ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Regional Health Boards
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, my question is to the First Minister (Mr. Filmon).
We have seen a climb-down on the government's position dealing with regional health and religious boards. We have seen this Minister of Health botch the Pharmacare decisions. He has botched the emergency wards issue that were closed last year at this time. He has botched the privatization of home care and now we are proceeding into, allegedly, a stage of superboards and regional boards in the health care sector.
I would like to ask the Premier, can he table today the plan his government has set forth to provide for lab services, X-ray services and imaging services? Can he table today for the people of Manitoba the standards of those services across Manitoba and the access to those services that the public of Manitoba will have with the changes that the government is proposing?
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, laboratory services are indeed important to the ongoing quality of our health care system, and on August 20 we announced that in future there would be a consolidation of laboratory services and the retention of certain of the stat services that are required in our hospitals.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, I want to table today a memo sent from the Province of Manitoba to all CEOs of rural hospitals terminating the operations of labs and imaging facilities, terminating all the contracts that the government of Manitoba has in place with these facilities.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health, given that we are dealing with some 265 people, we are dealing with thousands of people who use those services in the province of Manitoba, we are dealing with a termination of all agreements, can the minister today table the plan he has and the government has, can the Premier (Mr. Filmon) today table the plan that they have for the services, the quality of services, the access of services, the standards of services they have in place prior to terminating contracts, potentially for 265 people all across Manitoba, in terms of what it will mean to the patients and people of this province?
Mr. McCrae: Madam Speaker, the reason for the changes in health care in Manitoba as anywhere else in this country, as everywhere else in this country, is to use the health care dollars that we have in the most cost-efficient and effective manner possible. We know that laboratory services can be delivered in a more efficient manner. Everyone knows that. I think even the Leader of the Opposition knows that. He also knows the structures that we are putting in place to bring about a more efficient and cost-effective health care system, a system that will provide better services with as many dollars. The honourable member also knows that in Manitoba we are working on all of these things with funding that, at 33.8 percent of our budget, is the highest level anywhere in Canada.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, the public knows that every time this government fires or closes or changes something, they have absolutely no plan in place, no strategy in place and no consideration of the patients and people of Manitoba. We saw that with the emergency wards. We have seen that with the privatization of home care, so we have absolutely no faith in this Premier (Mr. Filmon) and this government in providing access and quality of services.
I would like to ask the Premier today, what plan does he have in place to ensure that there will be equal access to these services and that we will not have the imposition of user fees, as articulated in their new proposed regional health bill, as they terminate the contracts for public access to lab and technological services here in the province of Manitoba?
Mr. McCrae: The honourable Leader of the Opposition ought not to misrepresent what is contained in Bill 49, ought not to misrepresent the intentions of the government. Not unlike the discussion we had about home care earlier this year, this time around the NDP is trying again to tell people that user fees and reductions in service are what are in store. We proved that to be wrong before and we will prove it to be wrong again.
Special Needs Review
Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): My questions are for the Minister of Education. After several years of staying tuned, to use the minister's terminology of yesterday, for the announcement of a special education review, the test pattern has now cleared and we know that the government has chosen not to have an independent review and there will be no public hearings. But what the press conference also revealed was that this minister did not know how many special needs students she was funding, and her first request to the review committee was to ask them to tell her what programs and services her department has been funding since 1988.
Would the Minister of Education explain this extraordinary lack of accountability in her department?
Hon. Linda McIntosh (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, I do not know what press conference the member was at this morning, but she certainly has drawn conclusions that I find require a lot of creative imagination to conclude.
However, I indicate to the member that a special needs review will indeed be an independent special needs review with widespread public consultation and public input. That review committee will be taking a look at all that we do now in terms of special needs education and will be examining that to see if what we are doing is getting the outcome that we are hoping it is producing and, if not, to tell us then or make recommendations to us as to what needs to be done to improve the situation. They will also be indicating to us what we are doing well and how to build upon those strengths. I think the member has grossly misinterpreted some of the things she thinks she heard this morning.
Ms. Friesen: Madam Speaker, if the minister believes that a committee composed half of civil servants--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member for Wolseley has been recognized for a supplementary question. Would you please pose your question now.
Ms. Friesen: Could the minister confirm that having undermined special needs by cutting clinicians, cutting professional development for special needs education, cutting school board funding that she is now delaying the receipt of the special education review until 1998, into the next election, and that this whole maneuver has in fact been a cynical manipulation of the hopes and expectations of parents and teachers?
Mrs. McIntosh: I completely reject the preamble the member has put on the record, distorting the facts much as she did the other day when she held her news conference on user fees the minute I got on the plane to go to the ministers' meeting in Newfoundland.
I think the member should understand that this review has been long awaited, it is being conducted or will be conducted by professional consultants, researchers and that the call for proposal deadline is Monday. The steering committee composed of people that have the highest integrity and widest respect in educational circles will provide leadership to that consultant as he, she or they go about their widespread consultation with the people of Manitoba.
This is the member who says we rushed through our studies. This is the member who, on a study of this magnitude, this massive amount of data and information to be compiled, she wishes now to have us rush through. Madam Speaker, to do this job properly and well will require a minimum of 18 months. It does not mean the world will stop in the meantime. We will continue as we have in the last four years. We have in the last three years increased funding to special needs by $10 million, and our commitment will continue while the review is underway.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Wolseley, with a final supplementary question.
Ms. Friesen: Could the minister explain how she is able to say in her press conference that qualified special needs students are automatically granted funds when according to the Lord Selkirk School Division seven students who recently moved into the division were told by her department that they could only be funded if monies were withdrawn from seven other special needs students? What kind of message is that?
Mrs. McIntosh: The member knows, because that was also explained in the press conference, that needs are demand-driven at Level II and Level III, that block grant funding is provided for Level I, that students are assessed at Level II and Level III and if they are deemed to be in need the money is automatically provided up to $8,000 for Level II, up to $18,000 for Level III. The more students there are, the more money is provided.
In terms of Level I, some years ago the government moved, and this was a widespread request because of the administrative entanglement that arose out of trying to identify Level I students case by case, that a certain percentage of the population is deemed to be Level I students. Divisions are given block grants for that money. In some cases they do not require it all, hence the request from some divisions if they had more money for Level I special needs than they used, could they use it instead for libraries. We granted that flexibility this year for 20 percent if they were in that situation.
The question has arisen, and we will be asking this question as well, in terms of students who move after the September 30 deadline, should the money that has already been assigned to Division A move with that student? It is a good question; it is one we will be asking the review to examine.
Domestic Violence Review Committee
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): Of this year's 22 murders in Manitoba, the majority have been women. It is in this context that I want to turn to the Pedlar report. The Pedlar report's history in this Legislature has been a real study in equivocation, that we do know that on Monday, October 2, the Minister of Justice (Mrs. Vodrey) told this House that she would meet with the Domestic Violence Review Committee, and we do know that on June 25, 1996, Dorothy Pedlar, testifying under oath at the Lavoie inquiry, said, and here I quote: Neither the former Justice minister nor the current minister has made any serious effort to implement the report's recommendations.
I want to ask the Minister of Justice when she last met with her Domestic Violence Review Committee.
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, as the member knows and I believe Dorothy Pedlar spoke about, there was a meeting in my office with Dorothy Pedlar, representatives of that committee. Some members of that committee, to my knowledge, have also moved away and were unavailable for that meeting.
The committee at that point felt that because we were into--the inquiry I believe had been announced at that point into the Lavoie case--that there would be a requirement following the reporting of Lavoie for perhaps some kind of continued committee, but no one could foresee what was required at that time. So following that meeting we left it with the understanding that the Lavoie inquiry would continue, and following the receipt of the recommendations we would then look at what was required further.
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): In view of Ms. Pedlar's very sound condemnation of the minister's response to domestic violence, I want to ask the minister if she will now keep her promise of October 1995 and table in this House documents detailing the implementation of the Pedlar report recommendations along with the schedule of those that have yet to be implemented.
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): The member obviously did not follow the course of the Lavoie inquiry and testimony that was given by many Manitobans in that inquiry.
Madam Speaker, we do expect to have the results of that inquiry. However, I am very happy even now to go through our government's record in the area of domestic violence because it is clear, and there was also testimony before the inquiry, that Manitoba is a leader in the area of domestic violence in terms of management of domestic violence not only in Canada but in the world.
I believe Dr. Jane Ursel testified in her testimony before the Lavoie inquiry: I think the data indicates very early on with the Family Violence Court that the message from the bench was very strong and very consistent that there would be serious consequences for family violence. She goes on to say--
An Honourable Member: Pedlar.
Mrs. Vodrey: Well, Madam Speaker, if the members want to speak only about Pedlar, and yet there is vast testimony regarding the steps that this government has taken across this country in terms of meeting the requirements of Pedlar--this government has gone very significantly in meeting those requirements.
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): Madam Speaker, since the truth is that the Domestic Violence Review Committee, frustrated with the minister's disrespect, unwillingness to return phone calls and general prevarication, I want to ask this minister which community people and front-line workers she will consult, or will she continue to go it alone?
That is, will there be some consultation--
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The question has been put.
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, I really have to reject all of the comments that the member has put forward on the record, has attempted to portray. Really, I have to wonder where she has been in relation to the testimony at the inquiry.
Madam Speaker, this government, the now-Minister of Health (Mr. McCrae), who was Minister of Justice, and myself as Minister of Justice, on behalf of our government have met with community groups, have worked with community groups, have meetings with the Minister of Family Services (Mrs. Mitchelson), who represents those who operate shelters. Our record in terms of the training of Crowns in the area of domestic violence--in fact, we will be offering a national program in domestic violence in June of 1997.
Madam Speaker, we have set up the first and the only, to my knowledge at this point, Domestic Violence Court in this country. Now, how the member can look at such a concrete step where this province has in fact led not only the country but the world is amazing.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Beauchesne Citation 417 is clear that Answers to questions should be as brief as possible, deal with the matter raised and should not provoke debate.
Madam Speaker, the minister was asked why she has ignored the committee and has not even answered phone calls from committee members. I would appreciate it if you would ask her to answer that question and not engage in the irrelevant debate that she is currently.
Hon. Jim Ernst (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, on the same point of order. I mean, it is very clear in Beauchesne that second and third questions require no preamble, and the first question needs one carefully worded sentence. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, I would remind both sides of the House that the minister indeed can choose not to give specific comments relative to the question. I would also remind the government side of the House that answers should be as short as possible and deal with the question raised.
On the point of order raised by the government House leader, I would remind the honourable government House leader that he raised a new point of order and did not speak to the original point of order. On his point of order, I had already spoken and was attempting desperately to get the attention of the honourable member for Osborne to get her to pose her question.
I would remind those members posing questions that no preamble, postamble or midamble is required on supplementary questions.
Department of Justice Meeting
Mr. Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns): Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. After a lot of pressure, the minister finally agreed to an inquiry in public into how the justice system deals with domestic violence and, specifically, how it dealt with Rhonda and Roy Lavoie. So the inquiry proceeded in public with examination of government officials and others by five counsel and heard all submissions in plain public view. We have now confirmed after final submissions by the parties in June that the Lavoie inquiry secretly on September 12 met with officials of the minister's department behind closed doors. The public inquiry turned private along the way.
My question for the minister is, would she agree that the evidence given confidentially by several probation officers apparently about their views, the programs, caseloads and statistics go right to the heart of the issue whether her department is able to deal with domestic violence or not, that this is not a private matter between her department and the commissioner but a public concern?
Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Madam Speaker, first of all, let me say there was no pressure from the other side for this government to call the public inquiry. This government made that decision, and the member always attempts to take some credit. It just would be nice if every now and then he would join in and support the decisions of this government.
Madam Speaker, I am not able to confirm that there was any meeting at that point. The justice who is in charge of dealing with this inquiry is dealing with the inquiry in the way that he sees fit. If that was what he had requested or had agreed to, then that is within his ability to determine how in fact he will search out the facts. He does have that independence. If we were to step in to provide any direction as a government, I am sure the member would not agree to that.
Mr. Mackintosh: How convenient to forget our questions and letters demanding a public inquiry.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for St. Johns, please pose his question now.
Mr. Mackintosh: Would the minister, who surely knew that her officials and indeed her department's lawyer, strangely the only counsel who knew about this meeting, were going to meet, explain why she failed to get a guarantee that they testify in public?
Mrs. Vodrey: I have to say, what is he afraid of? What are you afraid of? Unbelievable, Madam Speaker, unbelievable.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. This is not a time for debate; this is Question Period.
The honourable minister, to pose her response.
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, as I said in my first answer, it is up to Justice Schulman, who is conducting this inquiry how he wishes to proceed. Now, if the member opposite wishes to give direction to Justice Schulman, as he appears to be doing here, let him do so. Let us see how it is accepted by Justice Schulman, let us see how the direction of the member of the opposition in terms of how the inquiry should be conducted is accepted by the independence of the judiciary.
Mr. Mackintosh: Would the minister who is the one after all who ordered a public inquiry--that is what The Evidence Act says, that is what her press release says--to avoid any appearance of collusion involving the Justice department, take all steps to ensure that the parties and the public can respond and review to the evidence which was taped, so that we can get this inquiry back on track? Will she show some leadership and make sure that what she ordered is being fulfilled?
Mrs. Vodrey: Madam Speaker, I am sure Justice Schulman will take the comments of the member opposite from St. Johns into his consideration as he continues his independent public inquiry.
Madam Speaker, it was important for this government to set out the independent review. We have confidence in Justice Schulman to conduct the inquiry. The member opposite has now cast a shadow on the ability of Justice Schulman to do his work. He has questioned now whether or not Justice Schulman is conducting this inquiry in the appropriate way.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, you just earlier admonished the minister for not engaging in debate. For her to turn a question that was asked about matters within her jurisdiction, her staff, their attendance at private hearings into suggesting that the honourable member for St. Johns is making any aspersions whatsoever on a justice matter in the province of Manitoba is not only in violation of Beauchesne's Citation 417 but is absolutely unacceptable coming from this the Minister of Justice.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I will take the matter of the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson so that I may research Hansard and report back to the Chamber.
Oak Bank Personal Care Home
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): My question is for the Minister of Health.
There are a great deal of residents and citizens of the Oakbank area that are quite disappointed with this government because this government, prior to the last provincial election, made a commitment in terms of a personal care home facility. Because of the freeze, we have seen that particular project being put on hold. This community has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to see this project get off the ground and were disappointed that this government failed to live up to their commitments.
My question to the Minister of Health is, when is this government going to live up to its commitment and bring in the personal care home facility that led that community to believe was going to be there?
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, this is the me-too member for Inkster. He ought to get in line behind the Minister of Highways and Transportation (Mr. Findlay).
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Inkster, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Lamoureux: He may have to get in line behind me because he has yet to ask the question, Madam Speaker.
My question to the minister--
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
The honourable member for Inkster, to pose a supplementary question.
Mr. Lamoureux: Madam Speaker, the residents of the Oakbank area do not treat this as a joking matter. They feel that they were entitled to this personal care home because of this government's commitment. Is this government going to be living up to its commitment to the residents in Oakbank, or are they not?
Mr. McCrae: Madam Speaker, we take our responsibilities extremely seriously, but I can tell you that when these projects come back on track like the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation did and when the Oakbank project comes on track, it will not be because of the urgings of the honourable member for Inkster; it will be because of the good constituency work being done by the Minister of Highways and Transportation.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Inkster, with a final supplementary question.
Health Care Facilities
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Madam Speaker, can the Minister of Health indicate whether or not he is going to be reinstating the capital program that was initiated prior to the last provincial election in the next coming fiscal budget, or is he looking at reinstating it just prior to the next provincial election?
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): The last time I was in Oakbank, it was to open up a new service put in place with the assistance of Manitoba Health with our partners in mental health. On that day, federal member of Parliament David Iftody was there and he was reminded of some of the concerns that we have, Madam Speaker, that bring us to the point where it was necessary to suspend the capital budget. The honourable member for Inkster I think understands a little bit about the kinds of problems I would be raising with Mr. Iftody with respect to funding from Ottawa for things like personal care homes in Oakbank, for things like Boundary Trails hospital project, and for many other aspects of social services in this province.
Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan): Madam Speaker, earlier in the Question Period my Leader tabled a letter indicating the province is terminating all of the contracts regarding lab and imaging services in rural Manitoba, and the minister indicated he has no plan.
Will the minister be up front with Manitobans, will the minister be honest with Manitobans and advise Manitobans that this plan is to privatize lab and imaging services and the province is negotiating with at least three companies: Dynacom [phonetic], which is associated with KPMG; a Winnipeg consortium; and MDS, which has now employed the late and unlamented member for Pembina, Don Orchard, as one of their consultants to design a private system to provide private services, lab and imaging, to rural Manitoba.
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): It seems clear that the honourable member for Kildonan does not feel that his Leader raised the question adequately earlier on in Question Period and wants to take another kick at the cat, Madam Speaker.
The honourable member for Kildonan has legal training. He knows that if you are going to move to a new system of governance on April 1 of 1997, that a number of contractual arrangements have to be--notice has to be given about that. He knows how all of that works--uses a letter written by Dr. Hammond, director of the Public Health branch, with respect to those contractual arrangements as sort of a springboard to ask questions about laboratory services. Well, the honourable member should let us know where he stands. Does he want us to deliver laboratory services in a cost-effective and efficient manner? I will just leave my question there, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Chomiak: Madam Speaker, can the Minister of Health explain how the government could terminate all of the existing contracts when the bill that is heartily opposed by almost everyone, MHO, everyone in the system. Bill 49 has not even been passed or considered by this Legislature, and they are going out and terminating the contract and moving towards a system of privatization? How can they do that and have any respect for this Legislature?
Mr. McCrae: The honourable member is clearly wrong to suggest that the implementation of regional health authorities is opposed in Manitoba. He is totally wrong about that. As I have answered in previous questions, concerns that I have invited to be raised have been raised and are now being dealt with. As we move to committee, the changes that will be required to take account of the accommodations that are being made, that is the time for that to happen. The honourable member seems to want to debate in Question Period something that ought better to be left to a committee of this House.
Mr. Chomiak: Madam Speaker, will the minister now finally admit that the reason for this termination is that the government is negotiating with three private consortiums, including MDS and Don Orchard, Dynacom [phonetic] and KPMG and a private Winnipeg consortium, to take over the operation of all of the lab facilities in Manitoba and privatize it and that is why they are ending all of these public contracts?
Mr. McCrae: Whatever services that might be in future delivered by suppliers other than those being delivered now or assisted by suppliers other than those involved now, whatever happens in the future would be the result of an appropriate and fair process by which those who might provide services would be chosen to do so.
Three Bears Day Care Centre
Post-Traumatic Stress Counselling
Mr. Eric Robinson (Rupertsland): Madam Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Family Services.
On August 28, an unfortunate incident occurred in Pine Falls with the fire at the Three Bears Day Care Centre and, at that time, of course, the communities of Powerview, Pine Falls and Sagkeeng First Nation took the matter very seriously and took it hard, to say the least. In total, there were 15 children in the daycare, 14 of them from the Sagkeeng First Nation and one from the community of Pine Falls. Unfortunately, it has been reported to us through the fire chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation, Allen Courchene, that no post-traumatic stress counselling has been made available to these children from the Sagkeeng First Nation.
I would like to ask the minister if she would embark upon a relationship with the Sagkeeng First Nation and work with these children who are going through nightmares and flashbacks of that incident.
Hon. Bonnie Mitchelson (Minister of Family Services): Madam Speaker, I thank my honourable friend for that question because, indeed, it is a very serious issue when a child dies as a result of a fire, especially in the circumstances that were found in the Pine Falls daycare.
I would love the opportunity to sit down with my honourable friend and discuss the issues and the problems that the children are going through. If there is any way we can facilitate working together to ensure that those children are dealt with in the appropriate fashion, I am very prepared to do that.
Replacement of Personal Articles
Mr. Eric Robinson (Rupertsland): Madam Speaker, just one further question. As many know, the Sagkeeng community is hard-pressed for employment. The unemployment rate there is quite high. A lot of these children at the fire lost personal articles, clothing and even shoes. I wonder if the minister would take the responsibility in ensuring maybe that there be a reimbursement of these articles that were lost by these young children.
Hon. Bonnie Mitchelson (Minister of Family Services): As I indicated in my first answer, I think if my honourable friend would like to share some of the information that he has received, we will very much look at a co-operative approach to dealing with the issues that are facing the children and the families that were involved in the Pine Falls incident.
Workplace Safety and Health
Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): Madam Speaker, on Monday a construction worker was nearly killed when an excavation site collapsed onto the worker.
An Honourable Member: A grandstanding session . . . .
Mr. Reid: Well, the member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Pallister) does not take this seriously obviously, Madam Speaker. [interjection]
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Reid: Madam Speaker, is this appropriate behaviour for the member for Portage la Prairie?
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Reid: Is this appropriate, Madam Speaker? [interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, you have been attempting to ask for order in this House so that the member for Transcona can ask a question and the Minister of Government Services, the member for Portage, is continuing to make personal attacks, make statements that have no place in this House from his seat, refusing to allow you to bring this House to order or the member to ask a very serious question. I would like to ask you to bring the member for Portage to order.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, I want to remind all members on both sides of the House that when the Speaker stands and requests order, the members are to sit in their seats.
An Honourable Member: What did I do?
Madam Speaker: You did not sit down.
I will repeat: Order, please. When the Speaker rises to maintain order, I would request the co-operation of all members. Those members standing are procedurally to sit down and take their seats and all members are to cease the bantering from one side of the Chamber to the other.
The honourable member for Transcona, with a supplementary question--the honourable member for Thompson.
Mr. Ashton: Madam Speaker, I raised a point of order relating to the conduct of the member for Portage. I would appreciate your ruling on whether it was acceptable for the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Pallister) to continuously make comments which were basically a personal attack on the member for Transcona, who was attempting to raise a question on behalf of the injured workers of this province.
Was it acceptable for the minister to make those comments, and if it was not, I would like to ask you to call him to order, and if he refuses to listen to your authority, to throw him out of this House.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, it is neither appropriate for the honourable Minister of Government Services nor any other member to continue to debate back and forth once the Speaker is attempting to maintain order.
* * *
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Transcona, to pose his question.
Mr. Reid: On Monday, a construction worker was nearly killed when an excavation site collapsed onto the worker. Now we have learned that the Kordite Construction Company and its owner, Karl Unrau and family, are involved in six other construction companies, some of which have folded for Workplace Safety and Health violations.
I want to ask the Minister of Labour, who is responsible for Workplace Safety and Health, is it the policy of this government to allow companies and their owner-managers to escape responsibility for workplace accidents where workers are killed or nearly killed by simply folding their operations and then starting up again the next day under another company name?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Labour): It is the responsibility of Workplace Safety and Health to investigate all such accidents to ensure that as much as possible the workplace safety and health is secure in this province, and those are my clear instructions to that department.
Mr. Reid: Then perhaps, can the minister explain why his department has not and does not cite owners of companies, in addition to the company name, when referring to Justice cases involving Workplace Safety and Health Act violations as is permitted under Section 55 of the act? Why does he not cite the company owners as well?
Mr. Toews: In all cases where they are referred for prosecution, all appropriate individuals or corporations are named, and it is the Crown attorney's decision as to where and how the process continues.
Mr. Reid: I want to ask the Minister of Labour then--the act is very clear, Section 55 says that individuals can be named as they do for working people of the province-- why will this minister and his department, as they have cited individual working people of the province, not cite the company owners by name in addition to the company name, when these cases are referred to Justice for prosecution? Why will the department not take that action?
Mr. Toews: Madam Speaker--[interjection] I believe the Leader of the Opposition has a comment to make on the record. If he wants to state--[interjection]
Point of Order
Mr. Toews: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, I believe there is an allegation being made that there is a contributor or supporter of mine that I am favouring, and I would like to--
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the official opposition, on the same point of order.
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): I did not make that statement. If the minister thought that I did make that statement, I would retract it.
Madam Speaker: I thank the honourable Leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Toews: In respect of the issue, if there is any kind of an oversight that is in the departmental policy, I will ensure--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Could I please implore all honourable members to stop using what might be perceived as unparliamentary language and in particular unkind remarks directed at each other, particularly when a member has been--order, please--particularly when a minister or a member has been recognized to either respond to a question or pose a question. It does nothing to improve the decorum in the Chamber.
* * *
Madam Speaker: The honourable Minister of Labour, to quickly complete his response.
Mr. Toews: I will review any practices inside the department; if there is some kind of an oversight, I will give the appropriate instructions. I want to assure the House, though, that this department is very concerned about worker safety. Our record in lowering deaths and injuries over the prior administration has been demonstrated time and again, and we want to continue on a path of ensuring that workers are safe in this province.
Health Care Facilities
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Madam Speaker, in asking the Minister of Health the question with respect to health care, in his last answer he said, well, blame the feds.
Madam Speaker, I would like the Minister of Health to acknowledge that the Minister of Health was fully aware of the decrease in equalization payments prior to the last provincial election, that he is trying to deceive Manitobans when he tries to pass the buck.
Will he take responsibility for the capital cuts? Do not try and pass the buck.
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Well, I think we know why we have a problem--because the honourable member makes reference to cuts in equalization payments. The cuts that we have been talking about for the last two or three years in this House have to do with the health and social transfer. So if the honourable member could at least get his understanding of those issues straight before he decides to come and try to do the job of the Minister of Highways and Transportation (Mr. Findlay), who is doing an excellent job advocating for his constituency, it would be helpful.
The honourable member wants to raise questions related to our capital program, which I am quite happy to answer with regard to the reason for the things that we have--the things that we do in relation to reduction in federal transfers, in relation to a very significant change and overhaul to the total health system. These are reasons enough to suspend a program long enough to get a handle on what we should be building and how we are going to finance it in the future.
Madam Speaker: Time for Oral Questions has expired.