to the Premier (Mr. Filmon). Close to four weeks ago, the Minister of Justice promised Manitobans--in fact, promised Canadians--that inmates responsible for the riot at the Headingley jail would clean up the jail and repair the jail as part of their responsibility.
I would like to ask the Premier, can he inform Manitobans today how many inmates responsible for the Headingley riot have cleaned up the Headingley jail to date?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, as the member knows, there was a decision taken to, first of all, clean up debris which may pose a security risk. That was done by a professional group of cleaners. However, I am happy to tell Manitobans that it is my understanding the first inmate crew is now working at Headingley today.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, the Minister of Justice told Manitobans on April 30 and April 28 that inmates would repair the jail and clean up the jail, the rioters would clean up the jail as early as today or at the latest at the end of the week.
I would like to ask the Premier (Mr. Filmon), again, in light of the fact that the majority of the work has been done by contract companies, in fact no work up until last night was done by the inmates responsible, how can the Premier allow a Minister of Justice to make one promise to the public that inmates responsible will clean up when in fact the truth is that the contract companies have cleaned up and inmates have not cleaned up pursuant to the minister's promise that they would clean up as early as today, on April 28, or by the end of the week, on April 30?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Minister of Government Services): The member, in his question, reveals the truth of the old adage that it takes very little skill to tear down. The fact of the matter is that the damage caused in the institution at Headingley did not take a tremendous amount of skill to be caused. There is not a lot of skill among those inmates who caused that damage.
The reality is that there are Manitobans with skills and those people have been used extensively in the repairs to date. The reality is also that our department has been working in co-operation with Corrections to establish repairs and a schedule of repairs. That schedule of repairs involves, wherever possible, the use of inmates' skills, however limited they may be.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, in light of the fact that the Minister of Justice (Mrs. Vodrey) went on national TV saying that the inmates would repair the jail immediately today or by the end of the week, in light of the fact that the Minister of Justice said that the deployment of staffing for security levels at the jail was not an issue, which we know not to be true, in light of the fact the Minister of Justice has said that temporary absences did not accelerate after the riot, which we also know not to be true, in light of the fact that every time the minister talks about barrier walls, we know they were taken out--the Minister of Justice has told Manitobans that they were not taken out--I would like to ask the Premier, when is he going to fire the Minister of Justice so we can have a Minister of Justice who will tell the truth about the safety of Manitobans?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): I know the member opposite wants to make political hay out of this issue, but the fact of the matter is that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Government Services are doing the things that those who expressed concerns about the corrections system and the corrections institutions wanted to be assured of.
They wanted to be assured that they were in safe circumstances. We had extensive consultations with the guards. We had extensive consultations with the union, and the procedures we are following are to do a number of things. One is to restore the institution to its proper form so that we can ensure the safety and security, both of those who are incarcerated there and those who must work there. We are doing what we can to ensure that we are making use of the limited skills and abilities of those who are in those institutions as part of the process.
The member opposite has been told that there are inmates working in the institution today--
An Honourable Member: No.
Mr. Filmon: Working today, Madam Speaker, in that institution. The member opposite may have wished to have it happen sooner. That is--
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Filmon: Madam Speaker, I know the members opposite are very exercised because they are not able to make the kind of political hay that they would wish to on this issue.
The ministers of the government are ensuring that they abide by the responsible thing. Members opposite do not have to be responsible; they can just make political hay. We have ministers who are responsible and are following a procedure that is leading to--[interjection] I think that members opposite do not want an answer to this question.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Early Release--Sexual Offenders
Mr. Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns): Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice.
Last week the minister said that she asked for a full report about the inmates' release following the Headingley jail riot and that that report be on her desk on Thursday morning. Then yesterday the minister said in this Chamber, contradicting her earlier statements, that because of the riot three sex offenders were released.
My question to the minister is, would she confirm or deny information given to us that this number is also untrue?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, I have been dealing with the issues as they have been presented, answering the questions. I had a series of questions posed regarding some inmates. In fact, I believe the member across the way put wrong information forward, speaking about four inmates, and then I had to spend the day clearing up in fact what the release procedures were and why and how these inmates were released. So I was speaking as I spoke on Friday about three inmates who were released under circumstances at the end of sentence and one inmate who was released on temporary absence.
I understand the member across the way had that all wrong.
Mr. Mackintosh: Would the minister, who should understand the difference between the names Peter Warren and Gord Mackintosh, confirm information given to this House that the number of sex offenders released because of the riot was not three, but almost four times that number?
Mrs. Vodrey: Again, yesterday, I was speaking about inmates who were raised--they were actually raised by name. The member was on the other end of the phone, all-agreeing, to my knowledge, with a radio host. That information was not correct; that was the information I was clarifying yesterday.
I will have to check into information regarding how many individuals may have been released either as temporary absences or at end of sentence to find out that number.
Mr. Mackintosh: Would the minister, who has had this information apparently on her desk since Thursday, simply confirm our information? She has the details that only one of these 11, not three, sex offenders had completed his programming, two refused outright and four had dropped out.
Just do the job. Give us the numbers. She has them.
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, I will not confirm information which comes from the member opposite because the member opposite has daily put information which, in fact, to the people of Manitoba has been scandalous. He has put scandalous information forward. He has put totally wrong information forward.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Madam Speaker, on a point of order. The minister was asked a question that was very clear in terms of asking for this information, and this minister of all ministers should not talk about scandalous. The only scandal is the fact that this minister cannot answer a straight question on a very serious matter, the Headingley riot. I would like to ask you to bring her to order and ask her to answer the questions that are being asked by the people of Manitoba.
Madam Speaker: On the point of the order, I believe that the honourable minister was attempting to respond to the question by the honourable member for St. Johns (Mr. Mackintosh), but I would remind the honourable minister to make sure that her response deals with the question asked and is as brief as possible.
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Mrs. Vodrey: As I said, I have brought forward information as it has come to me. I have brought forward information that has been required, in particular, to clarify the wrong information brought forward by the member for St. Johns.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Early Release--Sexual Offenders
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): My questions, too, are for the Minister of Justice. While my side of the House respects compassion, we also value public safety and we now learn that, contrary to the information of yesterday, as many as 11 sexual offenders, only one of whom has taken the counselling necessary for early release, were released after the Headingley riot. Could the minister tell us whether any of these inmates had been incarcerated for offences against children?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): As I said to the member for St. Johns (Mr. Mackintosh), I will look into and gather information regarding the allegations the member has brought forward. However, let me say that the only question ever received from members across the House regarding public safety was whether or not there were enough toys at Portage Correctional Institution.
Ms. McGifford: Madam Speaker, were the names of any of the released offenders forwarded to the Community Notification Advisory Committee?
Mrs. Vodrey: I am pleased that the member references the Community Notification Committee, a committee which her side of the House said was useless, a committee which her side of the House never agreed with, a committee which the member for St. Johns publicly disparaged when their report was tabled.
However, I am very pleased that our government did set up the Community Notification Committee, and I will check and see if they have had any references following the Headingley riot.
Ms. McGifford: On what basis can the minister give this House assurance that these early releases do not pose a danger to our community, or in other words, what supervision and programming has the minister made available to the community and to these released offenders?
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, the members seem to find it difficult that I will in fact go and find the information, make sure I have accurate information and bring it back. The difficulty from their side of the House is that they just continually say whatever they feel like and hope that it makes a story. What I have said is I will go and I will check on any inmates who have been released who may have been incarcerated for sexual offences, and I will find out whether or not those inmates were in fact released on temporary absences or whether or not they were released at the end of sentence. As the member for Osborne knows as well--and we spoke about it in Estimates last year, I am sure we will again this year--there is programming both within the institution and outside of the institution. I am sure the member also knows that when a person's sentence is up, then their sentence is up. That is what the court imposes; that is what we are dealing with.
Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Madam Speaker, four months ago the Minister of Education proposed strike lockout provisions in Manitoba education. Today, she issues a press release entitled Manitoba Students to be Protected from Strike Lockouts, and the great protector, of course, will be this same Minister of Education. I think it offers new highs for Tory scriptwriters. We could look forward to: Premier stays home; Minister of Justice tells it straight; Minister of Health answers questions; or even, Minister of Finance balances budget.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. Does the honourable member for Wolseley have a question?
Ms. Friesen: Madam Speaker, would the Minister of Education confirm that her government's policy is to continue to reduce the funding for public education and then to say, as she has done today to the province's 12,000 teachers, that the consequences of that, those fundamental issues that those teachers face every day in the classroom, can no longer be brought to their own negotiating table?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, a new headline might be, NDP gets facts straight, because I defy the member anywhere to ever find me making a statement that what this government was proposing was strike. What this government did was put out a document that said--[interjection] I would like to answer the question. May I have them be quiet so I can answer.
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I would ask for the co-operation of all members in this Chamber to observe our rules and to ensure that we have decorum, particularly during Question Period.
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, I have to make a correction because we did in fact put out five proposals, one of which was strike lockout, for consideration. We did not promote any one of those proposals, and we made it clear in our original release of the document and in any statements made since then that we had no preconceived notion as to which of those proposals might be one acceptable to Manitobans. Further, we made it very, very clear that we were soliciting other suggestions as well. One of the other proposals we had in that document was a modified form of binding arbitration which we also did not promote but which indeed we finally did accept as the one we are going to accept.
So the member is wrong when she says we were promoting strike. We never did.
Ms. Friesen: Does the Minister of Education see any inconsistency, even hypocrisy, in requiring the incorporation of ability to pay into teacher bargaining and at the same time refusing as she does daily in this House to accept any responsibility, refusing to be accountable for the years of systematic reduction of public funds to public education in Manitoba?
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, I point out, with respect, that funding to education has risen from $660 million to $745 million over the time that we have been in office. I also point out that we have included money now coming from Health, some $450,000 this year for special needs assistance in the classroom, some $250,000 going into Family Services to train paraprofessionals to help special needs students in the classroom and a lot of other things of that nature that have gone into education.
I also indicate, Madam Speaker, that the strike lockout that she referred to earlier was something that the Manitoba Association of School Trustees said, that even though they did not like it, they would be willing to live with that rather than have to endure another year of bargaining where their consistent arguments on ability to pay were not listened to and not allowed to be listened to by the arbitration board. Arbitration panels, as you know, have traditionally said that school boards have unlimited ability to pay because they can always raise taxes to any amount required. That was the problem that the boards had; that is the problem we have now addressed for them, a 10-year-old problem that trustees could not cope with because it was imposed upon them by the province. That inequity we are now going to correct.
Ms. Friesen: Madam Speaker, would the Minister of Education tell us, in determining ability to pay, whether trustees and teachers are to believe her own document which relegates Manitoba to--Manitoba's economic output ranks from sixth to eighth compared to other provinces, or are we to believe the Minister of Finance (Mr. Stefanson) in his Budget Address which claims that Manitoba's economy is steamrollering ahead?
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, I take it from the member's comments that she believes boards should pay whatever is requested regardless of any ability to pay, and I feel that that basic problem is one that they really have had explained to them. I am disappointed that they still believe that school boards do have unlimited ability to pay just because they can keep raising taxes to a limit that has no ceiling to it.
I would ask her, for the sake of everybody involved in education, if she does not want to see massive teacher layoffs, if she does not want to see school boards have their expenditures go increasingly to things other than programming, which she says she supports that she--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, our rules are very clear in terms of answers to questions, and this minister is not following any of our rules. She is not being relevant, she is not being brief or to the point. I would like to ask that you call her to order and also perhaps remind the minister that when you do stand, she is supposed to conclude her answers, because she has been once again in this Question Period standing for significant periods of time, which comes out of Question Period time, after you have stood to ask her to finish her rather lengthy answers to our questions.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order by the honourable member for Thompson, the honourable minister had not consumed the time allowed for her response. That is why I was not on my feet and, in my opinion, the minister was responding to the question asked.
Video Lottery Terminals
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): My question is for the Premier.
As the province has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue coming in from gambling, the Liberal Party has been very strong in trying to get this government to recognize the social negative impact of gambling. In fact, in excess of 35,000 Manitobans have a very serious problem with gambling, and that is even greater when you take into account family and friends that is having an impact on.
My question to the Premier is, does the Premier have any plans whatsoever to reduce the number of VLT machines in our rural and urban communities?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, I find it ironic, or as my former colleague from Morris used to say, passing strange to have this question from the member for Inkster when he not too long ago, when running for the leadership of the Liberal Party, promised to triple the number of casinos in this province if he were the leader of a party and government in this province. Here he was, outwardly promoting more gambling in this province as a major plank in his platform for leadership, and now he is asking about reducing gambling. It does not make sense, but then again neither does the member for Inkster.
Mr. Lamoureux: Madam Speaker, the question is fairly straightforward and we hope that the Premier can actually answer the question. Does this government have any intentions of reducing the number of VLTs in rural Manitoba and urban centres? Is there any intention of this government to do that?
Mr. Filmon: My advice to the member for Inkster is to just stay tuned. The fact is that we are in the process of putting together our policy response to the recommendations of the Desjardins commission and I did indicate at the time the commission was appointed that we would consider very carefully the recommendations from their report. Those recommendations have not yet been fully responded to, and I just invite him to stay tuned.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Madam Speaker, can the Premier then indicate to the House some sort of a time frame that will allow us to get some understanding of exactly what sort of a gaming policy this government has, that it is not ad hoc policy making from this government?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): I think the best example or evidence of the fact that it is not ad hoc is that we are taking time to consider our response, that the Minister responsible for Lotteries (Mr.Stefanson) is preparing analyses that will lead to decisions, policy changes and recommendations, and we will therefore make those decisions over the course of the foreseeable future. As soon as those decisions are made they will be communicated to this House and to the public.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Mr. Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns): My question is to the Minister of Justice. On the day following the Headingley riot the minister went out there and apparently took control, was flailing around and was telling people what to do and when.
In light of that, I would like the minister to tell Manitobans, who made the decision to release prisoners, and would she confirm that she ordered an emergency temporary absence list to be drawn up even before the riot, indeed, in the event of a strike by correctional officers?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, as I have said in the past, the decisions which were made were made by professional correctional officers. I have said that from the very beginning. I said it yesterday, I said it last week and I am saying it again today.
Mr. Mackintosh: Would the minster then confirm to Manitobans that she has no authority over her staff and her department, and did she not know who was on the T.A. list or did she just not care?
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, the only person who does not care in this House is the member for St. Johns who has continued to put information on the record which has often been wrong, totally wrong. I think many Manitobans have now just decided that they do not pay attention to him anymore.
I can tell you that again the decisions were made based upon the criteria of eligibility which was time served and then a criteria based on, for those who had served time, a criteria which Corrections uses on a regular basis that deals with issues such as employability, the place the person might leave, what the person is in the institution for.
Madam Speaker, if I were the one very specifically making those decisions, then he would claim that was political interference. The decisions are made by professional correctional officers.
Mr. Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns): Madam Speaker, would the minister, who does not understand the difference between interference and responsibility, tell this House why she made the promise in front of Headingley jail that the inmates will repair the institution when there are a lack of skills there, there is a danger to the public and she had no authority to make such a statement? Why did she make such a statement without inquiries and consultation?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, the reason that we will have inmates working within the institution to repair the damage, to prepare the institution for people to move back in, is because inmates have to bear some responsibility for the damage caused. We believe that is, in fact, what Manitobans expect. It is what people expect within their families. Manitobans had a right to expect that to occur. So that is the basis for saying that inmates should be the ones who do some of the repair work within the institution to prepare that institution to be reinhabited.
That is exactly the path that the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Pallister) and I have been on--in working with that minister who has been drawing up a list of tasks that inmates will participate in and, to my knowledge, have begun participating in.
Balanced Budget Legislation
Reduction of Ministers' Salaries
Mr. Leonard Evans (Brandon East): Madam Speaker, I have a question for the Premier.
His government asked for a mandate in the last election based on its balanced budget legislation that included pay cuts for ministers if deficits occur. In the Public Accounts committee on May 10, the Provincial Auditor indicated that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Stefanson) should not have applied a one-time $145-million special lotteries transfer to the 1995-96 fiscal year, so that the surplus projected to be $120 million would in fact be a substantial deficit.
In keeping with the requirements of the balanced budget legislation which imposes penalties for deficits, will the Premier arrange to reduce ministers' salaries by 20 percent?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, I cannot believe the hypocrisy of the members opposite who spend all of their time urging the government to spend more money on health care, spend more money on education, spend more money on social services, spend more money on everything and then, at the same time, want to try and support a balanced budget. They did not support the legislation. They voted against the legislation, and now here they are as the great supporters and defenders of balanced budget legislation. I cannot believe the hypocrisy.
Mr. Leonard Evans: Will the Premier confirm that the revenue from the sale of McKenzie Seeds which occurred on December 20, 1994, was transferred to the 1995-96 budget to help show a fictitious surplus and that at the last Public Accounts committee meeting the Provincial Auditor indicated that those revenues should have been in the 1994 fiscal period and not in 1995-96? Will the Premier confirm that his government improperly transferred revenues from 1994 to 1995 for election purposes?
Mr. Filmon: Madam Speaker, the only thing fictitious in this House is the economic statistics that are brought forward by the member for Brandon East.
I would like to read, in part, from a memo from the Acting Provincial Auditor, a memo dated May 21, which was yesterday. It is to the Comptroller of the Department of Finance.
It says: As we discussed earlier today, I would like to summarize the position of the Provincial Auditor's office regarding the accounting policy for lottery revenues recorded in the operating fund. One, consistent with our recommendation in our 1994-95 report to the Legislative Assembly, we believe the full accrual basis for recognizing lottery revenue in the operating fund is the most appropriate basis. We are pleased that the government supports this position and plans to initiate the necessary changes in 1996-97. Our report to the Legislative Assembly for 1995-96 will provide updated comments on this recommendation that reflect our agreement on this issue.
Number two: Because the balanced budget legislation is based on the March 31, 1995, accounting policies of the operating fund and our Auditor's Report thereon does not include a reservation regarding the accounting policy for lottery revenues, we are prepared to issue our opinion for the 1995-96 operating fund without reservation for the accounting treatment of lottery revenues. Signed, Warren Johnson.
I table this for the information of members opposite.
Mr. Leonard Evans: Will the Premier not accept his responsibility and acknowledge that indeed he did have a deficit in 1995-96 and that his ministers should take a pay cut in light of the report of the Dominion Bond Rating Service? That report said that in 1995-96 the government had a large deficit and not a surplus, for the same reasons that the Provincial Auditor gave in the committee meeting. Will the Premier do the honourable thing and reduce the salaries by 20 percent?
Mr. Filmon: I have just read the comments of the Provincial Auditor that refute directly the assertions of the member for Brandon East. He says that they will have an unreserved approval of the presentation of the surplus and of the accounts of the provincial government. That is the definitive word, the word that they seek. Whenever they want an opinion, they say call in the Provincial Auditor and get the Provincial Auditor to take a look at it. That is exactly what has happened, and he refutes the position of the member for Brandon East. He absolutely refutes the position of the member for Brandon East, so I rest my case.
Balanced Budget Legislation
Reduction of Ministers' Salaries
Mr. Tim Sale (Crescentwood): Madam Speaker, that is not a case that is going to rest very well with Manitobans, because they know the hypocrisy of a government that promised a balanced budget, that a Dominion Bond Rating agency and the Provincial Auditor, contrary to what the Premier now says, indicated that money was improperly accounted for under standard accounting processes, and the government changed their accounting processes for '96-97 precisely because they recognized it was improper. This is the government that said, no, we will not sell MTS; no, we will not privatize health care; no, we will not cut Pharmacare, but, yes, we will balance our budget.
Will this Premier not acknowledge that this balanced budget is a sham and reduce the salaries of his cabinet?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Because the member for Crescentwood has difficulty understanding, I will repeat. From the words of the Acting Provincial Auditor: Because the balanced budget legislation is based on the March 31, 1995, accounting policies of the operating fund and our Auditor's Report thereon does not include a reservation regarding the accounting policy for lottery revenues, we are prepared to issue our opinion for the 1995-96 operating fund without reservation for the accounting treatment of lottery revenues. Signed, Warren Johnson.
Madam Speaker, the member for Crescentwood is wrong. He was wrong when he criticized the balanced budget legislation; he is wrong today.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Crescentwood, with a very short supplementary question.
Mr. Sale: Madam Speaker, whom does the Premier really expect Manitobans to believe, an accounting profession that says that it is improper to treat revenue in the way that it has been treated in the past--and that is why they changed it this year--a Dominion Bond Rating agency or a Premier in the middle of an election campaign who made a promise he could not keep?
Mr. Filmon: Madam Speaker, every time the member opposite wants to criticize one of the decisions we make with respect to funding for health care, with respect to funding for social services, with respect to funding for education, he says it is because of the balanced budget legislation, the fact that we are balancing our budget is stopping us from providing those extra funds that he would provide if he were in government.
Now, when the Provincial Auditor confirms that what we are doing is in accordance with the balanced budget legislation, he ignores it and he makes up some other argument that is good in his own mind.
Madam Speaker, he was incompetent when he worked for the government and he is incompetent today, and that is exactly where he stands.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Madam Speaker, on a point of order. The Premier once again is, I believe, engaging in comments that are not parliamentary. I ask you to review his comments and ask the Premier for once to answer questions without stooping to the kind of personal insults that he seems to enjoy. That has no place in the Chamber. I would like to ask you to once again ask the Premier to withdraw his comments.
Mr. Filmon: Madam Speaker, on the same point of order. Time after time after time in this House members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Doer) and the member for St. Johns (Mr. Mackintosh), even today, have referred to ministers on this side as being incompetent, and they have said that without any sanction. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order by the honourable member for Thompson, indeed I will take the point under advisement and I will report back to the House if necessary.
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Madam Speaker: The time for Oral Questions has expired.