Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Speaker: Good afternoon, everyone. Please be seated.


Introduction of Bills

Bill 31–The Police Services Amendment Act
(Community Safety Officers)

Hon. Andrew Swan (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I move, seconded by the Minister of Health (Ms. Selby), that Bill 31, The Police Services Amendment Act (Community Safety Officers); Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services de police (agents de sécurité communautaire), be now read a first time.

Motion presented.

Mr. Swan: This bill will amend The Police Services  Act and enables municipalities to establish community safety officer programs. Community safety officers will deliver crime prevention programs, connect persons in need with appropriate social services and maintain a public presence in the community. If authorized to do so, community safety  officers may assist local police officers in noncriminal matters, exercise prescribed powers and enforce specific enactments.

      We believe this bill presents an innovative resource to address the unique public safety needs and priorities of communities outside of Winnipeg. Enhancing public safety is a key component of our  commitment to supporting strong, healthy and inclusive communities. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion? [Agreed]

      Any further introduction of bills?


Mr. Speaker: Seeing none, we'll move on to petitions.

Provincial Sales Tax Increase–Cross-Border Shopping

Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

      And these are the reasons for the petition:

      Manitoba has a thriving and competitive retail environment in communities near its borders, including Bowsman, Swan River, Minitonas, Benito, Russell, Binscarth, St-Lazare, Birtle, Elkhorn, Virden, Melita, Waskada, Boissevain, Deloraine, Cartwright, Pilot Mound, Crystal City, Manitou, Morden, Winkler, Plum Coulee, Altona, Gretna, Emerson, Morris, Killarney, Sprague, Vita, Reston, Pierson, Miniota, McAuley, St. Malo, Foxwarren, Roblin and many others.

      Both the Saskatchewan PST rate and the North Dakota retail sales tax rate are 5 per cent, and the Minnesota retail sales tax is 6 per cent.

      The retail sales tax rate is 40 per cent cheaper in  North Dakota and Saskatchewan and 25 per cent cheaper in Minnesota as compared to Manitoba.

      The differential in tax rates creates a disincentive for Manitoba consumers to shop locally to produce their goods and services.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To acknowledge that the increase in the PST will significantly encourage cross-border shopping and put additional strain on the retail sector, especially for those businesses located close to Manitoba's provincial borders.

      To urge the provincial government to reverse its PST increase to ensure Manitoba consumers can shop affordably in Manitoba and support local businesses.

      This petition's signed by B. Salyn, T. Salyn, R. Kostech and many more Manitobans.

Mr. Speaker: In keeping with our rule 132(6), when petitions are read they are deemed to have been received by the House.

Provincial Sales Tax Increase–Referendum

Mr. Stuart Briese (Agassiz): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

      And these are the reasons for this petition:

      The provincial government promised not to raise taxes in the last election.

      Through Bill 20, the provincial government wants to increase the retail sales tax, known as the PST, by one point without the legally required referendum.

      An increase in the PST is excessive taxation that will harm Manitoba families.

      Bill 20 strips Manitobans of their democratic right to determine when major tax increases are necessary.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the provincial government to not raise the PST without holding a provincial referendum.

      This petition is signed by S. Bruce, P. Mohier, K. Lemoine and many, many other fine Manitobans.

Mr. Ralph Eichler (Lakeside): Good afternoon. I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

      These are the reasons for this petition:

      (1) The provincial government promised not to raise taxes in the last election.

      (2) Through Bill 20, the provincial government wants to increase the retail sales tax, known as the PST, by one point without the required referendum.

      An increase to the PST is excessive taxation that will harm Manitoba families.

      (4) Bill 20 strips Manitobans of their democratic right when major tax increases are necessary.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge provincial government to not raise the PST without holding a provincial referendum.

      This petition's submitted on behalf of J.  Huntington, B. Schindle, S. Gibb and many other fine Manitobans.

East Selkirk Sewage Lagoon Site–Environmental Licence

Mr. Dennis Smook (La Verendrye): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

      The background to this petition is as follows:

      (1) On August 12th, 2013, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship granted a licence for the construction of a sewage lagoon on the former CIL explosives plant site in East Selkirk.

      (2) This site is located 1,100 feet from the banks of the Red River.

      (3) Local residents are concerned that hydraulic pressure from the lagoon and instances of heavy rainfall could cause contaminants left over from the manufacturing of explosives at the site to flow into the Red River.

      (4) Upon the review of a soil study conducted on the site, the Water Science and Management Branch of the Department of Conservation and Water Stewardship noted that effluent from the site could negatively affect aquatic life in the Red River and may result in increased risks of cancer in fish.

      The chemical 'ditritolulene' is present in the soil at the former CIL explosives plant site and is known as a 'carcigenic' to fish and other aquatic species.

      Soil testing done prior to the environmental licensing being issued should have been done at a level consistent with the standards used by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, where they have more experience with testing for contaminants at former explosives sites.

      (7) The Province of Manitoba has no available guidelines for the measurement of energetic compounds in soil.

      (8) There are many other viable, non­contaminated sites in the area which would be better suited for the construction of a sewage lagoon.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To request that the Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship reconsider his decision to grant an environmental licence for the construction of a sewer lagoon at this site.

      This petition is signed by M. Dueck, H. Loane, C. Liebenau and many other fine Manitobans.

Mr. Speaker: Any further petitions? Seeing none, we'll move on to committee reports.

Introduction of Guests

Mr. Speaker: Prior to oral questions, I have guests to introduce who are sitting in our public gallery. In the public gallery we have with us today Nick Minenko and Aaron Barnett of Kildonan-East Collegiate, accompanied by Victor Minenko, who are the guests of the honourable Minister of Finance (Ms. Howard).

      And also seated in the public gallery we have from Ashern Central School 20 grade 11 students under the direction of Mr. Paul Armitage. And this group is located in the constituency of the honourable member for the Interlake.

      On behalf of all honourable members, we welcome you here this afternoon.

Oral Questions

Program for International Student Assessment

Test Score Results

Mr. Brian Pallister (Leader of the Official Opposition): Mr. Speaker, the results from the program of international student assessment were released today, and they are deeply disturbing. They reveal and have revealed consistent declines in math,  in science, in reading since this government came to power, and we're clearly going in the wrong  direction. In mathematics, we saw the largest decline in the–from the three-year-ago study of any Canadian province, we're down to eighth now; in reading, the largest decline of any Canadian province, down to ninth; and in science, the largest decline, also down to ninth.

* (13:40)

      We know that the government is very concerned to promote its own spending, but we want to suggest to them that they need to be concerned also about results and outcomes.

      Would the Premier admit that this government is failing Manitoba students and their families?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, first of  all, I want to say that these results, in our view, are  unacceptable and we believe that we could do better in Manitoba in partnership with teachers, in partnership with parents and their families and, of course, by having strong relationships and smaller class sizes for students, which is why we've confirmed today that 213 teachers have been added in the province of Manitoba on our Class Size Initiative to reduce the class size in that K-to-3 area, that critical foundational area where young people need to get off to a good start.

      And that is in direct contrast to what the Leader of the Opposition was proposing just a few months ago, across-the-board cuts, which would've meant less teachers and larger class sizes. We believe in more teachers, smaller class sizes and, of course, a stronger curriculum.

Constituency of Morris

By-Election Deadline

Mr. Brian Pallister (Leader of the Official Opposition): We believe in better results for our students.

      Speaking of better results, we are on the eve of the deadline whereby this Premier and government will break the record for the longest time since a resignation to call a by-election. And this Premier has chosen to disrespect the people of Manitoba and their democratic rights in numerous ways since his position was assumed, but he has, in this particular case, shown a record disrespect for the people of Morris and for their democratic rights as well.

      And I want to ask him if it is his intention to call this by-election in the dead of winter, after almost 11 months and in the middle of our festive season.

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): First of all, it is our intention to make sure the people in the Morris constituency are safe from people that go in channels and put those communities at risk by refusing to remove themselves as ice flows are coming down the Assiniboine River. If they would have stayed out of that diversion channel, we could've had a greater measure of safety for the people in the Morris constituency.

      Mr. Speaker, that's how we respect the people of Morris; we keep them safe.

Mr. Pallister: Well, this is a Premier who chose to  stand on the Hoop and Holler dike and make promises he hasn't kept to those same people.

      He's not only disrespected the people of that area and across this province in respect of his lack of fulfilling his promises on flood claims, but he's also disrespected those same people by not allowing them to have a vote, not just on the balanced budget law requirement to let them vote on his broken-promise PST hike proposal but, furthermore, to not allow them the right to vote in their own election in their own riding, and that is reprehensible, Mr. Speaker.

      Now, we understand from Elections Manitoba that this by-election must be called now in order to allow proper time for it to be completed within the year.

      Will the Premier call the by-election today?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the last time we had a round of by-elections, the Leader of the Opposition said we shouldn't call them in the summer, that's family time. Now he's asking me to call a by-election today as we move into the holiday season of Christmas. I think he should be consistent on that.

      We're in close consultation with Elections Manitoba. We will call the two by-elections that are now required in Manitoba because two members of the Tory caucus have left before their term is up. They've gone on to do other things. That was their choice, Mr. Speaker. They decided to do that.

      We're here to govern for all the people of Manitoba and the people of Morris. Not only do we  protect them from floods, we've now invested $215 million on Highway No. 75 so that the people of that constituency can have safe passage back and forth to their homes.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please.

STARS Contract Decision

Patient Safety Standards

Mrs. Myrna Driedger (Charleswood): I guess the Premier forgot to mention that Gary Doer left before his term was up too.

      Mr. Speaker, I was shocked to learn that the STARS helicopter has been grounded because a patient had died. I was shocked to learn that there have been other critical incidents as well as concerns and complaints made by hospitals. I was shocked because this NDP government has been adamant time and again that safety was not a concern of theirs where STARS was concerned. They were confident that everything was okay.

      So I'd like to ask the Minister of Health to tell  us: If this government had publicly tendered the  contract for a helicopter air ambulance instead of  sole-sourcing it, would there have been better scrutiny about patient safety standards?

Hon. Erin Selby (Minister of Health): I would like to say that the critical incident that occurred was a tragedy, and I know that everyone in this House has sympathy to the family.

      We are, of course, reviewing the incident to see what went wrong. We do, in all these cases when we have a critical incident, share that information. We share it with the family first. We share it with the public because we think it's really important, Mr. Speaker, not to bury the things under the rug, as they have been done by other governments, but to make sure we see what happened, convey that to the family and learn from it because we want to provide a safe service.

      Mr. Speaker, the decision to temporarily suspend STARS was not an easy one, but we had to in the face of patient safety.

STARS Service

External Review

Mrs. Myrna Driedger (Charleswood): Mr. Speaker, the previous minister of Health skated around hours of questions about the STARS contract and concerns about the possible lack of government oversight and scrutiny. But the minister of Health said, and I quote: We believe that very careful attention is being paid and will continue to be paid on the operations. End quote.

      If that's true, can the Minister of Health tell us: Why are there so many incidents occurring, and why has an external review been called?

Hon. Erin Selby (Minister of Health): It is exactly for that purpose that we called an external review.

      Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we take the advice of medical professionals, and up until the third critical incident we were advised by medical professionals that the STARS ambulance service was a safe way to transport patients. Over the weekend, when medical professionals advised us that they had some serious concerns over procedure, we acted swiftly, we acted promptly, because we take the advice of those medical professionals, and when they tell us they have concerns, we need to respond to that.

Mrs. Driedger: Mr. Speaker, the NDP rushed to sign a contract with STARS just prior to the last election, and then they used the shiny red helicopter as a campaign prop. So now they have a political vested interest in painting a very rosy picture and perhaps a dishonest picture about patient safety.

      Now we find out there have been three preventable incidents and there are now 15 cases under an external review, a review that nobody in the public knew about it 'til the media stumbled on it. Yet, up until last week, this Minister of Health has been painting a rosy picture about STARS every time she stands up in this House.

      So I'd like to ask the Minister of Health to tell us: Why has the public been kept in the dark about all these incidents and about an external review because of them?

Ms. Selby: The STARS ambulance, too, I think, has an impressive track record. I look forward to the time when Manitoba has a regular air ambulance service. I think that we can address some of the challenges in the North and rural Manitoba. So I think the air ambulances could make a significant difference. I agree with the member for Charleswood.

STARS Service

Suspension of Services

Mr. Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the STARS air ambulance service was suddenly grounded following a new incident last Thursday. Now, this minister said yesterday in a press release that up until now she was assured that STARS was providing appropriate emergency care, but now concerns were being raised so she was grounding the service.

      Mr. Speaker, something doesn't make sense here.  The minister did not ground STARS in May when 2‑year-old Morgan Moar-Campbell suffered brain damage because of oxygen deprivation during a STARS transfer. She didn't ground STARS in August when it became known that there was a   second, previously undisclosed incident under investigation. She said she had confidence in STARS  then. But now, after Thursday's incident, she suddenly grounds STARS.

      Mr. Speaker, she had confidence in STARS in June. She had confidence in STARS in August. When did the minister lose confidence in STARS?

* (13:50)

Hon. Erin Selby (Minister of Health): The critical incident that occurred over the weekend, Mr. Speaker, was a very difficult situation. Our sympathy, of course, is with the family at this time. I can't imagine what they're going through.

      But, yes, when medical advice, when doctors tell me that they have serious concerns that protocol was not being followed on STARS ambulance, yes, I will act swiftly and I will act and suddenly suspend it temporarily.

      I'm not sure what the member is implying, that he would sit around and debate what medical professionals share with us? That's not what we do on this side of the House. We take their opinions seriously and we act on that advice immediately.

STARS Critical Incident Reports

Suspension of Services

Mr. Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler): But, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly the point. The minister did not act swiftly. There was no concern expressed in June. There was no concern expressed in August, but now she grounds the service.

      Mr. Speaker, on August the 28th I asked the Health minister if she had confidence in STARS. She   answered, I have confidence that STARS is providing excellent service. Now, that was exactly when Manitobans had become aware of a second critical incident with respect to STARS.

      After both the Morgan Moar‑Campbell incident and that second incident, the minister indicated a critical incident report would took–take place.

      My question to the minister is: Did the authors of either of those critical incident reports call for the grounding of STARS?

Hon. Erin Selby (Minister of Health): I can assure Manitobans that up until the suspension of STARS,  my office had been advised that STARS was providing appropriate medical emergency procedures.

      In the time that STARS has been here, and let me just refrain–or let people know that we've had STARS in the province since 2009 when they helped with flooding then, 2011 when they helped with flooding then, and since they've been in service here we have seen them fly almost 700 flights and help nearly 430 patients, many of those patients who probably have STARS to thank for their health today.

      But, Mr. Speaker, when we got medical advice this weekend from the doctors who advise us, from whose opinions we take, that they had serious concerns, we acted swiftly, we acted appropriately.

Mr. Friesen: Mr. Speaker, we have always maintained that Manitobans need a high degree of   confidence that STARS ambulance service is operating safely.

      Now, the minister is on the record in the summer, the Health minister says, I have confidence that STARS is providing excellent services, and then the minister grounds STARS.

      The question is: When did the minister first receive a recommendation to ground STARS? Was it  just after Thursday, or was it earlier, after the Moar‑Campbell incident or after that other previously undisclosed incident? Did this minister cover up recommendations from those critical incident reports to ground STARS while she was busy telling Manitobans that this was a safe service? What is this minister not telling Manitobans?

Ms. Selby: Mr. Speaker, this government brought in  critical incident review legislation because we believe in letting people know exactly what is going on. Up until this third critical incident, our offices, Manitoba Health, was assured by the medical doctors that we were providing a safe service. Over the weekend serious concerns were raised and we acted swiftly, as Manitobans would expect us to do.

      We will take the opinion of medical doctors over the opinion of the opposition any day.

Training Completion Fund

Fund Shortage

Mr. Stuart Briese (Agassiz): Mr. Speaker, on August the 8th, 2013, the Department of Advanced Education stated, quote: A preliminary review of the Training Completion Fund has indicated that the current accumulated total in the fund is insufficient to provide for the adequate financial protection in the event of a large school ceases to operate.

      I ask the Minister of Education and Advanced Learning: What actions are being taken to address this shortfall?

Hon. James Allum (Minister of Education and Advanced Learning): I appreciate the question from the member.

      Of course, we on this side of the House are   focused on better training and educational opportunities to keeping young Manitobans in Manitoba and making sure our students are well educated. We're focused on jobs and the economy, providing good opportunities for all of our students to make sure that they're well positioned to go on and have good jobs, lead good lives and have healthy and productive families.

      That's what we do on this side of the House. They don't have a plan at all.

Financial Contribution Review

 Mr. Briese: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the minister has no idea what these questions are based on.

      The same letter went on to say, quote: Until a  comprehensive review of the TCF is undertaken and a target value identified, a change in amount and   frequency of TCF contributions will not be considered.

      I ask the minister: Has the review been undertaken, and if not, why not?

Mr. Allum: Again, I thank the member for the question.

      Mr. Speaker, we're concentrating on improving the foundation of our post-secondary institutions. We're making sure that they're well funded. We're making sure that we're working on pensions. We're  making sure that we're working on–working with faculty to make sure that we offer the best, most affordable, most accessible, quality education to post-secondary students in this province.

      That's what we're going to continue to do. I'm not sure what their plan is.

Mr. Briese: Mr. Speaker, he's obviously not sure of a lot of things, like what the training competition fund is.

      Mr. Speaker, the minister knows the fund is not adequate, yet does nothing. He is failing to protect post-secondary students in Manitoba. The problem has been identified, yet the minister takes no action.

      Why has he failed to call a review?

Mr. Allum: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member wants us to go over the top in our criticisms of the system, but we don't do that on this side of the House. We work with all of our post-secondary institutions to strengthen them, to make sure that they're affordable, that they're accessible, that we provide high quality education so that our young people have jobs, stay in this province and grow up and have good, healthy families here.

      That's what we're doing on this side of the House. They know that they've never had a plan, they never will, and we're unlikely ever to see one.

Program for International Student Assessment

Test Score Results

Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach): And, Mr. Speaker, it's difficult for our young people to get the jobs that we think they deserve if they don't have high quality education.

      And today there are more statistics released that this government is failing students, Mr. Speaker. Today's report showed that Manitoba finished eighth in Canada when it comes to math skills, they finished ninth in Canada when it comes to reading and ninth in Canada when it comes to science.

      Since the NDP government came into government, they've talked about making education a priority, but every time these results come out, we do worse, Mr. Speaker, not better.

      Despite the fact that rotating ministers of Education have made promises from the NDP, Mr. Speaker, why is it the more they promise to make education a priority, the worse our students do on these results?

Hon. James Allum (Minister of Education and Advanced Learning): I thank the member for the question. This is an important matter of public policy.

      As the Premier (Mr. Selinger) just said a few minutes ago, we on this side of the House believe that these results are unacceptable. We find them disappointing, and we expect to make improvements going on into the future. Just this morning, I've talked with all of our educational partners–teachers, trustees, superintendents and representatives from parents–to discuss these test results. And my message, really, to them, Mr. Speaker, was quite simple: We must do more to work together to ensure that these results improve.

      That's why we are reducing class sizes to make sure that there's one-on-one activity between the teacher and the student, to make sure that they're properly prepared to go on and have a good academic career.

      That's our plan. Again, they don't have one.

Mr. Goertzen: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister quotes the Premier, and he says that the Premier says that these results are unacceptable and the Premier ensures that we're going to do better.

      I want to quote the Premier as well. The Premier said, we're going to have more kids doing better as we roll out a new curriculum, Mr. Speaker. Now, that wasn't what he said a few minutes ago. He actually said that three years ago on December 9th. That's what the Premier said in 2010 when these results came out before. He said that it was unacceptable and we were going to do better.

      Was he not telling the truth today? Was he not telling the truth back then?

Mr. Allum: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the member would–was willing to tell the truth, he would actually tell this House what he has in mind for an educational plan in this province. He doesn't have one.

      The truth of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that we have revisited the math curriculum in our schools from K to 8. We have revisited the curriculum from language–for language arts on both the English and the French side.

      We do have a new math professor going into the University of Winnipeg to work with our student teachers so we can train the trainer better, teach the teachers better. And, Mr. Speaker, we're reaching out to parents in order to talk to them to make sure that they have the tools to talk to teachers and to talk to students to ensure that we have the best education system in the province that we can have.

* (14:00)

      Our goal is to invest in education. Their goal is to cut, cut, cut.

Mr. Goertzen: I'm the parent of a young child, and I suspect I'm a lot like a lot of parents. When my son comes home every day, and when I'm home, I ask him, what did you learn in school today? I don't ask him, what did the government spend on you in school today? Because, ultimately, it's not about what the government is spending on him, it's what he is learning.

      Now, the Premier made a commitment. The Premier made a commitment in this House three years ago after results were actually better than these results today. He said, we're going to have more kids doing better as we roll out new curriculum. Now, three years later, not only are they not doing better, they're actually doing worse.

      Why is it that the more the Premier makes promises, the worse he actually does?

Mr. Allum: Mr. Speaker, we do take these results very, very seriously.

      But I want to remind the member, before he jumps off a rhetorical cliff into an abyss of his own making, that graduation rates in this province since 2002 have increased by 13 per cent, from 71 to 84. On this side of the House we're making classes smaller from K to 8. We're hiring more teachers, 213, in fact. We're building more schools.

      They don't do any of those things, and in my two years in this House the member of–from Steinbach and the Leader of the Opposition have not tabled one plan to improve education in this province. We're unlikely ever to see one.

Community Pasture Program

Provincial Government Plan

Mr. Ralph Eichler (Lakeside): I think the new down is now an up; they spend more and get less. They have no credibility.

      Mr. Speaker, Manitoba's been given an opportunity to take charge of community pastures. Once the contract was over, which is now, most of the community pastures have closed. They have an opportunity to show leadership on this issue.

      Since the task force was formed nearly a year ago–and asked this Province, this Minister of Agriculture, to step forward and provide an update on what is really the role of the Province in this issue. Are they going to be involved, yes or no?

Hon. Ron Kostyshyn (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development): I guess, for the  record, we should just let it out right off the start. Thanks to our federal government who has chosen not to stand behind the cattle industry in the  province of Manitoba, choose to off-load the community pastures to whoever wishes to take it, this government takes it very seriously.

      We support the cattle industry in the province of Manitoba and we are in discussions with our stakeholder group to find solutions to have the cattle industry stay functional in the province of Manitoba.

Mr. Eichler: Mr. Speaker, I'd advise the member opposite not to stand behind them but, in fact, stand up for cattle producers. That's really what he should be doing.

      As we understand, the community pastures are now closed for the season. The–

Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I'm not sure what was  in the lunch today. Members are getting very excited here, I know, and I know they're waiting with  great anticipation for the question of the honourable member for Lakeside. So please give him the opportunity to ask his question and to be heard.

Mr. Eichler: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

      The problem is we need leadership and direction on what is going to happen, not only for those jobs that have now been closed since community pastures have left, the bull stock is still in the pastures, need to be looked after. So, Mr. Speaker, these producers cannot wait 'til the eleventh hour for a decision for next year's pasture plan.

      So I ask the minister: What timeline can producers expect from a decision from this government what they're going to do? Are they in, they out, or are they going to stand behind the cows?

Mr. Kostyshyn: It's very appropriate, I should say, that members opposite are still out in the pasture, because they haven't even come forward with a resolution to the federal government to ask for support of the cattle industry in the province of Manitoba.

      And it is somewhat disturbing that–the member opposite should choose words very, very carefully. I want to assure the members opposite, as a cattle producer for 35 years of my life, I still believe in the cattle industry and I will be there for the cattle industry for the province of Manitoba, and I hope you would relay some communication to your federal counterparts to support the cattle industry as well.

Mr. Speaker: May I caution the honourable Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, please, when he's answering questions to please place his comments through the Chair and not to other members directly in the Chamber.

Mr. Eichler: Sometimes when you stand behind the cow, you shouldn't breathe in, Mr. Speaker.

      We all know with beef, the numbers of stock have been on the decline. In order to maintain what producers and the community pastures need, they need action from this government. The government broke their promises on the educational tax rebate. They need an extra $250,000 just to make up the shortfall from this government breaking their promise in the education tax alone.

      So I ask the minister again: Will he stand up for producers, stand up and make sure the community pastures are going to be open, yes or no? What's this government's true commitment?

Mr. Kostyshyn: Mr. Speaker, let me be clear again. Obviously, it's been the federal Conservative Party that have chosen to cut the program, not us, and for some reason they want to deflect the blame onto us.

      Maybe if we were able to get some of the senators' money and put it towards community pastures, maybe we'd all be better off then. I do see  $93 million being a worthwhile investment in community pastures rather than paying the senators. Thank you so much.

Mr. Speaker: Any further questions?

STARS Service

Request to Table Contract

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, the government has suspended the STARS helicopter service because of a tragedy last week.

      In view of the now three critical incidents and  a  total of some 15 other incidents which the government says it's investigating with respect to the STARS service, it's important that the public know precisely what was in the government's contract with STARS with respect to the guarantees of high quality service to the people of Manitoba.

      I ask the Premier to act today to share this information with Manitobans by tabling the untendered $100-million contract with STARS helicopter service.

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, as you know, there is in Manitoba a unique procedure that is followed by this government, implemented by this government, called critical incident reviews. Any time a serious situation occurs, such as we've seen  here, and families are put at a tremendous disadvantage and have seen losses in their lives because of inappropriate service, a critical incident review is done. The results of that review are made public, first with the family and then with the wider health-care system, and those critical incident reviews are used to drive improvements in the system. They're used to drive improvements in the system, and the recommendations are followed and shared publicly, and the improvements are made in the interests of best service.

Mr. Gerrard: Mr. Speaker, we're talking here about what was in the government's $100-million contract with STARS service that would guarantee quality of  health-care delivery, because that is what is at question right now.

      And it may be that the government doesn't ordinarily disclose commercial contracts, but in this  case we're dealing with a situation where there've already been unintended consequences, where people's lives have been severely impacted. The public not only has a right to see the contract but a right to know what was in the contract with respect to guarantees of quality health-care delivery.

      I ask the Premier: Will he act today and produce the contract and table it in this Legislature?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member wants to ensure that there's good services offered to Manitobans, which is exactly why the service was brought into Manitoba first in 2009 during the flood events then, brought back in 2011 during the flood events then, and then continuity of service was provided after the 2011 flood.

      And any time an incident occurs, it is reviewed through our critical incident review process, recommendations are shared with the family, improvements are made in the system. Now, there's a systemic review being done of 15 cases here by a physician, a medical person outside the province of Manitoba, that will take a thorough look at it, will make recommendations on what improvements need to be made in the system.

* (14:10)

      And I can assure the member opposite that that is the point of having the STARS system in the first place, to have a timely response to people when they are in a position of medical crisis, whether it's a flood or otherwise. And we will continue to offer that service to Manitoba after these reviews are done and we can be assured by medical professions, their advice will assure us that the service is being offered in a way that is appropriate and safe for the patients.

Mr. Gerrard: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's not listening to the question. It has to do with the contract that he has signed. The executive director of Health Emergency Management is saying of STARS' efforts that basic medical practices and basic medical advice appear not to have been followed.

      Mr. Speaker, the public has a right to know the details of the contract that the government signed with STARS, but the Premier is keeping Manitobans in the dark by refusing to table this contract so that Manitobans can fully know and understand what we're getting for a hundred million dollars.

      Should the–I ask the Premier: Should Manitoba decide to terminate the STARS contract, can the Premier at least tell us today how much it will cost Manitobans to end the untendered $100-million contract if the service is found deficient?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the focus is on patient safety, which is why the critical incident reviews are being done, and out of an abundance of caution, additional reviews are being done of patients that have been transported by the STARS system by an outside medical professional from British Columbia. Medical advice is followed in all cases with respect to how services are provided by STARS, including putting medical professionals like doctors on the planes when patients are being transported.

      The focus of the reviews is patient safety. The focus of the review is being done by medical professionals, including doctors with expertise in this area, and their recommendations will be followed to  ensure that safety occurs, whether it's on the ground, in the air or in an ambulance. Anywhere that  that safety patient transportation is being done, appropriate medical advice will be sought and followed to ensure safety for people.

      That's the purpose of the review, that's the focus  of the review, and the results will drive improvements in the system.

Highway 9

Upgrade Announcement

Mr. Gregory Dewar (Selkirk): I am pleased to report to the House that the highway road show continues, Mr. Speaker.

      In 1995, the Filmon government promised to rebuild the intersection of Highway 9 and 27; they did nothing. Later on, they promised to rebuild the Highway No. 9 between Selkirk and Winnipeg; they did nothing. The members opposite are talkers; we are doers on this side of the House. They are no–they're no-shows. All they are is talk.

      My question to the minister of transportation is: Will he update the House today about the important investments that we made into Highway No. 9?

Hon. Steve Ashton (Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation): To quote Tom Cochrane, life is a highway, and, Mr. Speaker, no one is more of a doer than the member for Selkirk.

      I was very pleased, thanks to the advocacy of the member for Selkirk, the member of Gimli and communities up and down Highway 9, to announce that we're investing, Mr. Speaker, $45 million in upgrading Highway 9. This would not happen without the 1 cent on the dollar. I want to say that it's  going to be the biggest single investment on Highway 9 since it was constructed in the 1950s. We're going from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach.

      The bottom line is, Mr. Speaker, our government, our NDP government's committed to infrastructure. The bottom line is the Conservatives oppose it. And I'm really proud that we're investing in a historic way throughout Manitoba.

      Today it's Highway 9. I'm not even sure, Mr. Speaker, where we're going to go next, because it is a road show going around the province. Every region is going to see a major reinvestment because of this government.


Service Reduction

Mr. Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet): Road show or gong show, Mr. Speaker?

      I'm not quite–since the new minister took over  the department of tourism, culture, sport and consumer affairs, a few unfortunate things have happened. One example is that open-shelf library services in Manitoba have been reduced, limiting rural Manitobans' access to historical literature from Manitoba libraries.

      Mr. Speaker, we know that respect for Manitoba citizens and Manitoba's heritage are not priorities for this NDP government.

      I would like to ask the minister responsible: Are these service limitations a result of the new minister's mismanagement?

Hon. Ron Lemieux (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection): We know the opposition is a no-show and no-grow party.

      And, Mr. Speaker, we're continuing to work with libraries around the province, and municipalities as well, with regard to the services provided by many of the libraries in the province, and members opposite should know that we'll continue to work hard on be–on their behalf.

Dalnavert Museum


Mr. Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet): Mr. Speaker, the more this minister continues to work hard, the less and less services Manitobans get.

      Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this provincial government has no vision for the future; equally as concerning is that they also have no respect for our province's past. The Dalnavert Museum, once home to Sir Hugh John Macdonald, a former Manitoba premier, has since closed, and no assistance or even comment from the minister responsible has been offered.

      Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister responsible: Are these service limitations a result of the new minister's mismanagement?

Hon. Ron Lemieux (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection): Just the previous announcement by the Minister of Infrastructure and  Transportation (Mr. Ashton) shows, and the members opposite don't get, the connection of dots, for example, between culture, heritage, tourism. When you're investing $67 million in Highway No. 10 from Brandon all the way to Clear Lake or to the peace gardens, that's a true investment, a real investment in infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, on tourism in the province of Manitoba. Hundreds and hundreds and thousands of jobs depend on culture, heritage and tourism in this province.

      And, Mr. Speaker, every single initiative, whether it's highways, improvement of highways, that investment in tourism in the province of Manitoba, members opposite have voted against those initiatives every single time. So we don't know, really, where they're coming from–

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The minister's time has expired.

Literacy Prizes

Funding Cuts

Mr. Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet): Mr. Speaker, it's going to be interesting on which portfolio this minister's moving on to next.

      Mr. Speaker, nothing is more important to people than preserving their unique heritage; unfortunately, the NDP continually fail to realize this. Earlier this year, the NDP cut funding to three prominent literacy prizes. These prizes were meant to honour Manitoba's culture and heritage. Now we see many services suffering from further NDP mismanagement.

      Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister responsible for tourism, culture, sport and consumer affairs: Are these service limitations and program cuts a result of the new minister's mismanagement or lack of respect for Manitobans' heritage?

Hon. Ron Lemieux (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection): Just a comment with regard–and I thank the member for the question–with regard to heritage objects in this province, Mr. Speaker, I'll give you one quick example of the pride this province has. When we took a look at the new building of the MTS Centre–which members opposite opposed, by the way–we took a look at a statue that many Manitobans, many Winnipeggers were very fond of, Timothy Eaton's statue. It's this government on this side that declared that statue a heritage object, and now it resides in the Manitoba–the MTS Centre.

      So with regard to that, the heritage that we talk about, whether it's the facade on the downtown Red River Community College, Mr. Speaker, and other buildings in this city but also throughout the province, our track record speaks for itself. Heritage is truly important to the province of Manitoba, as well as–

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The minister's time has expired.

PST Increase

Request to Reverse

Mr. Dennis Smook (La Verendrye): Families in this province are having a hard time thanks to the NDP. Inflation is high, taxes are even higher, and more and more families are able to afford less and less. Sporting equipment costs more. Insurance costs more. Gas costs more. The things that families need are things they simply can no longer afford.

      Mr. Speaker, will this government stop punishing Manitoba families and reverse this illegal PST hike?

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Minister of Finance): I'm glad I got a question today. It gives me a chance to stand up and tell the Leader of the Opposition, yesterday he claimed that he never advocated for a two-tier health-care system. I want to refer him to the transcript from CJOB on Tuesday, May 28th. I know sometimes what he thinks he says and what he actually says are different things, but I want him to know that he said, you know, two-tier health care is a delivery system that we need. Then he was asked, so does that mean that if you have a couple hundred bucks, you could get an ultrasound faster in Manitoba? What did he say in answer to that question? I think that's what Manitobans want to see. So that is what he stands for.

* (14:20)

      I have to tell you, if families in this province have to pay before they get the kind of tests that they need, if they get to jump in line because they have money, that is going to be extremely hard on families. That's the–

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The minister's time has expired.

      Time for oral questions has expired.

Members' Statements

Mr. Speaker: Time for members' statements.

International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day for Manitobans and people around the globe. Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On  behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, I  would like to show our continuing support for individuals with disabilities on this very important day.

      Mr. Speaker, over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. In comparison, in  Manitoba 1 in 6, or 170,000 people live with a disability.

      People with disabilities are faced with numerous barriers that limit their independence and success in this province. For instance, 18.9 per cent of families where the income earner has a working limited physical or mental disability are considered low income.

      Mr. Speaker, our caucus is proud to support Bill  26 and the work of Barrier-Free Manitoba, the Province's access advisory committee and other stakeholders whom both we and the government consult with. The Accessibility for Manitobans Act is a major move forward in achieving equality for disabled Manitobans, helping to ensure that all Manitobans have the fair access they deserve to full economic and social integration.

      I want to take a few moments to single out a few individuals that our caucus has had the pleasure of  working with, some of whom are here today: Mr. Patrick Falconer of the Barrier-Free steering–Manitoba steering committee; Mr. John Young from the Independent Living Resource Centre; Mr. David Kron of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba; Mr. Lanny McInness of the retail council of Manitoba; and many others, Mr. Speaker, who have provided their support and their words of wisdom.

      Mr. Speaker, it is my view, and I think the view of probably all members in this House, that societies are often judged by how they treat their most vulnerable, and I think this legislation is a step in the right direction. Sometimes, though, people fail to  realize or perhaps admit that there exists an irony  between personal ideals and political reality. The recognition of barriers faced by people with disabilities does not much–to limit this irony.

      To that end, I'd like to cite Reinhold Niebuhr's 1952 work of The Irony of American History for this House to consider in recognizing the work of the disability community, which has been accomplished and what lies ahead: Nothing works–nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or  good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history, therefore, we must be saved by  faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone, therefore we are saved by life.

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Flin Flon Community Choir

Mr. Clarence Pettersen (Flin Flon): Mr. Speaker, this weekend the Flin Flon Community Choir was far away from home. On Sunday, dozens of members from our community went to New York City, the Big Apple, to join voices with choirs from around the world. Hailing from Singapore to Sudbury, eight international choirs and individual American singers sang a modern arrangement of Handel's Messiah to a sold-out crowd.

      Though I feel a little slighted I wasn't chosen to  lend my own beautiful singing voice, Mr. Speaker,  it is thrilling to hear of our very own Flin Flon Community Choir performing at such an internationally renowned event. Their performance was part of the Distinguished Concerts International New York concert series which brings together notable musicians from around the world to perform.

      Additional members of our community choir supported the choir while they travelled: Tom Goodman, Bill Paulley and Bill Jackson. These husbands of choir members didn't quite make the cut  either, and have since turned their sights on becoming Flin Flon Community Choir groupies instead.

      This is not the first time the community choir have performed outside the community. They have travelled throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan and have even performed at Carnegie Hall. This is thanks to no small part to organizer Crystal Kolt, who continues to be such a passionate advocate for Flin Flon cultural organizations.

      Mr. Speaker, BBC Music Magazine named this performance the No. 1 live event for Christmas in North America. I'd like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Flin Flon Community Choir on their performance this Sunday.

      I think it's time to update the old tune, New York, New York, to something a little more local. Maybe something along the lines: Start spreading the news/ Flin Flon, Flin Flon–

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Gary Gilmour

Mr. Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler): Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate Gary Gilmour on being named 2013 Winkler Citizen of the Year.

      Gary grew up in Winnipeg, moved to Winkler in 1976 as a lawyer with Dyck Dunlop Law. He has practised law for the past 37 years. He currently has his own practice at Gary Gilmour Law Office. Gary is a life bencher after serving 11 years with the law society.

      Gary is highly involved in his adopted community. He joined the Winkler Lions Club the first year he lived in the community. He served in many capacities on the board and on committees. And even though the club was dissolved in 2013,   Gary continues his involvement through initiatives that he assisted in setting up. The Amy Janzen fund was created, assisting individuals with emergency medical needs not covered by Manitoba Health. Chairing as the host committee to the Canadian Blood Services, Winkler Lions Club holds the Manitoba record as the host organization for the  most successful one-day regular blood donor clinic, with 235 units of blood. In 2011, Gary was recognized with the Lieutenant Governor's Make A Difference Community Award for the central region.

      Gary has always been engaged in sports, either as an athlete, organizer or coach. Over the years, he organized a tennis club, a badminton club and junior hockey, to name a few.

      Gary sat on numerous boards and held many  positions: Winkler chamber of commerce, the Lions  Club, Winkler Community Foundation, sports committees, the upcoming 2014 Power Smart Manitoba Games. And, Mr. Speaker, let me add that he has served as association president for five different MLAs on his local PC association. That may be a record.

      Mr. Speaker, the Winnipeg–the Winkler foundation allows the citizen of the year to direct $1,000 in granting, and Gary and his wife, Penny, chose to donate $500 to the Pembina Valley Humane Society and the second $500 will go back to establish a separate fund for education. This grant will be available to all students, in any year of study, plus it will be open to students attending university, college or vocational programs.

      Congratulations to Gary on being named the 2013 Winkler Citizen of the Year.

Chambers Family House Fire

Ms. Nancy Allan (St. Vital): On the afternoon of November 22nd, a tragic house fire occurred in my constituency, taking one person's life and leaving a mother and her daughter without a home. My deepest condolences go out to the family of Robert Chambers who passed away in the fire.

      Mr. Chambers lived in the Hindley Avenue home with his daughter, Shaunelle, and his granddaughter. Both mother and daughter were taken to hospital and, fortunately, have been released. It's hard to imagine the pain this family is experiencing. They have lost a beloved father and grandfather and also their home. I extend my best wishes to the Chambers family as they recover from this terrible misfortune.

      Through this tragedy, I see a glimmer of hope. The St. Vital community is pulling together to support Shaunelle and her daughter. Nothing can replace the family they lost, but generous donations from the community can make a real difference as they work to regain their footing.

      Teen Stop Jeunesse, a local youth drop-in centre, is collecting donations for the family. They've seen a tremendous amount of support, including donations of furniture. Their storage is quickly filling up. The Evangel Chapel Church in St. Vital is also lending a  hand. They opened a bank account in the family's name and are collecting donations of furniture, clothes, food and money. The family's pets were rescued from the fire and are in good care at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

      It's amazing to see how people and organizations have graciously lent a hand to the Chambers family. I'd like to especially thank the brave firefighters of the Winnipeg fire department who put their lives at  risk for the Chambers family. We are forever grateful.

      It is inspiring to witness how a community can come together when one of our neighbours is faced  with adversity. I know these efforts will help Shaunelle and her daughter find their way through this difficult time.

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.   

Gladstone Auction Mart Celebrates 50 years

Mr. Stuart Briese (Agassiz): I'm pleased to rise   in   the House today to acknowledge the 50th  anniversary of the Gladstone Auction Mart, a   provider of livestock products and services in Gladstone, Manitoba, since 1963. The mart's central local in the middle of our country and along Highway 16 has helped make it accessible to buyers from across the country.

* (14:30)

      When the auction mart was started, 232 shares were sold at $50 each to area farmers. Eight farmers from the area sat on the first board. The purpose of creating this auction mart was to give surrounding farmers a place to get a fair market price for their livestock. Their success is due to all those who had   cattle supporting Gladstone Auction Mart instead of trucking them long distances. Today, the mart employs 20 people and has 500 shareholders. Shareholders now include people from British Columbia and all the way to Ontario.

      Over the last 50 years the mart has seen many changes in the livestock industry. Today the auction mart holds primarily cattle sales with a few horse sales each year. At one time the market had a peak year, selling 4,400 head, but since BSE in 2003 they  have seen a number of producers leave the industry. In the early days hogs were the No. 1 seller. Gladstone Auction Mart held the largest hog sales in the province. At one time sales reached 42,000 hogs per year. Horse sales were also quite popular at one time when there were a lot of PMU farmers. Sheep and goat sales were also added in the 1970s. Hog sales, sheep sales and goat sales were discontinued in 2002.

      There have been a number of upgrades over the  past 50 years. They've expanded their pens to  the  capacity of 1,500 head; parking lot's been redone.  Eight years ago the mart moved to a fully computerized system. Auction mart's continued existence is thanks to a former board member and former manager of 23 years, Mr. Les Foxon, and another former board member, Mr. Verne McGowan. In the '70s, these men each put up a quarter section of land as security against a loan to keep the mart operational.

      Mr. Speaker, I ask that all members of the House join me in wishing all those involved in the success of Gladstone Auction Mart all the best as they celebrate this 50th anniversary, and I hope that they have continued success for at least another 50 years.




Mr. Speaker: Seeing no grievances, orders of the day, government business.

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Acting Government House Leader): Would you please call third reading of the following bills: Bill 26, Bill 15, Bill 5, Bill 17, Bill 29 and Bill 35.

Mr. Speaker: We'll be calling bills in the following order: Bill 26, followed by bills 15, 5, 17, 29 and  35,  starting with Bill 26, The Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

Concurrence and Third Readings

Bill 26–The Accessibility for Manitobans Act

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities): I move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal Government (Mr. Struthers), that Bill 26, The Accessibility for Manitobans Act; Loi sur l'accessibilité pour les Manitobains, as amended and reported from the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development, be concurred in and be now read for a third time and passed. 

Motion presented.

Ms. Howard: It gives me great pleasure and honour to be able to rise today to speak to third reading of this bill, and before I start, I know you welcomed our guests earlier. I also want to welcome them. I want to particularly welcome Nick and Andrew Minenko who I see up there. I know that their dad, Victor, was here, their friend, Aaron, and I want to welcome them because Victor, the father of these two fine young men worked very hard on this bill for a very long time. And I want to welcome Nick because last year–I think it was at probably one of the open houses around this time. Nick came to me and he was very excited about this piece of legislation, and he asked me if I could name it after him, and I said I don't think the lawyers will let me do that, but I do want you to come and hear it when we get to talk about it in the Legislature. And so he's here today, and I'm glad he is, and we'll think of it in our hearts as the Nick Minenko bill, even if we can't quite get that into the title.

      Today, of course, is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and it is appropriate today that we're having this discussion about this bill. It has been a journey, this piece of  legislation, and I want to reflect a little bit on that   journey this afternoon. And I also want to welcome many of the folks who've come along on this journey  who I see up in the gallery, people from the community advocacy groups that have been working very hard for the passage of this bill.

      So this piece of legislation had its birth, I guess, six years ago now, maybe five or six years ago when a group of people came to me with an idea, and their idea was that Manitoba adopt legislation similar to what Ontario had done, legislation that would set out a framework for achieving greater accessibility in our province.

      And I will say at first I was a skeptic. I didn't   completely understand how a piece of legislation, how a law could help make things more accessible. But we had many conversations and those   conversations also took us–myself along with  John  Wyndels, who works for the Disabilities Issues Office, who's also been key in getting to this moment–took us on a journey to Toronto where we   met with several people, the minister there, people who had worked on the legislation both in the community sector and in the civil service. And we got very good information about what the legislation could achieve, as well as good information about perhaps some of the things that they wished that they  had done differently. And I should also thank David Lepofsky who was a leading advocate for this legislation in Ontario and who has been helpful with both advice and criticism along the way to get to today.

      So we got that information and then we came back, and the thing that was clear to me was that there was great promise here.

      I view this legislation as transformative for this province. I view this legislation in the same way perhaps that workplace safety and health legislation was seen when it was  first brought in. At some point in time, people stopped asking why are people getting injured at work and started talking about how they could prevent it. I see this legislation in the same way.

      We have for many, many years had the rights, as   people with disabilities, to inclusion, to equal opportunity in this province and in this country. And those rights have been exercised mostly through complaints at the Human Rights Commission, and we are thankful that that commission exists, and we're thankful for all the people who've had the courage to move forward with complaints and get results. But we also know that if we continue to fight for accessibility, what has been called one ramp at a time, it's going to take much longer than needed to get there.

      And so what we wanted to do was, of course, keep the process in terms of human rights legislation, but also back that process up so that we could have conversations in this province about how we make things more accessible so people don't have to launch a complaint. And we knew that if we were going to do that, we had to reach out beyond the community that was already talking about accessibility. People with disabilities, organizations and the people that work with people with disabilities have been having these conversations for decades. And there are good examples of people in governments, provincial and municipal governments and federal governments, people in the private sector that I have met who have also had those conversations and gone out to do what they can to make places more accessible.

      But beyond people who have the awareness and the goodwill to do something, we weren't really talking to other folks who also have the power to make change, who also have the power to make the world more accessible. And so we wanted to bring them into the conversation, and I'm very thankful that we were able to do that, that they approached this with an open mind and that they came to the table and they worked with us.

      And so we had representatives–I know some of   who may be here today–from the Retail Council, from the hotel and restaurant associations, because we knew that their businesses would be affected by the decisions that we were going to make and we wanted them at the table as we went along that journey. And I think that process of having those  conversations between people who represent businesses, who represent municipal governments, and people who live with disabilities and people who work with and champion the rights of people of disabilities beyond achieving legislation which has a high degree of consensus in this province, it has also led to conversations about how do we make employment more open to people with disabilities, how do we challenge the attitudes that still exist today that convey stigma to–for people with disabilities.

      We know that for many, many people, it is just a matter of not knowing what to do when someone with a disability comes into their office or their store or their restaurant.

      People, I believe, in Manitoba–and frankly this is my view of humanity generally–people want to do good in the world; they want to be welcoming; they want to be accepting; they want to create a world where we all have equality of opportunity where we can all prosper. But sometimes we don't know how to do that. And sometimes not knowing makes us embarrassed, makes us afraid, and so we react in ways that maybe aren't always appropriate.

* (14:40)

      And we know that the promise of this legislation–where it's been tried in places like Ontario, in places like the United States where it was brought in over 20 years ago–the big promise of this    legislation isn't only to, hopefully, make buildings more accessible, to, hopefully, open up job opportunities for people with disabilities. The real promise of this is to change attitudes, to help people see that people with disabilities have much, much to offer, and with a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of awareness we can make tremendous change. It doesn't have to be at great cost financially. It is to–sometimes, simply knowing what to do, how to offer service.

      And so today, I think, is a historic day. I know that whenever it happens that I no longer have the privilege of sitting here, that I will look back at this legislation as something that was worth my time here. Lately, I try to judge my days by asking myself at the end of the day, was it worth me spending these eight, 10, 12 hours away from my kid today? Did I accomplish anything that I can say to him, it was worth me not being with you today because I did something important? And today, when we pass this bill, I will be able to go home and say, without a doubt, that it was important that I was here today, that the change that we're going to make today is not only going to benefit me, is not only going to benefit the people that have come here today to witness this. It is going to benefit generations and generations and generations of Manitobans, and I am so thankful that we will stand united today in this Chamber and give approval to third reading of this bill, because I think today we are changing the world and those opportunities don't come along that often in this line of work.

      So I want to thank the members opposite of all parties who've been along on this journey, who've offered helpful advice and their support. This is a good day, Mr. Speaker. We should celebrate. Thank you.

Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): I appreciate the words put on the record by the member for–or the Minister responsible for the Persons with Disabilities. I know that she's worked hard on this initiative, and I know that the community has worked very hard at getting the voice of government, or the ear of government, and have been a strong voice in their efforts. And so I believe it's a very important day for many Manitobans, including members that are in the gallery today wanting to make sure that this legislation moves forward.

      And, today being International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I would like to indicate that members on this side of the House, the Progressive Conservative caucus, will continue to show their support for individuals with disabilities on this day  and every day going forward. Mr. Speaker, we believe this is a very, very important initiative. We know that this legislation is needed. It could be stronger. We've had discussions in questions and in debate as well as during committee, and I believe that it has been a good dialogue with the minister and I have appreciated the opportunity to learn as I have become involved in this file.

      And we–what we've learned is that people with   disabilities have–are faced with numerous barriers that limit their independence and limit their success in this province, and we need to do more, Mr. Speaker. You know, last year we saw that there was a serious spike in complaints based on disability discrimination in Manitoba through the human–Manitoba Human Rights Commission. And, you know, we–what we learned from that is that there's some ignorance. There's obviously a lack of education or understanding of the barriers that many Manitobas–Manitobans face and a need for us to get a better understanding and to do what we can as Manitobans to ensure that we are addressing those needs.

      Now, this legislation will be positive. It'll provide education. It'll provide information on the four principles that are going to be the framework for this legislation: access, equality, universal design and systemic responsibility. And I believe that there could have been one step further, in that we could have attached timelines to this. I know that this is something that the disability community had said they wanted to see was some type of commitment that would show accountability to the four areas of–or the four principles of this bill, and that would definitely have provided some assurances to the community that the government was going to be acting–and acting in a timely manner.

      The legislation that has been put forward will   address some critical challenges, but every Manitoba–but having–keeping in mind that every Manitoban deserves the right to participate fully and meaningfully in their community.

      And I indicated, I think, at a reception in my community where I live, we're quite proud of our swinging bridge and during the 2011 flood it was decided that the bridge had to be 'tearn'–torn down during the flood. They felt that it may cause more damage to residences downstream and so they tore it down. This year it has been rebuilt and it's built very strongly.

      It's–and one individual in our community who I've known in all the years that I've lived there, for the 15-plus years, he's always around town. He's got a motorized scooter, and he's everywhere and he's at every event. And he's an amazing individual, knows so much about the community because he talks to everybody and everybody talks to him. And one day I was just walking down the street, and he came up to me and he says, you know, Leanne, what do you think of the bridge? And I says, oh, it's great to have it back because it connects the east side to the west side of the community, and east side is residents and the hospital and the west side is the commercial district. And he says, well, you know, I love it, he  says, and I want to say that I've lived in this community my entire life–my entire life–and I have never had the opportunity to cross that bridge until this new bridge was built because it is wheelchair accessible.

      And I thought, isn't that just fantastic because this individual, who more than any other individual in the community, as far as I feel, deserved to have that opportunity because he relishes everything about the community and knows so much about the history and the people in the community, and for him to have that ability and the accessibility of enjoying every aspect of the community speaks to what I consider accessibility for Manitobans.

      So I believe that this legislation has a lot of potential. I believe that there are a number of things that could assist with this, and I know that, when we met as a group at a reception, we talked about the need for government to be looking at, you know, the EIA shelter allowance and how that is a major piece of an obstacle, a challenge that this government has failed to address. Our party supports the 75 per cent of medium market rates. We believe that shelter allowance rates need to be increased. We believe that that is an important piece of what is required for individuals with–persons with disabilities to provide them with that base, to provide them with some assurance and some knowledge that their dollars can go to their well-being and that their rent will be covered. And I believe that we'll continue to fight for that. We've discussed this with many groups, and it's supported, Mr. Speaker. And I believe that this government going forward may want to consider this as something that is an important piece of the puzzle because I believe that this will definitely strike some–or erase some of the barriers that are currently faced by individuals with disabilities.

* (14:50)

      Recently, we passed the bill with regard to the diagnosis of hearing loss for children, ensuring that they are tested when they are born. That's another piece of a puzzle, Mr. Speaker, and I was so proud to have an opportunity to bring that legislation forward and have the government support that legislation, because what it does is it does provide children with  an opportunity to receive support so that they can  hear–or be provided with supports that would ensure that they get the most out of life. So there are a number of things that have come forward over the  last number of years that support persons with disabilities.

      We are strong believers in children with autism and the need to ensure that supports and resources are in place for those children, and a lot of it has to be up front. It can't be on the back end of a person's life. It has to be on the front end and provided early in life so these individuals can gain the best of everything, Mr. Speaker, whether it be experiencing school, talking or enjoying friendships, travelling, all   of these things are so important. Learning, especially, would be made easier for individuals who are provided with the supports early in life.

      So, Mr. Speaker, Bill 26 is a step in the right direction. We feel that there are a number of things that could be done to support or enhance this bill, some accountability to timelines and ensuring that society does respond to the needs of persons with disabilities. We've looked at punitive action being taken, and I think that–the minister's assured me that, you know, education will be–you know, of what needs to be done will be done with businesses and families out there who are going to adhere to this legislation.

      But I do believe that this legislation is going in the right direction, and I want to congratulate the minister for taking this on and listening to the community. I've learned a lot through this process, and I want to thank her and I want to thank the members in the gallery for their patience and wisdom in ensuring that this legislation can be the best that it can be and will improve over–through amendments as we go forward.

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, I rise today, on the international day for people with disabilities, a important–an important day for all of us and a significant day to be having third reading of this bill. It is an important bill.

      I want to say from the start that Manitoba Liberals have been very strong supporters for quite some time for a barrier-free Manitoba, and we've been calling on measures to move forward in this direction for quite a number of years.

      There is a lot of good in this legislation, which it's important to recognize. It's well-meaning; it's good to have the overall goal of a fully accessible province; it's good to have set down a process that we will be going through to reach that goal.

      But, at the same time, I want to review some of the comments that were made by David Lepofsky, who's from Ontario with the accessibility from Ontarians with disabilities act alliance. And he came  and presented at the committee stage, and he made  a  number of comments which it's worthwhile considering as we look at this legislation. And even as we support this legislation and look forward to it coming into law, I think it's important to ask the question, could this legislation have been improved? And I think, as I go through the comments of David Lepofsky's, that we will see that it could have been improved.

      First of all, David said that it's absolutely indispensable that your law be amended–that your bill be amended to set a specific requirement to full accessibility, that the government has to lead the province to full accessibility and that it set a deadline. Well, I'm pleased that we do have a date of  2023, that there is a target date set now with the amendment. I believe that the goal on that date, which is substantial progress, is not nearly as clear and as definitive as it should have been, that we should have had, as Ontario did, a goal of full accessibility–or as I understand Ontario did. But we should have had things specified much more clearly so that it's much easier to see exactly what that goal is, and in seeing clearly what the goal is, to make sure we take the steps to get there. So part way on No. 1, but we could have done better.

      The second comment that David Lepofsky made was that the law falls short and that it merely says that standards may be made rather than saying that standards must be made. Indeed, as David Lepofsky says, that the Bill 26, in its final wording falls short and is much closer to legislation which was brought forward by Mike Harris in Ontario that people have recognized did not go anywhere near far enough because it didn't require the accessibility standards to be made.

      Now, Mr. Speaker, it will be up to all of us and to those in the disability community in particular to keep a close eye on the government, the present government, and whoever may succeed that government in terms of actually implementing and making sure that those standards are actually set.  This is absolutely essential, certainly from a Manitoba Liberal perspective, that this is a vital part of what needs to be done, and we need to be very vigilant as we move forward to make sure that those standards are actually met.

      The third point that David Lepofsky made was that any recommendations that are brought forward must have a representation of 50 per cent of people with disabilities or their representatives at the table. I think this is very important to recognize and it's important, again, that as we move forward, whether it's this government or other governments, that we recognize how important this is, based on the experience in Ontario, for this to happen. And although it may not be in the legislation, it must be something which, I believe, all of us need to commit to.

      The fourth point that David Lepofsky made was that you need to make sure that, once there is progress, that it's very hard to backtrack. You need to be sure that steps are taken and that there is measures taken so that it's very hard for a government in the future, after there has been progress, to backtrack. David Lepofsky recommended that there be embedded in the legislation protection, that once the gains made under the legislation through standards are made, that there is no possibility of turning around and cutting them back without a major consultation process. I would have said, perhaps, in past years we could talk about a referendum, but the current government has kind of made a mockery of   referendums by bypassing one that had been legislated. But I do think that what we need to have, again, is a commitment from all of us to make sure that once we get gains that there is no backtracking, that we need to go forward and not two steps forward and one step back and this sort of thing.

      Next is the area of enforcement. David Lepofsky says without effective enforcement a law like this doesn't get you very far and it provides–this law provides you can have inspectors, but it doesn't require that you appoint any or that you appoint any in our lifetime.

* (15:00)

      So the law could have been clearer, could have been more specific. Once again, it will fall to all of us in this Chamber to make sure that no government gets around this and that the steps are taken, and it will be very important to have vigilance not only among legislators but vigilance, I would hope, with an annual report on progress from people in the disability community as an independent look at how we, as a government, as we as provincial politicians are doing.

      And the last point that David Lepofsky made: Could you amend this bill to require that whenever the government spends money on procurement or capital or other infrastructure projects that that money can never be used to create barriers or perpetuate barriers or exacerbate barriers. Now this would appear to be particularly important, at the moment, given the major investment which is being put forward–$5.5 billion in infrastructure–and this would have been a very useful addition.

      Again, if we are to do this, we need to make sure that we have eyes watching the circumstance; I believe eyes in the disability community. It would be possible, perhaps, to bring in some amendments in the next session to make sure this happens. But, at the very least, there needs to be some sort of a mechanism with all the infrastructure spending being proposed to exactly what it would mean and what sort of clauses would be–have to be in place so that you can't use money to create barriers or perpetuate barriers or exacerbate barriers. I think these were all good recommendations.  

      I don't want to take away from the many other recommendations because there was a lot of other good ones in the presentation, but I thought it was particularly worthwhile to bring forward these from David Lepofsky because he had experience with legislation in Ontario and experience with what didn't work and with what is working. And so I felt that it was important, too, to put these words on the record to remind all of us that although this bill takes us a certain distance, that if we're going to go the real distance that we have to go, that it will require a lot of vigilance because there's a lot of, I think you could call them weasel words, in this legislation, that if we are not vigilant that government could not act in an adequate way.

      So, with those words, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down. I, certainly, strongly support this legislation, and as I said, I will personally commit to doing what I can in advancing that vigilance, and I hope others, both inside and outside the Legislature, will also help in that effort. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker: Is there any further debate on Bill 26?

An Honourable Member: Question.

Mr. Speaker: Question's been called.

      Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion, Bill 26, The Accessibility for Manitobans Act? [Agreed]

Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Official Opposition House Leader): Is it the will of the House to have that vote recorded as unanimous, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker: Is it the will of the House to have the vote recorded as unanimous? [Agreed]

      The record will show it's unanimous.

Bill 15–The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act
(Minimum Wage Protection for Employees with Disabilities)

Mr. Speaker: Now to continue with concurrence and third readings. We'll now call Bill 15, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Minimum Wage Protection for Employees with Disabilities).

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities): I move, seconded by the Minister of Labour and Immigration (Ms. Braun), that Bill 15, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Minimum Wage Protection for Employees with Disabilities); Loi modifiant le Code des normes d'emploi (protection du salaire minimum pour les employés ayant des incapacités), reported from the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development, be concurred in and be now read for a third time and passed.

Motion presented.

Ms. Howard: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have the  opportunity to put a few words on the record about this bill. This bill is something that also came   to us because of work in the disability community, particularly the work of Dave Martin, who is currently the special adviser for people with disabilities, had in the past been the executive director of the Disability Issues Office.

      And this is an issue that is highly symbolic. This bill may not affect a lot of people because the practice of paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage is something that is mostly relegated to the past. There are still a few instances ongoing. A  few years ago, the department stopped issuing these certificates, but we did recognize that there are people who are in employment for whom that employment is rewarding and a necessary part of their lives, and we didn't want to jeopardize that. So we had discussions with those individuals and their families to make sure that they believed that it continued to be in their best interest to work in those places, and we allowed those to continue.

      But it became clear to us, and the community represented this to us, that we have moved beyond a time where we think that it's acceptable to be paid less than minimum wage simply because you have a disability. There may be, and there are, many good programs that achieve things like work experience for people with disabilities or young people or other people who are attempting to enter the labour market where payment of a wage is not something that may be necessarily appropriate, or the payment of a minimum wage. Those kinds of programs continue. This legislation will not affect that. But what it will affect is something that had been in place in the past, not only in Manitoba, but other provinces, where, for  no other reason than that you had a disability, you  could be paid less than minimum wage. The government had the power to grant an exemption to the minimum wage legislation.

      And the minimum wage legislation has been and, I guess, in many ways, continues to be, evolving. There was a time, not only in this province but across this country, where it was common practice that there were two minimum wages. There was one for women which was much lower than the one for men. And that was accepted practice. It was believed that women didn't really need the money. When you go into a store, there generally aren't lower prices for women because you might get paid lower wages. In many places there are actually higher prices for some goods. But that was accepted. That was part of the culture. Nobody thought to challenge it until women did come forward and did challenge that and insist on equal pay for work of equal value, and those laws changed.

      And now we are changing this law, Mr. Speaker. And I can't underscore the symbolic–the significance of this symbol to people in the disability community. To have a law on the books which says, which justifies, discrimination based on your disability is something that I think we just could no longer have in this province, particularly in light of the bill that just passed third reading.

      And I also want to take the opportunity, while I'm on my feet, to say, not only about this bill, but I would say also about the accessibility bill, that the thing that I have learned in this portfolio in terms of being responsible for people with disabilities is that there is no perfection. There is no perfect piece of legislation. There is no perfect execution of any policy or piece of legislation. There will always be people who will push you to do better, and there will always be people, unfortunately, who just wait to show that you haven't been able to solve all of the problems with accessibility as quickly as maybe you  wanted to. And sometimes, unfortunately, that prevents action from taking place. I've seen that many times where someone will say, well, you know, well, we can't do it perfectly, we can't make everything accessible, so I don't know that we should go forward with this, because if we do, then somebody will say, look, you're not doing it perfectly and we'll be criticized for that. And I think that that is not an–you cannot use the lack of ability to do things perfectly as an excuse for inaction.

* (15:10)

      I was reminded, and I'm going to totally botch this quote, but I was reminded recently of a quote  that I think, actually, Hugh McFadyen, in his final  speech, gave us and, I think, is actually from Theodore Roosevelt originally, and I am not going to say it with near the eloquence of Mr. McFadyen or Mr. Roosevelt, but, essentially boiled down, it says, there is no use for the critic who doesn't get into the arena and gets bloodied and bent, and tries and maybe fails but tries to change something. And that's how I feel about this work of trying to make things accessible. There's lots of room for discussion. There's lots of room for making things better, but you got to try. And there's no room for the critic who wouldn't even try, and I don't think we have that in  this House. I think we have people who are committed to accessibility from all parties. But in–but I am saying that in the sense that one of the  things that I did hear from many people in businesses, in the public sector and private sector, real concern that if we passed legislation like Bill 26, if we passed the legislation that's before us that somehow, somewhere, sometime they'll be found not to measure up and that they'll be criticized for that. And it's okay to say we're not doing as good as job as we hoped.

      But I want to say on the record right now, we  aren't going to be perfect along the road as we develop the standards, the regulations that will support the accessibility act. We won't be perfect. There will be times when people will say you're not going fast enough, you're not doing it right. I accept that. I know that. I am not naive enough to think that we'll go on this journey and everything will go perfectly, but I won't let the fear of perhaps making a mistake stop me from doing anything.

      Another thing that I read in my quest to get this Theodore Roosevelt quote correct was another quote from him that said the best thing to do is to the right thing. The second best thing is to do the wrong thing. The worst thing is to do nothing.

      And I think today we are doing the right thing, but I know, I guarantee that six months, 12 months, two years, five years, 10  years there will be voices wishing that we had done it sooner, better, with more time, with less time. There'll be lots of voices that will push us to do better and lots of voices that think, that say that they had a better way to do it, and that's fine. That's democracy, but it won't stop us from trying. And that's my commitment, always to try to move things a little bit further, a little bit better.

      And so, with this bill, and I think the bill that we just passed, there is a strong commitment today in this legislature not just from the government, but, I  believe, from the opposition parties to continuing to  make laws that make Manitoba more fair, to continuing to make laws that make Manitoba more accessible. And none of us will do it perfectly, but we'll show up every day and we'll try to make things a little better than they were yesterday.

      So I'm glad to have been able to speak on this  bill and I look forward to hearing what my colleagues have to say.

Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): It's my pleasure to put a few words on the record with regard  to Bill 15, and I agree with the minister. It's important to have an opposition that will challenge the government and push the government in different ways to make laws stronger. And I believe that is a strong democracy and I believe that Manitobans through all walks of life deserve a strong voice within this building. So I believe that is an important piece of what we do here every day.

      With regard to Bill 15, this is a bill that the government has proposed to eliminate the exemption of employment standards codes which permitted employers throughout the province to hire persons with disabilities to work for below the minimum wage so long as the employer obtained a permit. Now, this was something that was put forward by the disabilities community in the 1990s. Mr. Speaker, this was something that they felt would help with individuals seeking employment–it–to ensure that they had the ability to live independently in the community. So it was a tool that was very important and very useful for not only employers, but very important for persons with disabilities who are wanting to be independent within the community, and it did meet a very important need within the community, especially in rural Manitoba where it would be even more difficult to secure employment for persons with disabilities. It created a lot of opportunities for independence for persons with disabilities.

      Having said that, it was time to move on and the community, the disability community had indicated that it was time to move on to ensure that there was a   more balanced approach to how we provided opportunities for persons with disabilities, and we know that there's a strong independence by persons with disabilities in the community and a need to be treated with equal–with respect and to receive equal opportunities, Mr. Speaker. And that is why I think it's important to indicate that, you know, 60 per cent of people who receive EIA are persons with disabilities, so this would greatly help them to know that there would also be an increase in shelter allowance.

      We again–I'm going to raise that again, Mr.  Speaker, as something that is critical. It's an important piece I think this government has to pay attention to, that we need to look at increasing the shelter allowance to 75 per cent of median market rates. It's–and it is tied into this legislation because we are looking at wanting to ensure that persons with disabilities are given every opportunity to live independently and have the resources to do that. So I think that that is a natural tie-in and I believe this government should be looking at that as another piece to the puzzle in promoting independence.

      Persons with disabilities are incredibly valuable members of society. Many of them work in highly skilled professions breaking barriers and inspiring all of us to greater and better things, and I believe that  the government must respect their promise to those  who currently work under these permits. The minister's staff, during the briefing, indicated to us that, while they're reviewing this legislation, they had discussions with I believe at that time 16 people who worked under a permit, and it was generally agreed that they were satisfied with their situations and that the permit should be grandfathered under this bill, and most only work a few hours a day et cetera, so I believe that I will take the government's word and believe that they will continue to respond to those 16  individuals who were quite content with the way things were operating with their permits.

      Some stakeholders, Mr. Speaker, did indicate, when we were doing our consultations, that small businesses may be less inclined to hire a person with a disability without a permit supposing that person could only do a portion of the workload of a nondisabled worker. Now, clearly, we have a ways to  go to ensuring that persons with disabilities are included as full members of society, but this is a concern and something that we believe should be looked at. I believe that there are employers out there–there are employees who are looking for advocates, and we–and that's the point that I want to make right now is that the stakeholders also believe that there should be advocates in the field helping disabled workers and employers work together to ensure that the initial training of an employee with a disability and support throughout the working relationship will be imperative with this change. So   recognizing their capabilities and limitations and   finding the right working relationship and environments will be key and will take some time and some effort. So we want to ensure that with this change that there is some support and guidance by advocates to ensure that individuals are given these supports.

      This issue goes beyond the permits. Persons with disabilities face bigger barriers to employment than others. The government needs to develop a working relationship with business to help employers to understand how a worker with a disability can enrich and contribute to the workplace, and I believe that provisions within the bill that was presented earlier today will do that in some ways. The accessibility act will respond to some of those needs, and we look forward to those initiatives being rolled out.

      So, in closing, Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is  legislation that has evolved over time. What we had  put forward in the '90s was in response to the disability community and responded and addressed needs at that time, and I believe, as the member opposite, the minister, had indicated that this is in  response to the disabilities community's needs and  how to continue to ensure that persons with disabilities remain independent and are given equal opportunity in life.

* (15:20)

      So I believe this legislation is fair legislation. I  believe there's some concerns that need to be considered with regard to the employers, or the disabled worker, that I believe can be addressed through advocacy, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that Bill 15 will provide the supports needed for persons with disabilities.

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Erna Braun (Minister of Labour and Immigration): Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased also to be speaking to this bill on this day of the United Nations' International Day of Persons With Disabilities.

      To begin with, I would like to thank the Minister of Finance (Ms. Howard) who, in her previous role, shepherded the work of this particular bill, as well as  Bill 26, to fruition, and to thank her for pulling together the many groups that were important stakeholders in this legislation, and working together with them to come up with some very significant amendments that make a huge difference for many people.

      This bill repeals a provision of the Employment Standards Code that allows the director of employment standards to issue 'perments'–permits to employers to pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage, and it's my understanding that this is a provision that has been in existence in one form or another since 1918.

      The repeal of this provision is another important step in our commitment to recognize the rights of persons with disabilities. With this amendment, we will no longer issue 'perments' to allow employees to  be paid below the minimum wage, based on a physical or a mental disability. We have currently fewer than 20 such permits in place, and we have met with the individuals and their families, and these permits will be allowed to continue, but the director will have the authority to review the circumstances surrounding these permits to ensure that these workers are protected.

      This amendment is part of our commitment to a broader goal of achieving full and equal inclusion of  persons with disabilities in Manitoba's labour force. Manitoba's labour force will continue to need additional workers, and persons with disabilities are a key group we know can help meet our future labour needs.

      These changes are the result of extensive discussions with disability rights organizations and   will ensure that persons that disabilities are   treated fairly in the workplace and that their work  is valued equally, as it should be. In addition, Mr. Speaker, the amendments contained in this bill received unanimous support from the Manitoba Labour Management Review Committee, which is comprised of senior representatives of employer and worker organizations, and I would like to thank all   of   these organizations for assisting in this very  important initiative that was begun by my predecessor.

      So thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes, Mr. Speaker, I rise to put a few words on the record on Bill 15, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act.

      First of all, I want to make it very clear that I'm very supportive of this provision. I think it is, from my discussions with quite a number of people in the disability community, that it is time that people who are disabled are getting a fair wage and that this is a step in that direction. Things have evolved and it is  important that we are doing this in terms of recognizing the rights and the need for an equality approach to people with disabilities.

      That being said, and I have listened to the minister's discussion and talk about the availability of many programs which would provide some temporary subsidy for people looking for work who are disabled. And I, too, am also very familiar with these sorts of programs, and by and large the problem is that, for the most part, they are short term, and after six months of having an employment experience, an individual with a disability too often is not hired on long term. And, although that may be the goal of the program, and although that does happen, sometimes, there is still, I believe, a need to   look at the approach of providing in some circumstances–and it will need care in terms of how this is done–but I believe we need to look at, in some circumstances, providing ongoing subsidy to make sure that people with a disability are getting a fair wage and a fair income. And this is important, in part, to recognize that, you know, having a disability is not sort of cost free in the sense that somebody with a disability often has a lot of extra costs that people who don't have a disability would not necessarily have. Costs for a wheelchair can be–in circumstances, quite an expensive wheelchair is needed; costs for–with a friend of mine, a respirator; costs for, you know, a variety of things that the person with a disability needs in order for them to be able to work in the workplace and to participate in society in general.

      And it is in reflection of this that it is important that people who are disabled are getting a fair wage, and we have, you know, in looking at this issue and one of the things that I have talked about for quite some time, you know–[interjection] It's all right; I had a problem, but it's now corrected, thank you.

      For many years, and continuing today, this government treats somebody who is on social assistance or maybe on social assistance with a disability, if they start earning income, that right away, after the first hundred or 150 dollars or an amount–specific amount varies from time to time, then the additional income is clawed back and so that the problem is that it is clawed back at a very high rate; it's equivalent to a marginal tax rate of about 70  per cent. And that's far higher than somebody who is in the highest tax bracket is taxed. So that is not fair either. And we need to look at that.

      So I think, although this is an important step forward, that we need to look more broadly at the overall situation that we have for people with disabilities so that it is not only easier for them to be able to work and to find work, but it is fair for them to be able to work and to find work, and part of this, yes, can be done in education, but part of this, I believe, has to be in how we design government programs that improve those so that, in fact, they are sending the same message that we are trying to send in this legislation to treat people who have disabilities equitably and fairly.

      Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: Any further debate on Bill 15?

Ms. Nancy Allan (St. Vital): Mr. Speaker, it  certainly is a privilege to put a few comments on the record in regards to Bill 15, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act. I want to congratulate both ministers for bringing forward this legislation. I believe that this legislation is a piece of human rights legislation. I believe it's providing equity to a group of individuals that haven't been treated equally in our society, and I'm very, very pleased that this legislation is going to be presented to the members in this House today.

* (15:30)

      I want to say that our government has recognized that people with disabilities sometimes, I believe, feel excluded and frustrated in society, and I believe that we have taken concrete action in this area, and this is another example of where we want to make changes so that all people feel that they are being treated equally in society, and I want to once again thank the ministers for bringing this legislation forward.

      Mr. Speaker, repealing a provision in the Employment Standards Code so that the people with   exceptionalities, people with disabilities are going to be paid the same amount as anyone else would be paid, seems hard to believe that we haven't done this sooner. But I just want to know that this–repealing a provision that has been in existence in one form or another since 1918, so it certainly is something that is long overdue. And I believe that we have reviewed the employment–we reviewed the Employment Standards Code about seven or eight years–seven years ago, and we made a review–a whole review of the entire act. And I want to remind members opposite that it was an opportunity for all of us to vote unanimously for the changes that we made to the Employment Standards Code at that time.

      And I would hope that this legislation, Bill 15, will be supported unanimously by all members of the  House, because I believe that this is archaic provision and I believe that we need to make a commitment to recognize the rights of persons with  disabilities. And we also believe that there's absolutely no reason why they should be paid below minimum wage because–based on a physical or a mental disability.

      I would like to thank you, thank the Labour Management Review Committee for the work that they have done on this legislation. We are very fortunate here in the province of Manitoba to have a Labour Management Review Committee. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that has that committee. And we're very fortunate that when we have issues like this, that it can be referred to that committee and we get everyone's perspective in regards to how to move forward in the best interests of our province. And this Labour Management Review Committee has a long history in Manitoba. They celebrated their 40th anniversary quite a few years ago, and it's wonderful that they're still here contributing to labour legislation here in the province.

      So I'd just like to say thank you, once again, Mr. Speaker, for being allowed to put a few words on the  record. I think this is a very important piece of  legislation. I–once again, I believe it's a piece of human rights legislation and I believe that it should be unanimously supported in this House.

      Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker: Is there any further debate on Bill 15?

An Honourable Member: Question.

Mr. Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

      The question before the House is concurrence and third reading of Bill 15, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Minimum Wage Protection for Employees with Disabilities).

      Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion? [Agreed]

Bill 5–The New Home Warranty Act

Mr. Speaker: We'll now proceed to call Bill 5, The New Home Warranty Act.

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Acting Government House Leader): I move, seconded by the Minister of Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Consumer Protection–

An Honourable Member: No, it's not heritage. No heritage.

Ms. Howard: There is heritage. Go check the order‑in-council. I'm sorry, you're wrong–that Bill 5, The New Home Warranty Act; Loi sur la garantie des maisons neuves, reported from the  Standing Committee on Human Resources, be concurred in and be now read for a third time and passed.

Motion presented.

Hon. Ron Lemieux (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection): I am really pleased to be the Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection.

      And–you know, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on The New Home Warranty Act.

Mr. Tom Nevakshonoff, Deputy Speaker, in the Chair

      This bill ensures that all new homes built for sale are covered by a warranty against defects in material, labour and design, and structural defects.

      Home builders and warranty providers must register under the act. Only registered builders are allowed to build homes for others or for sale. Homes built by registered builders must be covered by a  home warranty provided by a warranty provider. The minimum required coverage is a 12-month for materials, labour, and design, 15 months for common areas of condominiums and common areas of other buildings with two or more dwelling units under one ownership. two years for violations of the Manitoba Building Code that constitute a threat to health or safety or are likely to cause material damage to the home, defects that make the home unlivable, defects in the electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, defects in the building envelope, including water penetration, defects in the exterior cladding, caulking, windows and doors that  may lead to detachment, and seven years for structural components.

      The minimum coverage may be increased by    regulation following a review with public consultation which must occur at least once every five years. An owner who wishes to build his or her  own home does not need to obtain a home warranty. However, to prevent the act from being circumvented, owner-builders are subject to certain restrictions. An owner-builder must obtain an authorization before building, and there are restrictions on the resale of an owner-built home within that warranty period. A builder who fails to supply a home warranty provided by a warranty provider is deemed to provide a warranty to the owner. The builder's warranty provides the same coverage as the minimum required under a home warranty.

      In last year's Throne Speech, our government made a commitment to bring in new measures to keep life affordable for Manitoba families, to protect consumers when it comes to the most important purchases they make. Buying a home is one of the most important investments a family will make, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we need to make sure that that family and Manitoba families have greater protection from construction‑related defects.

      We've introduced Bill 5, The New Home Warranty Act, which will require mandatory warranty protection to protect Manitoba families purchasing newly constructed homes. The bill establishes mandatory minimum warranty protection when a new home is built in the province, which I previously went through. It ensures new homes built for sale are covered by a warranty against defects, materials, labour, and design and structural defects, as was pointed out earlier.

      A home is the biggest investment Manitoba families will make. We know that; we talked to our neighbours, our friends, our relatives, and we all have had that experience. Most consumers don't buy many homes during their lifetime. The complexity of new home and condominium construction can make it difficult for new home buyers to understand all of the systems, components, and structural elements that go into building a new home. During the construction consumers may be unaware of potential defects and other construction-related problems that might appear after they move in. They must trust in their builder that their home is being built to a high standard.

      In Manitoba, we are blessed with many, many great home builders and companies, but this we have heard from the consumer: that they want protection on one of the largest and biggest purchases that they will ever make.

      Mr. Speaker, I should also–or Deputy Speaker–I'm sorry; I should also note that our government also wants to ensure families are protected and treated fairly when building, buying and renovating a home. In our most recent Throne Speech just a few weeks ago we announced that we will be consulting with Manitobans in the year ahead about how we can (1)  help to ensure they are getting a fair deal with realtors when buying a home. We've heard loud and  clear from many individuals, many people in Manitoba, that they have real concerns with regard to realtors in the province, rightly or wrongly, but we intend to certainly canvass Manitobans and get their input with regard to–to realtors when buying a home and the process that is followed there in that purchase. Help to ensure that they are also getting a fair deal from businesses for home renovations and repairs.

      Mr. Deputy Speaker, when we launched the   Province of Manitoba's five-year consumer protection plan, Let's Make a Better Deal, we committed to develop legislation that would provide a warranty to cover construction defects on new homes. At that time it was well received, and the public and the people of Manitoba wanted to ensure that their government was there with them on their side when making these purchases. It was essential to engage stakeholders and seek public input on this significant piece of legislation.

* (15:40)    

      A stakeholder group of builders, consumers, engineers and architects, developers, and lawyers were consulted about how to better protect consumers. In addition, a consultation paper asking for consumer and industry feedback was released in the month of June in 2011.

      In the consultations, of the 64 respondents, two  thirds were homeowners, eight were builders and the remaining 16 came from a variety of respondents such as realtors, engineers and municipal administrators. Many of the respondents indicated they have experienced construction related problems with new homes. While less than a one   third of the homeowners reported complete satisfaction with their builder and or warranty provider in terms of the quality of construction, or the way in which their complaints were handled.

      Half of the homeowners indicated they had experienced construction related problems with new homes; the problems reported were wide ranging and  no single problem was consistently reported by  respondents. The respondents reported problems with the following: poor workmanship on finishing hardwood floors and door jams; issues with the building envelope including windows, flashing, roofs   and foundations; water ingress, windows, foundations, flashing, heavy–or sorry, heaving of basement floors such as structural or others.

      You know, we hear often of the importance of a roof of a home or building, and yet in Manitoba we have many roofers that may be around in Manitoba because the economy is doing so well and the homes are being built at an unbelievable pace that anyone with a hammer and a bundle of shingles can be called a roofer.

      You know, we've heard that if anyone in this Chamber has tried to do roofing on their own home, they will know that it takes a great deal of expertise, and it does take a lot of knowing how to do it and how to do it properly. So, if you've get somebody coming into Manitoba that all of a sudden decides to buy a hammer and a bundle of shingles and wants to become a roofer and puts themselves out in a neighbourhood and travels from door to door and walks from door to door getting customers and having some ill-informed consumer saying, oh, this is a great deal. I just contacted a couple of roofing companies and they said it's going to cost me $10,000 to do my roof and someone comes to your door and says, you know, I can do your roof for $5,000 and I'll have it done by a certain date. Well, not long after that you find out that this new roof that you had put onto your home, your house is leaking, your attic's full of water, you're calling people to replace the insulation in your house. You know there's something definitely wrong with this picture.

      So just one quick example of someone in the trades, and I've been advised that, you know, roofers don't need any kind of a training necessarily, or any kind of credentials to be a roofer. And yet when you're talking about a building and everything else that goes on inside that envelope, whether it's the electrical, the plumbing, insulation, heating and so on, it's protected by that roof. And yet there are no stipulations with regard to who is a qualified roofer and who should be actually doing that, and you have the possibility of many going out and undercutting other professional roofers. And we have many great roofing companies in this company, or in this province, sorry, that those companies provide a great service, but yet you can have the influx of many fly‑by-night operators just because the economy is doing so well in this province and many homes are being built. It's a real issue, that we've heard and people have told us about and we want to certainly take a look at all of those issues with regard to consulting with Manitobans in giving us advice on where they would like us to go.

      As I mentioned, most of the respondents favour a warranty that provides greater protection than the current warranties which are common in Manitoba. The outcomes of these consultations suggested that although not every new home buyer experiences construction related defects, thank goodness, they do occur and manifest in an array of components in the  home. For this reason, a strong, comprehensive warranty is required to give homeowners assurance that they are protected.

      Just on that note before I proceed with a few other comments, I just want to thank the previous minister who is responsible for a lot of the heavy lifting with regard to this legislation. The MLA for Assiniboia worked extremely hard and I really want to take this opportunity to thank him, and consumers of Manitoba will thank him in the future for all that  hard work that he put in, because it takes–[interjection] Absolutely–it took a great deal of work and took a lot of work to consult with a lot of the homebuilders, lawyers and many people that were associated, and the construction industry in general to get this done.

      So, yes, I take the ball from the 1-yard line and cross the goal line, but the MLA for Assiniboia carried the ball the length of the field to the 1-yard line, so I'm really pleased that he took that initiative on. And Manitobans will thank him long into the future.

      So I just want to say, in conclusion, that the  coverage of this warranty and the proposed legislation will also provide coverage for single‑family homes, townhouses, condominiums. Warranties will be provided by third-party warranty providers, must be registered with the Province. To be registered, a warranty provider can either be an insurer or other business that is fully backed by an insurer. In the latter situation, the insurer backer must agree to step into the shoes of the warranty provider, administer and pay claims if the warranty provider is bankrupt or the business otherwise ceases to operate.

      I would just like to conclude my comments–and I know members opposite and in the Chamber wish to comment on this as well–there are a number of compliance measures, which I probably should touch on prior to concluding, and that would be that to ensure builders comply with the act, compliance officers will have a broad power to inspect records  and obtain information. They'll 'autho'–also   be authorized to 'ins'–in–issue compliance orders requiring builders and others to become registered or to take other actions. The issuing of administrative penalties will also be permitted by regulation. And a  person convicted of an offence under the legislation may be subject to a fine up to $300,000, imprisonment, or not more than three years or both.

      These terms are consistent with other consumer protection legislation and our government or–our  government has passed previously. So I look forward to this bill passing into law, and with those comments, I'd be certainly appreciative of other comments that members in the Chamber wish to make. Thank you.

Mr. Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods): Indeed a pleasure to speak to Bill 5 today. I know we've–we certainly had raised some issues with Bill 5 on second reading. We–certainly, we've heard some concerns raised in committee as well. And, also–and today I want to reference some correspondence I've had from some individuals in regard to Bill 5. And, clearly, there are, certainly, some concerns there, and I want to raise those concerns today as well.

      We–to–first off, we do know a big percentage of   homes are covered with home warranties of some description already in Manitoba. Clearly, this legislation will provide the framework to make sure that each new home constructed is covered by some  type of a warranty. Clearly, this legislation is framework, and a lot of the details will be coming forward over the next couple of years in terms of regulations, and–at least, that was the comment that was made by the previous minister–and, hopefully, the new minister responsible for consumer affairs will take some of the comments. Hopefully, he will read the comments that I made and others made previously on second reading, and hopefully he'll take to heart some of the comments I'm going to make from various individuals who are making comments to me. And I know he has been copied on that correspondence as well. So I'm hopeful that him and his department will take a good, strong look at some of that information that's been provided to his department.

      And what we're hearing is there's certainly potential holes in this legislation that may not fully address some of the issues moving forward. I know that I had a conversation–I have a letter from the Canadians for Properly Built Homes, and the letter that I have and conversation I had was from the president of that association, a Dr. Karen Somerville, and she outlined some of the concerns that their organization has with the legislation.

* (15:50)

      And, again, I want to point out to the minister, I hope he will take those comments very serious. Clearly, they've had tremendous experience across Canada in terms of the home warranty programs and some of the pitfalls that they've seen across various jurisdictions. And, certainly, their concern is that Manitobans are adequately covered by insurance coverage, and that really speaks to what's going to  happen in regulations going forward. I know there's been some comments made that all these issues will be dealt with in regulation. There's obviously concern that that may not be the case from some of these independent organizations and from individuals.

      The other point that I think is important to raise  here is the whole idea of consultation, and I–they're pointing out to me that there should be more, in fact, I'll quote from a letter: the government should undertake considerably more consultation with fully independent and knowledgeable consumer groups regarding Bill 5. So, again, I hope that the minister will take these words of advice under consideration. Obviously, there's going to be some time before regulations are brought forward under this legislation, so I will give the government some time to have a look at other jurisdictions and what they are doing and to make sure that we are properly covering the expectations that Manitobans will have.

      I raised the concern before, you know, I think Manitobans may interpret that all new homes will be fully covered under this new legislation, but they will have to make sure that they read the details in terms of what the home warranty actually covers, and that's very important. Clearly, the devil will be in the detail in terms of this legislation.

      Clearly, the legislation will create an additional bureaucracy, additional red tape for homeowners and for contractors. We certainly hope that that red tape and that extra bureaucracy isn't too cumbersome for consumers in Manitoba. Clearly, there will be an extra cost to consumers. Consumers will have to bear the costs associated with the new home warranties, and, clearly, that will be at issue as well. And, again, I think it's–hopefully, we'll move forward in a fairly transparent manner so that all people will understand what the new warranty will cover and will–what the exclusions under that particular warranty will be.

      And, hopefully, the other issue is, you know, that–about that 15 per cent of new homes that are not covered by new home warranties, hopefully, there will be programs in place so that contractors and individuals have the easy access and ability to acquire those warranty programs at a reasonable cost. So, hopefully, that framework will exist.

      I, too, want to make just a comment about some other correspondence I had from an individual who's been very involved in this particular process and he has been involved with the department. Jim Shattuck [phonetic] has been involved and certainly has correspondence with the minister's office and he raises some concerns, some very valid concerns with this legislation as well. And, again, I point to the minister, hopefully, we will–him and his department will take advice that these people have taken the time to do the research and look at other jurisdictions and some of the issues that are relative to the new home warranty.

      So I know the government likes to have positive headlines in the newspapers, and I think that's what they will probably do with the–this New Home Warranty Act. I just hope that Manitobans take the time to really understand what they're purchasing when they purchase a new home warranty, and I hope there will not be too many senses of false security out there.

      It's too bad that we, as Manitobans, couldn't purchase protection against the NDP government because they're not always being transparent with us,  and I look at the provincial sales tax that was raised and, clearly, I imagine the provincial sales tax, the  new tax will probably apply to the new home warranty contracts as well. So, you know, I know they like to talk about consumer protection and what  not, but, hopefully, hopefully moving forward this  legislation will provide protection to Manitoba consumers. But, clearly, the verdict is still out there in terms of whether or not this particular legislation will do that, and I hope that the minister will take the advice of Manitobans and those that are involved in this particular industry.

      So, with that, I thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I'm sure there's other comments on this legislation as well.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I want to make a few remarks on Bill 5, The New Home Warranty Act.

      Let me be very clear that I am and Liberals are  very strong supporters of the warranty on all homes. Now, of course, homeowner-built homes are excluded up to a certain point but, at the same time, I don't–we don't, as Liberals, support the registration process, which is put forward in this bill, because the registration creates another layer of bureaucracy which, quite frankly, we don't need. It is good to have in the bill minimum coverage. It is important that there be a–the ability to change that minimum coverage under review, with public consultation every few years. It is important that, you know, there be the ability of homeowners or home builders–owners who are builders–to make sure that they have an opportunity to have warranties so that they can easily sell their homes if they want, and this clearly needs to be looked at fairly carefully.

      The problem in this bill is the additional office,  the need for a registrar, more government bureaucracy and this registrar required to register all home builders and warranty providers, when, in fact, as I will discuss, you know, most of the people who are currently home builders and warranty providers are already part of–for home builders, the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

      Indeed, let us look at the extent of this problem. Members of Manitoba's Home Builders' Association who already, as part of their membership, are required to have warranties on all new homes that they build, they build over 87 per cent of all the new homes in Manitoba. This is, right off the bat, 87 per cent of the homes in Manitoba already have warranties without this legislation, and the quality of   those warranties is good, as specified by the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

      Now, there are additional people who are non‑members who are affiliated with the new home warranty provider, and that would account for probably another 2 or 3 per cent of the market. And there's some additional individuals and, of course, people who are owner-builders are not covered by  this mandatory requirement. So, the number of people–number of new homes that we're talking about is certainly less than 10 per cent–is maybe only 5 per cent of new homes that this legislation actually covers. And so, in order to cover 5 per cent of the new homes, the government is proposing to have a registrar to register all home builders and to have a registrar who will register all people who provide warranties.

      Now, when I talked to Mr. Moore from the Manitoba Home Builders' Association, he said, well, look, why are you registering people who are already our members, because we already have that? The government's just trying to duplicate what currently exists and is building a big bureaucracy and a lot of orange tape in order to do this.

      And we agree that, you know, this is not the direction that should be going. As Mr. Moore, who presented at committee, pointed out, the Manitoba Home Builders' Association and the members thereof have been participating in new home warranties for over 35 years. And here we've got the government which thinks it can do better, coming in with its own registrar and registries. This is the government's first foray into this territory. Why duplicate what's going on at the moment? As Mr. Moore pointed out at his committee presentation, that there have been in other provinces, like British Columbia, situations where there were a lot of mistakes made, a lot of things which caused extra work and created extra bureaucracy and didn't really work, and so we want to avoid that in Manitoba.

* (16:00)

      In discussions with Mr. Moore, he concurred with my putting forward the concept that the registrar and this registry is not necessary because, in fact, all it does is create more bureaucracy and orange tape.

      Now, of the homes which are being built in the province, there is another group of homes which does not appear to be covered in any way and that is homes being built in First Nations communities. I asked this question and was told that these were not believed to be part of provincial jurisdiction in any  way, but, surely, the government could have worked with, collaboratively, with First Nations leaders and with the federal government to see if we couldn't have had an approach which would have been fully  inclusive, which would have insured, in some  fashion, that the quality guarantee, which is essentially what a warranty is providing, would be there and available to people in First Nations communities and that they would not be excluded–mean it has been sometimes a pattern of this government that they have excluded people in First Nations communities and it's time to stop that. It's time to make sure that we reach out, and so there are some significant defects in this bill.

      I think the government should not be creating all this extra orange tape. They shouldn't be creating, you know, an NDP nanny state, but they should be  trying to do things much more efficiently and effectively and inclusively. And so, for all those reasons, although I believe very strongly that there should be warrantees on all new homes in Manitoba, I think that the government should actually go back and rework this legislation and bring it back. So we won't be supporting this legislation at this time because I don't believe it's good enough for people in our province.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

An Honourable Member: Question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Question before the House is concurrence and third reading of Bill 5, The New Home Warranty Act.

      Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some Honourable Members: Agreed.

Some Honourable Members: No.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hear a no.

Voice Vote

Mr. Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of adopting the motion, please say aye.

Some Honourable Members: Aye.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: All those opposed to it, say nay.

Some Honourable Members: Nay.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: My opinion, the Ayes have it.

Mr. Cullen: On division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried on division.

Bill 17– The Consumer Protection Amendment and Business Practices Amendment Act
(Motor Vehicle Advertising and Information Disclosure and Other Amendments)

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Acting Government House Leader): I move, seconded by the Minister of  Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Consumer Protection, that Bill 17, The Consumer Protection Amendment and Business Practices Amendment Act  (Motor Vehicle Advertising and Information Disclosure and Other Amendments); Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection du consommateur et la  Loi  sur les pratiques commerciales (publicité et communication de renseignements visant les véhicules automobiles et autres modifications), as amended and reported from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, be concurred in and be now read for a third time and passed.

Motion presented.

Hon. Ron Lemieux (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection): It is my pleasure, as Minister of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection, to bring this legislation forward and I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to say a few words with regard to motor vehicle advertising, information disclosure and other amendments.

      I just wanted to make a few brief comments. I know others wish to speak to this.

      But the summary of the bill and the intent of the bill really amends The Consumer Protection Act by  adding a part about motor vehicle advertising information disclosures. A motor vehicle dealer is prohibited from engaging in false advertising or providing false information about a vehicle; must ensure that advertisements indicate the total price of a vehicle including all additional charges and taxes except for the retail sales tax and the federal goods and services tax; must ensure that an advertisement about a used late-model vehicle indicates that it is  a  used vehicle; must ensure that advertisements comply with any additional requirements prescribed by regulation; must disclose information about a  vehicle to a consumer in accordance with the regulations; and must ensure its employees comply with the restrictions and obligations under this part. By regulation, these restrictions and obligations may be applied to other persons–thank you very much.

      Enforcement measures will include issuing a compliance order under the new part and imposing an administrative penalty under existing provisions of the act. The director may publicize compliance orders made under the new part. This bill also amends The Business Practices Act because of the enhanced consumer protection measures relating to motor vehicles in The Consumer Protection Act. The information disclosure provisions currently found in The Business Practices Act are repealed. In addition, The Business Practices Act is amended to permit the director to communicate information to the public when it is in the public's interest to do so, prohibit a person from asking or making a consumer waive his or her rights, increase the fine amounts for offences and enable a compensation order to be enforced as an order of a Court of Queen's Bench.

      Mr. Deputy Speaker, the previous legislation which was introduced talked about home warranty protection. Again, that was brought in place because one of the largest purchases a family will make or an individual will make is buying a home. One of the second most important and expensive purchases that a person will make is an automobile, whether that's a truck, car, SUV, and this is something we've heard loud and clear from Manitobans on the consumer protection side. They want their government to be working with them to ensure they get what they're paid for. Manitobans love a sale; they love a deal, but they want to get what they're paying for and they don't appreciate nor should they be tricked, coerced in any way to buy something which they believe is not what they're paying for. So the government of Manitoba is pleased to stand up with consumers and stand up with them to ensure that there is protections put in place when purchasing of a motor vehicle with regard to advertising and information disclosure and other amendments that we put forward.

      Buying a car is an important and major purchase for Manitoba families and we want to protect them  from paying more than the advertised price. Consumers need clear information about the vehicle in order to make an appropriate decision to purchase. We know the majority of car dealers are honest and don't withhold information from their customers. In Manitoba we are very fortunate to have fantastic, great, reputable car dealerships. I know, for example, and the MLA for Steinbach will attest to, that Steinbach, it's the worth the trip–it's worth the trip–and the reason why it's worth the trip: because those automobile dealerships in Steinbach have a great reputation that they hold high for being straight shooters with regard to what they offer consumers. The consumers are just saying to us, just make sure all prices are in. Don't hide the costs of transportation of a vehicle or anything else behind the disguise of a price that's out there.

      And I know in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba many of the car dealerships that we have in this great city, our capital city, are reputable, very good, upstanding corporate citizens. All we're saying is that we want them to include a little more so the consumer themselves will be able to understand and know that when they walk in the door, they see a sign that's being posted or an advertisement that motor vehicle advertising and information that's being put forward and disclosed is accurate. And I know those companies would, I'm sure, agree that they don't want to have the fly-by-night operators or ones that are not exactly on the up and up trying to pass on vehicles. They don't want to be tainted with those types of operations.

* (16:10)

      So, again, unfortunately, we also know that sometimes consumers are misled when buying vehicles. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we want to avoid situations where consumers discover important facts about their car after they've purchased it. These new measures will ensure that important information about the factual history and the condition of the vehicle is given to consumers before they sign their contracts.

      So the background behind this bill, as announced in our Throne Speech last year, our government is   taking further action to keep life affordable for   families with new measures that protect consumers around the new home–around new home construction, car sales, and cable bills. Again, I have to thank the MLA for Assiniboia. The MLA for Assiniboia dedicated a lot of time and energy, working diligently to ensure that protection of our consumers in Manitoba remains high and that our government stands beside those consumers to ensure that they're getting what they pay for.

      So, again, thank you to the MLA for Assiniboia for all his hard work when he was the minister of the day and carried the ball to the one-yard line for the current minister.  

      So, with that, after buying a home, buying a car is often the second largest financial investment a family can make. Previous legislation, we talked about home warranty. This bill we're talking about consumer protection with regard to purchasing an automobile. This in no way is intended to reflect negatively on any of the car dealerships. We have great corporate citizens, car dealerships in Manitoba, and the Chipman family, for one, is a–not only are  they very good business people but upstanding corporate citizens that dedicate a lot of time and energy to making Manitoba a better place. So part and parcel of their investments in–not only in land and in the kind of businesses that they do but, again, also with regard to cars and the sales of cars and automobiles which they should be thanked for as being upstanding corporate citizens.

      And, as politicians, we know well the kind of  labels that politicians are painted with, and that is  regrettable, you know. And I know that that–every  member in this Chamber is an upstanding, honourable MLA, and we know that to be a fact. And, you know, car dealerships and the term about being a used-car dealer and what you're trying to sell me and the kind of stuff you're trying to put forward–that we've heard those jokes and those statements made for many, many, many years, and we should be grateful for the car dealerships and car salespeople we have in this province because they work hard each and every day, not only to make a living but also to provide us with a good product and the product we're paying for.

      So after–as I mentioned before, after buying a home, buying a car is often the second largest financial investment a family can make. Therefore, it's important to ensure that the information that a consumer's receiving about a motor vehicle is clearly disclosed and truthful. We've 'introdeced'–introduced these amendments to The Consumer Protection Act from The Businesses Practices Act to add specific prohibitions against false, misleading, or deceptive statements in advertisements and against a new motor vehicle–sorry, and against a new motor vehicle dealer's falsifying information in any way or format relating to trading in motor vehicles.

      This legislation also includes enforcement authority in the case of non-compliance as well as the ability to notify the public regarded to any directors' orders. The bill provides that regulations may be made including, firstly, advertising prices must include all fee and charges except for taxes, must not include any special deductions such as the value of a trade-in or cash down payment, must include information such as the VIN number as–or of the advertised vehicle.

      Secondly, information in advertisements must be verified. And, lastly, photographs in advertisements must accurately represent the vehicle that is for sale.

      Many consumers will tell us one of the most difficult purchases that they have to make and most gut-wrenching, heartburning experiences they ever have is going to try to buy a vehicle. They feel that there's so much gobbledygook involved in the sale of a vehicle when they're trying to make this purchase. It's an expensive purchase, and yet they feel instead of having a pleasurable experience of buying a new vehicle or a good used vehicle, they come out with a sour taste in their mouth. And we don't want that experience to be duplicated because the vehicle falls apart and the wheels fall off the car the moment the person has this off the lot.

      So we are very fortunate to have very good reputable dealerships in this province, and I know all members would join with me in saying that in this Chamber. And, you know, so we know that members opposite will support this bill, because they want to protect consumers as we do, and we certainly look forward to their support.

      There are other consumer protection measures that are included in this legislation I just want to talk about very briefly, and the bill also amends The Business Practices Act in three key areas: Businesses will be prohibited from asking consumers to waive or limit their rights under the act, and the Consumer Protection Office will be able to issue administrative penalties or prosecute for violations; the Consumer Protection Office will have the authority to issue alerts to consumers when a problem business comes into attention and it is in the public interest to inform   Manitobans; and the maximum fines for individuals and corporations convicted of a first offence under the act will increase to $100,000 and   $300,000, respectively. Maximum fines for individuals convicted of a second or subsequent offence, will increase to $300,000. Further, orders for compensation may now be filed in court, and payment of the compensation must be made in accordance with the order.

      So now what has the industry said with regard to our proposed legislation? This legislation is certainly in response in the industry's request that we address the issue of inaccurate motor vehicle advertisements. They wanted us to be able to level the playing field by requiring all businesses show the total price of a car in their advertisements, one that includes all fees, charges, taxes, and levies. Increased disclosure and transparency increase consumer confidence in the businesses they deal with. And the Province also consulted with stakeholders and consumer groups who were supportive of bringing in legislation to address motor vehicle advertising.

      So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this legislation certainly–under the administration of The Consumer Protection Act, consumers are provided with a forum  for a hearing, investigating and mediating of consumer complaints related to almost anything that  concerns a consumer. The proposed legislation will   apply to all motor vehicle dealers and their employees. All motor vehicle dealers have a requirement to ensure that their employees are aware of and are of full compliance of the proposed legislation. Furthermore, legislation will also apply to the sale of trucks and motorcycles, not just cars.

      So, with that, I just want to conclude by saying, again, the Province of Manitoba–the government of  Manitoba–stands up with consumers–stands up–and stands for consumers, and we want to be able to ensure that Manitobans are getting what they pay for. And Manitobans don't mind paying a good dollar, but they want to ensure that they're getting what they pay for. And our government's proud to put forward consumer protection, and this is something that we  know that Manitobans will support. I hope the opposition does. Thank you.

Mr. Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill 17 today.

      My first comment is the irony in the NDP bringing forward Bill 17, and trying to protect Manitoba families from misleading advertising. I mean, here we had a government, in the last election, that went around and promised Manitobans that they weren't going to raise provincial sales tax, and that's the first thing they did, was come in and broadened the provincial sales tax, year one. Year two, they increased the provincial sales tax by 14 per cent.

      We should be passing legislation to protect Manitobans from the NDP government is what we should be doing. Well, I guess we did have protection in legislation, but the NDP are tearing up that legislation, and that's very unfortunate.

      I do want to put a few comments on the record regarding this legislation and the impact it will have. If you remember correctly, we actually proposed an amendment to this legislation, and this legislation actually does not–actually excludes provincial sales tax and federal tax from being on the sticker. We  thought it would be important that Manitoba consumers be aware of the provincial sales tax that is associated with purchasing a vehicle. We thought that would be something that Manitobans should be aware of, especially with the new 8 per cent provincial sales tax. But the NDP chose to ignore our amendment that we'd proposed just a couple weeks ago.

* (16:20)

      This legislation, obviously, will give the NDP government more powers, and it's a trend. I think we  get into another bill a little later on today that provides the government real encompassing powers that they've never had before.

      So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this particular legislation will give the regulatory authorities the authority to fine businesses without a court hearing, and clearly this extra power could cause some financial, administrative headaches for businesses if the power is abused by the regulators and by the people within the department. So it's something that we will be certainly monitoring as we go forward, once the legislation's passed, to see how that turns out and how the people within the department are dealing with the vehicle sales dealers around the province.

      The other thing that it does, it certainly increases the fines and assessments associated with those penalties, and that's certainly a trend that we've seen with the NDP, they're certainly trying to get as much money from the business community and from consumers as they can, and certainly this legislation does the same thing; it increases the fines associated with the penalties.

      And the other thing that, of course, is always a  concern when we have legislation before us that includes regulation, we're never sure exactly what the regulation is going to look like, and that's always a concern going forward. As I've raised before, the devil's in the detail; we're not sure what the details are going to look like going forward. We will certainly be looking to see what those regulations, those restrictions and those obligations may look like under the regulation going forward.

      So, with that, I know there's others that do want to speak to this. But again I just wanted to stress the irony in the NDP bringing forward a bill that is really about transparency and we haven't seen that from this government.

      Thank you very.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Just a few brief words on this legislation. First of all, I follow the minister in recognizing the contributions of the MLA for Assiniboia in hard work and recognizing the importance of, you know, going after individuals who make false, misleading or deceptive statements.

      I also think it's an interesting contrast that the minister decided in his last speech to go after roofers and, you know, as if they were scumbags. I've got to tell you that we actually had some roof work done this last summer and it was done very well and the people who did the job were excellent people, and I just want to thank them and give them some credit. And I want to let the minister know that there are some good people in the roofing business out there. You know, he may be just locked on to the wrong people or something, I don't know, but whatever that may be, there are some good roofers. And I think that the minister should be looking to work with the  people who are doing a good job, instead of slamming everybody.

      But I'm pleased that he had some complimentary words for car salesmen, and I'm also very pleased that this legislation has these words in it: No motor vehicle dealer or person employed by a dealer shall make a false, misleading or deceptive statement in any advertisement published by any means relating to trading in motor vehicles.

      And I think that it's an important principle that  all of us should be honouring, right, that we should, you know, not be engaging in making false, misleading or deceptive statements in advertisements published by any means. And this would apply to things like–I seem to remember it was not all that long ago, maybe about two years ago, that there was an individual who's known to most of us who got up and said we're not going to raise the PST, the whole idea is ridiculous. And this was well advertised and promoted, but somehow along the line this idea that the PST would not be raised, this individual–who I  will not name because it might be considered as  smearing his reputation–has been very much engaged in raising the PST.

      And so, clearly, you know, it is important not just when we're dealing with motor vehicles, but when we're dealing with raising the PST or when we're 'deasing' with making promises under a variety of formats, that it is really important to–that we have  a standard, and it's good to see that this bill sets  a standard that it is important never to make false, misleading or deceptive statements in any advertisement published by any means relating to important matters for this province.

      An so I stand up to echo those sentiments and, you know, support this legislation which has these important words in it, because I think that they are words that all of us should be listening to and that Manitobans will be paying a lot of attention to at the next election. Thank you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before putting the question, I  just want to caution all honourable members of the House in their use of their language. There was no objection raised, but use of the word scumbags, I  think, is approaching the line when it comes to appropriate language. So just as a caution to all honourable members in their speech.

      And now, seeing no further speakers, is the House ready for the question?

An Honourable Member: Question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The question before the House is concurrence and third reading–

Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please–concurrence and third reading of Bill 17, The Consumer Protection Amendment and Business Practices Amendment Act (Motor Vehicle Advertising and Information Disclosure and Other Amendments).

      Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some Honourable Members: Agreed.

An Honourable Member: No.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hear a no. 

Voice Vote

Mr. Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of adopting the motion, please say aye.

Some Honourable Members: Aye.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: All those opposed, please say nay.

Some Honourable Members: Nay.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: In my opinion, the Ayes have it.

Mr. Cullen: On division. 

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried on division.

Recorded Vote

Hon. Andrew Swan (Government House Leader): Recorded vote. 

Mr. Deputy Speaker: A recorded vote has been called. Call in the members.

Mr. Speaker in the Chair

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The question before the House is concurrence and third reading of Bill 17.


A RECORDED VOTE was taken, the result being as follows:


Allum, Altemeyer, Ashton, Bjornson, Braun, Caldwell, Chief, Chomiak, Crothers, Dewar, Gaudreau, Gerrard, Howard, Irvin‑Ross, Lemieux, Maloway, Marcelino (Logan), Marcelino (Tyndall Park), Melnick, Nevakshonoff, Pettersen, Robinson, Rondeau, Saran, Selby, Struthers, Swan, Whitehead, Wiebe, Wight.


Briese, Cullen, Driedger, Eichler, Ewasko, Friesen, Goertzen, Graydon, Helwer, Mitchelson, Pedersen, Rowat, Schuler, Smook, Stefanson, Wishart.

Deputy Clerk (Mr. Rick Yarish): Yeas 30, Nays 16.

Mr. Speaker: The motion is accordingly carried.

* * *

Mr. Speaker: The hour being past 5 p.m., this House is adjourned and stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.