ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, my question is for the First Minister.
Manitobans are at a point, a fork in the road in terms of public education in this province. We have one way to go, which is a way of treating public education and all partners in public education with respect, with dignity in a co-operative partnership model, and we have a different way to go, a route of confrontation, conflict and divisive policies that sets one partner against another.
In the public hearings across this province, people across this province spoke out loud and clear that they wanted a system of partnership with teachers, trustees, parents, kids and the government. Why has this Premier chosen to ignore again the wishes of the public and chosen the route of confrontation and disrespect for the profession of teaching rather than a route of partnership, co-operation and respect, Madam Speaker?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, our government wants to engage in partnership with all elements of the education community.
We want to ensure that we have a system of public education that respects the rights, the responsibilities and the needs of all those who depend upon public education. We want to ensure that the needs of the children, who have a right to be educated to a high-quality education in our public school system, are respected. We want to ensure that the rights of those who fund public education, that is, the public at large, are respected. We want to ensure that the rights of those who work in public education, the teachers, the support staff, the administration, that all of those people are respected.
We want to ensure, as well, that the rights of those who depend upon education for the furtherance in the economic development and the future growth of our province are respected, and in that respect, we have to consider people of all those different groups.
We do not pick and choose. We have to ensure that we try and find a balance point that respects the rights and the responsibilities of everybody in the process, and that is exactly what we are attempting to do, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Doer: In our opinion, you have blown this balance that we have had in this province for the last 40 years. You have disregarded your election promise to work in partnership with teachers and trustees. You have basically squeezed the teachers and education system and our kids one way by cutting some $43 million out of public education in the last four years, and now you are taking away the very rights of people that are working at the grassroots level, working in our public education system day in and day out trying to provide quality education to our kids. You have cut away their ability to bargain and to deal with rights that they need to provide quality education and a secure education system in the classroom.
Why is this Premier attacking the morale and the professionalism of teachers in such a deliberate way? Why is he deliberately setting out to have conflict with teachers, rather than partnership and co-operation moving into the 21st Century?
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I would like to remind the Leader of the official opposition, the comments are to be addressed through the Chair and not directly to the First Minister.
Mr. Filmon: Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition may choose to ignore it. He does not have to deal with reality. The fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of a two-year period in which we are receiving a reduction in transfer payments from Ottawa for health and education of $220 million. In the space of two years, we will be receiving $220 million annually less than we were receiving from Ottawa in transfer payments.
Madam Speaker, difficult decisions and choices have to be made. Nobody is dislocated from the economic reality of society. Nobody in society, especially those who depend upon the public sector for their income and support, can be immune to the effects of those kinds of transfer payment reductions.
We as a government do not choose to have to deal with that. We did not choose to have to deal with the debt and deficit that was increased over all the years by the New Democrats in this province. We did not choose to have to deal with a half billion dollars of annual deficits that were added to the taxpayer for six and a half years under the NDP.
The fact of the matter is that it had to be done, and the interest costs on that debt and in fact the burden of the transfer payment reductions have to be dealt with. In doing so, we have to set up a system that is fair and equitable to all of those who are partners in this society, to all of those who depend upon the government for their support and for all of those who pay taxes to government for the services they receive. All those people have to be taken into account and we are attempting to find that balance, unlike members opposite who can promise everything to everybody and never tell anybody how they would deal with economic reality.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, this government did have choices. It chose to increase the funding to private schools by some 13 percent when it cut the public school system by minus 2 after minus 2 after minus 2. This government had the choice to freeze their salaries, which we have suggested, rather than taking a wage increase. The Premier and members of cabinet and the Leaders of the Opposition had choices to take wage freezes like teachers have done in nine school divisions through the present system. He has blown the balance that is presently in the Manitoba public education system. He is going to ruin the public education system with his squeeze on money and squeeze on the profession of people working in the education system.
We need teachers. We need good teachers who have a positive morale in our classroom. We need safe classrooms, and we need the partnership of teachers to move into the 21st Century with new curriculum that our kids will need. Why has this government again chosen conflict over partnership? Why has it made the choices to fund the independent and private schools by 13 percent when it has cut in the same year minus 2 for public education? Why can we not have the balance here in Manitoba where we work in partnership with people that have taken a zero percent negotiated increase in the present arbitration system? Why do we have an attack on their rights such as layoffs, such as classroom sizes and other issues that will affect the quality of education for all our kids in the future? Why have we done that?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, I think this is a very important question that has been asked and a very important history that needs to be understood. First of all, the people I think here have to understand that the public of Manitoba, the people who live in Manitoba have been given the right to have a public school education system that they control by electing people to speak for them to decide things such as what kind of schools they are going to have, what kind of courses that are going to be taught in their schools, those kinds of things that are definitely within the purview of school decision making. The public has that right to make those decisions.
As well, the people who work in the system have the right to have their needs addressed when they are working in the system. Some 40 years ago binding arbitration was put in place. At that time and for about 30 years after that, binding arbitration dealt with issues that were different than the issues it currently deals with. Over the last decade, items have begun to come into collective agreements that were never part of the original intention or foreseeing. Now we have the public of Manitoba seeing decisions on things that are clearly understood in The Public Schools Act to be things that are managerial rights.
We are saying we need to find the balance that has been identified as a concern, and I will explain more later.
Introduction of Guests
Madam Speaker: Order, please. Prior to recognizing the honourable member for Wolseley, I would like to draw the attention of all honourable members to the loge to my left where we have with us this afternoon Mr. Herold Driedger, the former member for Niakwa.
On behalf of all honourable members, I welcome you this afternoon.
Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Madam Speaker, when I first saw the minister's proposals for teachers I argued that this was not about enhancing accountability nor about ensuring quality. It was about enhancing authority and ensuring obedience, and that, in fact, is what it is all about, enhancing the authority of a government which brooks no opposition and ensuring the mute obedience of 12,000 professional teachers. It is also about the integrity of the process of the government of Manitoba, and I want to ask the Minister of Education to explain where is the respect for Manitobans in her process which makes public the Render-Dyck report on one day, immediately accepts those recommendations on the same day, refuses further discussions with any of the partners and intends to table legislation within days. Where is the partnership?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, not accepting any or part of the premise in the preamble the member has stated as fact--because I have never refused to meet with anybody--I would indicate that in terms of respect for Manitobans, when you have the situation come about as it did in recent years where one party to the bargaining process says that the system of binding arbitration has changed, it has mushroomed over the last 10 years to include things that it was never intended to include and that they can no longer cope and they are willing as a last resort even to accept something as untenable as strike, then the government has an obligation to examine that issue so that both partners to the bargaining process can feel they have a fairly treated system.
In terms of what was asked for in the hearings, the hearings were largely attended by teachers who made requests, and here is what they said and here is what we listened to and here is what we did. The teachers said they did not want to have strike.
Ms. Friesen: Could the minister explain to Manitobans why she is so determined to undermine the teaching profession that she wants to exclude their voice from the negotiation of courses and programs, the method and time of reporting to parents, and school hours? How does this bring the best of all minds, the stakeholders, the partners in Manitoba education, how does this bring them to bear on the future of Manitoba's children?
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, as I indicated, there are some things that have always been known and understood to be managerial rights. They have never until recent years been sought to be the subject of bargaining. The member mentioned school hours. That is determined in The Public Schools Act. The school day shall be a certain number of hours. It is not a negotiable item.
In terms of respect for Manitobans, when you have items like that that clearly will impact the way in which education is delivered for the people who have students in the schools, their right to have the kind of schooling they want is not something that should be the matter of bargaining. There are so many things that should be the matter of bargaining and they are still there. We have still a lengthy, lengthy list of things that are still more in excess of things than used to be bargained in the 30 years preceding this last 10.
Teachers indicated in hearings that they did not want strike. We are not having strike. Teachers said they wanted school board books open to the public; they are going to be open to the teachers now. Teachers said they wanted to retain a form of binding arbitration. We are doing that.
Ms. Friesen: Madam Speaker, could the minister answer the question she could not answer yesterday? In determining the ability to pay, do Manitobans believe her document which places Manitoba as eight out of 10 in provincial economies or are they to believe the Minister of Finance (Mr. Stefanson) who believes the Manitoba economy is steamrollering ahead? Does the minister have an answer--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The question has been put.
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, eight out of 10 is cost of living. We will just put that as an aside.
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education, to complete her response.
Mrs. McIntosh: I indicate to the member that in terms of having arbitration boards now be able to consider ability to pay, which they did not before consider, we are not talking the way the member is implying. We are saying it is one of the factors that needs to be considered when you look at local needs and local decision making. Different areas have different needs. There may be one area that, for example, does not require teachers to be there at noontime because it is a city riding, but for an urban dwelling it might be something that is necessary. We should no longer have precedents set based on--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Madam Speaker, on a point of order, Beauchesne Citation 417 is very clear that answers to questions should be as brief as possible, deal with the matter raised and should not provoke debate.
Our Education critic asked which economic statistics we were supposed to believe, the ones that were put out in the Minister of Education's document or the Minister of Finance, and her answer has nothing to do with any of the question.
I would like to ask you to ask her to come to order and answer the very serious question we have raised about the statistics that are being used.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order by the honourable member for Thompson, indeed the honourable member for Thompson does have a point of order. I would remind the honourable minister to respond to the question asked and keep her answer as brief as possible.
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Madam Speaker: The honourable Minister of Education, to quickly complete her response.
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, I thought the member had asked what criteria were we going to use for ability to pay. I would indicate that in the past, ability to pay was never considered. It was always deemed that, because the school boards had ability to go to the taxpayers, they had unlimited ability to pay. We are now saying that must be considered not only in terms of expenditure but also in terms of revenue. I believe that does answer the question asked.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Mr. Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns): Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice.
This week when the minister announced that Mr. Hughes's inquiry would be extended to include a consideration of the events regarding the release of inmates following the Headingley riot, she included in the terms of reference the question of whether her officials acted unlawfully, a term which we find of utmost interest.
My question to the minister is: Is one of the possible unlawful actions on her mind releasing inmates the likes of Mr. Rouire who apparently breached every probation order against him, against established Corrections policy which we understand normally precludes release when probation orders are in breach?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, I referred those terms of reference to Mr. Hughes to very specifically examine all elements of procedures of release.
Madam Speaker, the member knows very well that I am unable to speak about a case which is currently before the court where the individual has been charged.
Mr. Mackintosh: Was another one of the possible unlawful actions on the minister's mind releasing inmates the likes of Mr. Rouire who was released from April 26 to May 24, against established Corrections policy which we understand generally restricts T.A.s to a maximum of 15 days?
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, I would really love to be able to give the details. I would really love to be able to clarify what the member continually puts up, but as Attorney General my case must be put before the court and that is exactly what I will be doing.
Mr. Mackintosh: Will the minister, who should understand that I am asking questions of general policy, tell this House--the minister who assured this House last June alone that inmates who were a manageable risk would have--and I use her words--very intensive supervision on their release, explain how the Community Release Centre, which supervises temporary absences, now with less than half the staff that it had before under this minister, how can it effectively do its job given the new rush of T.A.s? How could it do more--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The question has been put.
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, I know that we are in the Estimates of the Department of Justice, so we will be able to look at exactly the work of the CRC, the Community Release program, and we will be able to look at exactly the kinds of support that they offer, including support such as home visits. We will be able to look in detail at exactly what the work is that is done when I am able to provide you with a longer answer than I am during the time of Question Period.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Early Release--Sexual Offenders
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): Madam Speaker, it has been reported that among 11 inmates released from Headingley in the wake of the riot, three are rapists and eight are child molesters, two of whom have committed very serious crimes, who have refused treatment, who may well pose a danger to our communities and whose names have not been forwarded to the Community Notification Advisory Committee.
Yesterday the minister prevaricated and said she did not have the information but that she would do her homework. I want to ask the Minister of Justice if she has managed to check into these serious matters and if she can confirm that 11 sex offenders, including eight pedophiles, two of whom have committed serious crimes, were granted early release from Headingley.
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, the fullness of my answer will depend upon the time allowed to provide the answer. I am happy to provide the information and I will provide as much as I can in this time and the rest during Estimates, if that is what is required.
There were 44 sex offenders at Headingley Correctional Institute at the time of the riot. Thirty-one of those offenders are still in custody. Five were released and they were released for the following reasons. One received bail because the inmate had a case before the Court of Appeal. That was a court-ordered release. The other four were among those that I spoke about on Friday, and I would like to make it very clear. On Friday, I addressed the issues of four specific inmates who were raised by name. I never at any time ever indicated that those were the only four--ever. That is only in the minds of the members across the way. On Friday I addressed an issue of four inmates who were named on a radio program and I was able to provide the information to the community about those four. I am pleased to provide further information today, if members want it.
Ms. McGifford: Madam Speaker, there is commission and omission.
Can the minister tell us if she has forwarded any names to the Community Notification Advisory Committee and, if so, why this was not done earlier?
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, it may be most helpful to carry on talking about the release of inmates and this may begin to answer some of the questions. So I have now spoken about five who were released and their release--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Madam Speaker, there was a specific question. If the minister has information, I would suggest, first of all, that she table the document and we would be more than willing to revert to Ministerial Statements to give her the time to be able to put a detailed response to the questions we have raised on the record. But it is not in order for her to get up on another question and then continue with answers--by the way, answers which should have been provided a long time ago in this House.
So we would request that she table the document and that we revert to Ministerial Statements to deal with any detailed response.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, with the greatest of respect, the minister had just started her response, and it is very difficult to be able to rule whether indeed she was about to respond to the question in her further remarks. Therefore, there is no point of order.
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Madam Speaker: The honourable Minister of Justice, to complete her response.
Mrs. Vodrey: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. The important part in the response which I am attempting to give is whether or not, No. 1, the victims were notified and that is the issue that I am trying to explain now. I can tell the member it is very difficult to go through without going through individually, but victims were contacted where inmates were in for a sexual offence and, in some cases, victims who were not living in the province were unable to be contacted. The Community Notification Committee has contacted Corrections, is also going to be reviewing the files. But the important question has been and was raised and the information that I promised to get was were victims notified and, again, I want to be very clear. I am happy to go through the details of where we could notify the victim so there is no mistake in the minds of members opposite, but I can tell them that where possible victims were notified. However, where individuals had in fact completed the program in place for sexual abusers, the victim was not notified.
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): Madam Speaker, given the minister's prevarication and uncertainty in the entire Headingley fiasco, given her opaqueness, what will the Premier do to reassure Manitobans that this government has a serious commitment to the safety of women and children?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, this government, since its inception, has dramatically increased funding to women's shelters, has instituted a program of zero tolerance, has done many things to ensure the safety and security of women and children. The member for Osborne ought to know that.
Mr. Gary Kowalski (The Maples): Madam Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education.
Provincial funding for public schools reached its highest in 1992, and since then we have had three reductions and one freeze. I would like to table a graph which traces public school funding since 1988.
In 1988, this government spent 14.5 percent of its total budgetary expenditures on funding for public schools, while in 1996 it only spent 13.9 percent. It also shows that we are now funding our public schools at exactly the same level as we were in 1990.
My question to the Minister of Education is, can the minister justify 1990 spending levels for public schools, given the fact that student enrollment, inflation and costs mean that 1990 education funding levels do not go so far in the economic realities of 1996?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member for the question. I indicate that since we took office in '87-88, in that year, the cost of living has risen 32.5 percent while support to schools has risen 36 percent. I also indicate to the member that the percentage of the provincial budget spent on schools at that time was 11.4 percent and today is 12.2 percent. We have had an increase from $660 million to $745 million over that time. I acknowledge that if you look at the graph, our funding went up and when it hit the problems we began to have with the federal transfer cuts--and maybe the member could help us here with his connections and see if we could get back, please, the $220 million cut that is roughly the equivalent to the entire operating budget of the University of Manitoba, might help us somewhat in education. I would appreciate his assistance on that.
Mr. Kowalski: Madam Speaker, will the Minister of Education confirm that the impending changes to teacher collective bargaining designed to take even more money out of the education system were motivated by fiscal considerations rather than an attempt to improve the educational system in Manitoba?
Mrs. McIntosh: Madam Speaker, we are trying very hard to ensure that we get an absolutely good balance in the bargaining process in education in Manitoba. As I indicated earlier, in 1956 when binding arbitration came in as a dispute resolution, it was never envisioned that it would mushroom as it has in the last decade to include the number of things that it currently includes. But still, if trustees wish to, they can negotiate anything they want to at the table with their staff members. Trustees can bring forward any item they wish to the staff table, but we are saying that there are certain managerial rights which have been identified--by history, they are managerial rights and are known to be such--that while they can be bargained and negotiated and settled, should not go to arbitration. There should be no concern about that because teachers have told us for years that all arbitration decisions are made upon decisions voluntarily made in the marketplace in the first instance.
Mr. Kowalski: Will the First Minister who campaigns on a theme of Manitoba Strong and then proceeds to implement policies which suggest that we may have misheard his catchy slogan--it was not Manitoba strong; it was Manitoba for the strong, for the powerful, for the well connected--will the Premier call off his government's vicious attack on teachers, health care workers, public sector employees? Will he quit attacking working Manitobans?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, given that the party to which the member opposite belongs in Ottawa is cutting $220 million a year in transfer payments from government here in Manitoba, he has no right whatsoever to stand up and criticize this government for having to live within the means that are given to us. He ought to go and talk to his friends in Ottawa and tell them not to cut $220 million a year so that we could provide the funding that he asks of us.
Point of Order
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Madam Speaker, on a point of order, there is an obligation for the Premier to answer the question that is being posed. To try to pass responsibility or pass the buck onto the federal government is irresponsible, and we request that the Premier actually stand up for Manitobans as suggested from the member for The Maples. Take responsibility for actions your government is taking.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member for Inkster does not have a point of order. It is clearly a dispute over the facts.
Mr. Steve Ashton (Thompson): Madam Speaker, we have just seen the release of a document that is sort of equivalent to the War Measures Act of collective bargaining for teachers, and I want to get to the Minister of Education's real agenda--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I would ask for the co-operation of all members in the public gallery to observe the House rules and that includes no participation during the course of the Question Period.
The honourable member for Thompson, to pose a question.
Mr. Ashton: Madam Speaker, we are asking this government to follow the fairness and rules of collective bargaining, and I want to ask the Minister of Education whether her personal agenda is involved with this.
Last week we heard some of her philosophy about collective bargaining in this House. This is the same minister who said about teachers, the pink car campaign, made reference to these crummy things shoved in people's faces in the mail--these are comments in Hansard--and who also in Hansard--and this is the Minister of Education who has to work with teachers--who said that teachers ask for a 10-month pay period because they found it really awkward driving in from the lake to pick up that August cheque.
Will the Minister of Education withdraw her personal agenda, which is one of confrontation with teachers, deal with them fairly and withdraw this vicious document that is an attack on the teachers of this province?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, I think the member's accusations reveal much more about him than they do about me, and I will not even dignify them with a response in terms of the preamble, but I will answer the question he asked when he asked what my real agenda was.
My real agenda is to try to get some balance into collective bargaining in the system for Manitoba so that ratepayers, through their elected representatives, do have the right to determine the way they want to see their schools run.
We have been eminently fair. The member refers to the document. Let me tell you, this is a very important answer. In response to that document, hundreds of teachers came out and told us that they wanted no strike, they wanted to retain local bargaining, they did not want their salaries rolled back, they wanted a new way to select an arbitrator, they wanted a single arbitrator from a jointly chosen list, they wanted to maintain remuneration for university courses, they wanted to add a mediation process, they did not want any action taking place without further consultation on a compensation package, they wanted the board's books to be open to teachers. I could go on and on, Madam Speaker.
We have given them all those things they asked for, and we have also given trustees some things that they have been asking for that they have never had.
Mr. Ashton: The only people who ask for this are the Conservative Party. I want to ask what the other agenda is. I want to ask the Minister of Education--
Point of Order
Mrs. McIntosh: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, the people who asked for this review were the trustees of Manitoba elected by the people of Manitoba. The people of Manitoba through their trustees asked for a review of a system they could not--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education does not have a point of order, but I would remind the honourable member for Thompson that there is to be no preamble on a supplementary question.
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Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Thompson, to pose his question now.
Mr. Ashton: Madam Speaker, I will ask a supplementary to the minister, perhaps the Premier if he cares to answer this. I am wondering if the real agenda, in addition to the personal agenda of the Minister of Education, is not the fact that teachers dare to speak out against this government, including during the election. Are they now being punished for having exercised their democratic right in speaking out against the attacks on the public education system by the government? Is that the real agenda of this government?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): No, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): My question for the Premier is very simple and straightforward: Does the Premier believe teachers are overpaid?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): It seems to me that the document itself says that there is no intent to roll back here, so I think that speaks for itself.
Mr. Lamoureux: The question that I pose to the Premier is, does he personally believe that teachers are overpaid?
Mr. Filmon: I already answered that.
Mr. Lamoureux: I would ask the Premier if in fact he believes that this document represents teachers' input to the whole educational process.
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): I believe that I just read a fairly lengthy list of items that teachers had identified at the public hearings, saying, if we cannot have the status quo, which is our preference? The teachers made it very clear, our preference is the status quo, not the binding arbitration we lived with for the first 30 years but the type that evolved in the last 10 years. We want that status quo and anything less will not be what we really want. However, if you are going to make changes--and we had said, we have to make changes. The alternative is for boards to begin laying off hundreds of teachers. They have made that very clear. We cannot have that happen. If--[interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education, to complete her response.
Mrs. McIntosh: Thank you, Madam Speaker. What we are saying then is that we have to have a change. The teachers said, if you are going to have a change, then make the changes this way, this way, this way; still let us have binding arbitration but in a modified form that includes these criteria.
We have included all of those criteria except for two. We have said that boards do have certain managerial rights and that the arbitrator must consider ability to pay as one of the many factors he considers.
Headingley Correctional Institution
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, on national TV the Minister of Justice (Mrs. Vodrey) told Canadians and Manitobans that inmates responsible for the riot would clean up today or at the end of the week, which was four weeks ago. Yesterday I asked the Minister of Justice, those responsible for the riot, what cleanup and repair work had they done yesterday at the Headingley Correctional Institution? The minister said a work crew was fulfilling her commitment.
Could the Minister of Justice tell us today what specific cleanup and repair measures were being conducted at Headingley yesterday, and was it consistent with the national promise made by the Minister of Justice some four weeks ago?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Minister of Government Services): Yesterday inmates at Headingley began to participate in the cleanup exercises at that facility for the first time. There were legitimate reasons why the inmates were not involved in cleanup prior to that time, some of which were raised frankly by members opposite such as the concerns about the working conditions in the destroyed facility, such as concerns about the staff safety and other issues. These issues have in part been addressed, and the inmates are now involved in cleanup again today.
The reality is that inmates will be involved in washing down cells. Initially, as was the case yesterday, these were in areas that could be secured so that the safety of supervisory staff could be considered and assured as well. But further cleanup is continuing and aggressive involvement by the inmates to mitigate the costs to the taxpayers of Manitoba is the goal, and it will be pursued by this government.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, four weeks ago the Minister of Justice (Mrs. Vodrey) obviously should have known what the realities were at the jail before she did her in-the-face comments.
I would like to ask the Minister of Justice, how could she inform Manitobans yesterday that a work crew was fulfilling her commitment when in fact there was regular cleanup being conducted at the annex as has always been conducted, and there were two inmates cleaning dishes in the Headingley jail, which is the regular work routine of inmates in the jail, and they were not repairing and cleaning up the jail as the minister had said in this House yesterday?
Mr. Pallister: Madam Speaker, either the member opposite is misinformed or is deliberately misinforming the House. His facts are not there. He is guilty of a terminological inexactitude.
There were a number of inmates involved in cleanup yesterday. Though it was a small number, it was a start. It was a step in the right direction, and it needs to be followed and will be followed. There are aggressive plans being put together right now to wash down the cell-blocks on the third floor, second floor, main floor, basement levels to remove construction dust.
The inmates will be participating in the painting of cells, range and walkway areas. They will be doing final painting of corridors, some common areas. They will be involved in a number of tasks. They will be involved because damages were done to the taxpayers of this province. They were irresponsible. They were indefensible, and this government will do whatever it can to address the concerns of victims of crime. In this case the victims are taxpayers, and if we can mitigate a dollar of cost to the taxpayers of this province, it is a worthwhile pursuit, not one to be ridiculed by inconsiderate members opposite.
Madam Speaker: I am informed by the table officers, there are 30 seconds remaining. The honourable member for St. James will be recognized to pose a very short question with a very short response.
Ms. MaryAnn Mihychuk (St. James): Madam Speaker, thank you. My question is to the Minister of Education.
Given that students and teachers are the most important facets of the classroom and learning and that this government clearly has shown its lack of commitment to those children by continuing to cut funding to public schools, how does this unprecedented attack on teachers enhance quality when teachers are dealing with larger class sizes, greater student needs, less supplies like workbooks and textbooks, more students dropping through the cracks and an Education minister who has betrayed them? The crisis in the classroom is not the fault of the teachers but this government.
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, the member says crisis in a classroom. I visit classrooms regularly and I see classrooms working extremely well with dedicated teachers and children who want to learn. I also indicate--[interjection]
Madam Speaker, I would like to have as much time to answer as the question took.
I also indicate that all we were attempting to do here is to ensure a better balance in the bargaining process.
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton ( Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, I would just like to ask your ruling on whether it is in order for the Minister of Education, who does this on a fairly regular basis, to lecture you on her length of answers. I mean, she is continuously abusing Question Period with her lengthy answers.
I would like to ask you to call her to order and ask her to answer questions for once, instead of lecturing you or other members of the House on their behaviour.
Hon. Jim Ernst (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, on a point of order, clearly, your admonition to the member for St. James at the start indicating 30 seconds were left, the question should be short, it took a very long time, totally ignoring your admonition. The fact of the matter is the Minister of Education should at least have the same amount of time to respond.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, there were 30 seconds remaining. The honourable member for St. James did not consume, indeed, more than 30 seconds and I assumed that the honourable member for St. James wanted the courtesy of a response. I recognized the honourable Minister of Education who was attempting to give her response.
Now, legally, time for Oral Questions has expired. If it is the will of the House, I will afford the Minister of Education 30 seconds to respond to the member for St. James's question.
Mr. Ashton: Madam Speaker, just to make it clear. We have no problem granting leave for her to answer the question. Our problem was with the fact that she was trying to lecture you in the middle of her answer. We have no problem granting leave. If she will in fact answer, we would be very pleased to hear that answer.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Thompson that I get lectures from all members of the House on occasion.
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Madam Speaker: The honourable Minister of Education, to have 30 seconds to complete her response.
Mrs. McIntosh: We value teachers very highly. I am a teacher myself. My friends are teachers. I say to you, Madam Speaker, that a system needs to be whole and complete in its entirety and when the system is whole and complete in its entirety, then all parts of that system benefit much and when the system is not whole and complete in its entirety, all parts of the system ultimately suffer. I do not want that for any part of the system.
Madam Speaker: Time for Oral Questions has expired.