LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF MANITOBA
Monday, December 1, 2014
Mr. Speaker: O Eternal and Almighty God, from Whom all power and wisdom come, we are assembled here before Thee to frame such laws as may tend to the welfare and prosperity of our province. Grant, O merciful God, we pray Thee, that we may desire only that which is in accordance with Thy will, that we may seek it with wisdom and know it with certainty and accomplish it perfectly for the glory and honour of Thy name and for the welfare of all our people. Amen.
Good afternoon, everyone. Please be seated.
Bill 9–The Chartered Professional Accountants Act
Hon. Greg Dewar (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Health (Ms. Blady), that Bill 9, The Chartered Professional Accountants Act, be now read a first time.
Mr. Dewar: Mr. Speaker, the accounting profession in Manitoba, like other provinces across Canada, have requested that we introduce the new chartered professional accountants designation in our province and amalgamate the existing regulatory bodies for chartered accountants, certified general accountants and certified management accountants into a single self-regulating body called CPA Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker, our government has consulted with stakeholders. We want to ensure that this is done respectful of the concerns of small business, charities and non-profit organizations as well.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation will streamline the accounting profession and ensure all accountants continue to meet national professional standards.
Mr. Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion? [Agreed]
Further introduction of bills?
Bill 201–The Centennial of Manitoba Women's Right to Vote Act
Mrs. Myrna Driedger (Charleswood): I move, seconded by the member for River East (Mrs. Mitchelson), that Bill 201, The Centennial of Manitoba Women's Right to Vote Act, be now read a first time.
Mrs. Driedger: Mr. Speaker, there–this is a very special bill, and it establishes January 28, 2016 as the 100th anniversary of Manitoba women getting the right to vote. We were the first women in Canada to be given the right to vote, and this day would recognize it as the centennial of that very special vote given to women in Manitoba. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion? 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.
Residential and Vocational Service Organizations–Standard Province-wide Funding Formula
Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
And the background to this petition is as follows:
Funding provided to organizations that provide residential and vocational services to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities in rural areas is significantly lower than the funding levels provided to similar organizations in Winnipeg.
This discrepancy in funding levels has affected the recruitment and retention of skilled staff, as average wages do not reflect the complex duties of staff that are similar to health-care aides.
Without increased funding, most organizations that provide residential and vocational services will be forced to close.
The closure of these organizations will severely impact the local economy, as these organizations are often large employers and provide necessary services in the community.
The value and quality of life experienced by individuals with special needs residing in a familiar and consistent environment is immeasurable.
Closing these organizations and moving these individuals will be incredibly disruptive to their lives and detrimental to their health and well-being.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To request that the Minister of Family Services consider implementing a standard funding formula across the province for organizations that provide residential and vocational services for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
This petition's signed by S. Poitras, A. Hooper, N. Sampara and many, many more concerned Manitobans.
Mr. Speaker: In keeping with our rule 132(6), when petitions are read they are deemed to have been received by the House.
Grace Hospital Emergency Room Upgrade and Expansion
Mrs. Myrna Driedger (Charleswood): I wish to read the following–sorry–I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.
And these are the reasons for this petition:
The provincial government promised to upgrade and expand the Grace Hospital emergency department in 2011 and to complete it by 2015.
The Grace Hospital was left as the last of all Winnipeg hospitals to be slated for an emergency room upgrade.
The provincial government has broken another promise to Manitobans by delaying the start of this upgrade by three years, as failure to begin construction in 2013 has left patients and hospital employees facing long wait times, overcrowding and the risk of unsafe conditions and care.
This provincial government has allowed ER wait times at the Grace Hospital to become the worst in Canada at triple the amount of time that emergency physicians recommend.
Ambulances in Winnipeg, including at the Grace Hospital, continue to face excessive patient off-load delays that are getting longer every year.
Last year the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg had over 23,000 patients seeking emergency care through the ER department and over 2,000 of those patients left the ER without being seen because they became too frustrated waiting to be seen.
Instead of fixing hallway medicine, there are now numbered hallway spaces.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To urge the provincial government and the Minister of Health to keep their promise to the people of Manitoba and make the upgrade and expansion of the Grace ER an immediate priority.
And this is signed by R. Clifton and L. Foster, L. Roberts and many others, Mr. Speaker.
Renewal and Improvements to PTH 5 and PTH 16 at Neepawa Intersection
Mr. Stuart Briese (Agassiz): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
And the background for this petition is as follows:
Two major provincial trunk highways, Provincial Trunk Highway PTH 5 and Provincial Trunk Highway PTH 16, intersect in Neepawa along a distance of 1.5 kilometres, resulting in high volumes of traffic.
The town of Neepawa is experiencing consistent growth as demonstrated by a reported 6.5 per cent increase in population between the 2006 census and the 2011 census, according to Statistics Canada.
Due to population and industry growth in the Neepawa area, the area where PTH 5 meets PTH 16 is experiencing increasing volumes of traffic flows.
The portion of highway where PTH 5 and PTH 16 join is frequently used by emergency medical services to transport patients to the Neepawa and district memorial hospital and the health centre.
Manufacturers, agricultural producers, area residents and many Manitobans rely on the area where PTH 5 and PTH 16 are a joint highway, yet this part of the highway is in need of significant repair.
There are serious safety concerns due to the poor conditions of the 1.5-kilometre portion of joint highway in Neepawa.
We petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
To request that the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation recognize that the 1.5 kilometres of shared area of PTH 5 and PTH 16 running through the town of Neepawa is in unsafe condition and therefore dangerous to the public, and as such, to be urged to prioritize its renewal and consider making necessary improvements to reflect its current use.
This petition is signed by C. Tibbett, R. Dowd, R. Dengate and many, many other fine Manitobans.
Rescind Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation Protection in Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
Mr. Cliff Graydon (Emerson): Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.
And these are the reasons for this petition:
(1) The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, FFMC, is not providing Manitoba fishers fair market price for their catch when compared to prices offered other fishers out in the open market.
(2) The Province of Manitoba is trying to protect the FFMC, a draconian Crown corporation, by placing a restriction under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA.
(3) In exchange for support from the Province of Manitoba, CETA has provided the FMC an exception which would jeopardize market access for all other Canadian commodities, producers and businesses.
(4) The FMC and the Province of Manitoba have used strong-arm tactics to undercut the hard work and efforts of local fishers in order to get them to follow FMC regulations.
(5) Fishers are feeling that the Province of Manitoba is denying them the right to sell directly to lucrative European markets.
(6) Manitoba fishers should have the same freedom as all other fishers in Canada to market their catch where they are able to find the best prices.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To urge the provincial government to rescind the Manitoba CETA restriction that protects the FFMC monopoly and allows Manitoba fishers to sell directly to the European market.
And this petition is signed by H. Dueck, J. Dueck, W. Friesen and many, many more Manitobans.
Beausejour District Hospital–Weekend and Holiday Physician Availability
Mr. Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet): Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.
And these are the reasons for this petition:
(1) The Beausejour District Hospital is a 30-bed, acute-care facility that serves the communities of Beausejour and Brokenhead.
(2) The hospital and the primary-care centre have had no doctor available on weekends and holidays for many months, jeopardizing the health and livelihoods of those in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority.
(3) During the 2011 election, the provincial government promised to provide every Manitoban with access to a family doctor by 2015.
(4) This promise is far from being realized, and Manitobans are witnessing many emergency rooms limiting services or closing temporarily, with the majority of these reductions taking place in rural Manitoba.
(5) According to the Health Council of Canada, only 25 per cent of doctors in Manitoba reported that their patients had access to care on evenings and weekends.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To urge the provincial government and the Minister of Health to ensure that the Beausejour District Hospital and primary-care centre have a primary-care physician available on weekends and holidays to better provide area residents with this essential service.
This petition is signed by M. Otto, C. Ledoux, B. Kintop and many, many more fine Manitobans.
Mr. Dennis Smook (La Verendrye): Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
These are the reasons for this petition:
(1) The Beausejour District Hospital is a 30-bed, acute-care facility that serves the communities of Beausejour and Brokenhead.
(2) The hospital and the primary-care centre have had no doctor available on weekends and holidays for many months, jeopardizing the health and livelihoods of those who live in the northeast region of the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority.
(3) During the 2011 election, the provincial government promised to provide every Manitoban with access to a family doctor by 2015.
(4) This promise is far from being realized, and Manitobans are witnessing many emergency rooms limiting service or closing temporarily, with the majority of these reductions taking place in rural Manitoba.
(5) According to the Health Council of Canada, only 25 per cent of the doctors in Manitoba reported their–that their patients had access to care on evenings and weekends.
We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
To urge the provincial government and the Minister of Health to ensure that the Beausejour District Hospital and primary-care centre have a primary-care physician available on weekends and holidays to better provide area residents with this essential service.
This petition is signed by R. Fargon, A. Merkel, L. Ryall and many more fine Manitobans.
Mr. Speaker: Committee reports?
Hon. James Allum (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I am pleased to table, pursuant to The Statutes and Regulations Act, a copy of each regulation registered under the act after the last regulation tabled in this House and more than 14 days before the commencement of this session.
Mr. Speaker: Any further tabling of reports? Ministerial statements?
Mr. Speaker: Prior to oral questions, I'd like to draw the attention of honourable members to the public gallery where we have with us this afternoon from Maples Collegiate, we have 20 grade 9 students under the direction of Nerissa Umali, and this group is located in the constituency of the honourable Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities (Ms. Wight).
On behalf of all honourable members, we welcome all of you here this afternoon.
Mr. Brian Pallister (Leader of the Official Opposition): Mr. Speaker, the Premier's leadership is in peril. His detractors plot to take him out; I don't mean just his detractors on this side of the House, of course. He has said that he will remain Premier. The question would be, of course, for how long?
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how badly does the Premier want to keep his job?
Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be part of a government that has worked co-operatively with the private sector producers, non-profit organizations, communities all across the province to get one of the best economic forecasts for Canada in the province of Manitoba. The–Manitoba will have the second strongest economic growth in Canada this year, according to the Conference Board of Canada, and those of us on this side of the House think that is very, very promising for the future.
When you have a strong economy during these fragile economic times, when you have a forecast for a strong economy next year, when you're educating and training people to have access to the jobs that the strong economy is providing, when you're building infrastructure to ensure the economy can be even more productive going forward, it's a reason to want to be here every day.
Mr. Pallister: Frankly, Mr. Speaker, the Premier's best opportunity to be part of a progressive government that can achieve gains for Manitoba is to cross the floor, but I'm not sure this caucus will have him, quite frankly.
Now, the honest answer–the honest answer to the question would be a perfect 10. There is clearly nothing the Premier wants more than to hang on to his job, and he'll go to any lengths to do that.
Now, for the next few months the NDP executive has said they see no problem with the Premier also being a candidate for the leadership of the NDP while being premier. Two hats at the same time, Mr. Speaker, two hats at the same time, a ridiculous conflict of interest.
Now, does the Premier acknowledge the great dangers inherent in this ridiculous and untenable conflict of interest?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, we know full well that it's common practice in a general election for the Cabinet and premiers to remain in their position. That is the way the Westminster model of government works. The provincial political party will make appropriate recommendations to separate the election-of-the-leader process from the governing responsibilities that we take as our primary responsibility having been elected by the people of Manitoba.
We're working diligently every day to ensure that the economy stays strong in Manitoba, that we have good jobs for young people, that we provide the essential services that people look forward to in terms of health care, that we build infrastructure and that we address the priorities of Manitobans, which is, after all, why we should all be in this Legislature and which is why we are privileged to have these opportunities to serve the people of Manitoba to address their priorities.
Mr. Pallister: Well, that's unfocused pap, Mr. Speaker. I wonder, did that answer come from the Premier, or did that answer come from the NDP candidate for leader?
Does he not understand that he cannot use the office of the Premier of Manitoba as a campaign headquarters? Does he understand that his every announcement may be seen as an abuse of that office?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, any time–any time–somebody stands for election, they follow the rules of Elections Manitoba. That's exactly what the member opposite should have done in 1995, but we know he did otherwise as a member of the Cabinet that perpetrated the largest vote-rigging scandal on the people of Manitoba.
Anybody presenting themselves for any elected office will clearly be required and will want to comply with the rules as set forth by Elections Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a new question.
Mr. Pallister: Well, the Premier speaks about NDP rules and ignores decades of parliamentary convention in the process. That's how much disrespect he and his party have for the rules that are there for a real reason.
Let's take a look at this reasonably. The rebel five of his former colleagues have said that the Premier's priorities aren't those of Manitobans. They've said that, over the last few months, in fact, that was the case. Now, that was before his leadership was in jeopardy.
Now that his leadership is at risk, how could he possibly honestly claim that he's going to suddenly set aside the self-interest he's failed to set aside over the previous months when it wasn't?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, that was a question full of assumptions made by the Leader of the Opposition.
The reality is this–the reality is this: Any time you have the privilege of being elected to this Legislature, your first duty is to the citizens of Manitoba who elected you. And you come to work every day to make that your top priority. Members of the oppositions are supposed to be doing that. Members of the government are certainly doing that on this side of the House. We do that within the laws that prescribe the things that we are supposed to do in any particular situation, whether it's in an election or whether it's standing for an election as part of the regular annual convention proceedings of a particular political party.
But the reality is this: Job No. 1 is to be here to serve the priorities of the people of Manitoba. Just today, Mr. Speaker, we had an announcement at R.B. Russell school by the Minister of Education that announced just under $3 million to revitalize and expand the technical vocational programming at that venerable institution in the inner city, named after R.B. Russell. And in that program–in that program–is money to enhance the carpentry program, the horticulture–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time has elapsed for this question.
Mr. Pallister: Mr. Speaker, by trying to cling to power, the Premier's playing with fire, and he's going to get burned. The problem is so will Manitobans in the process.
To win the leadership of his own party, the Premier–sorry, not the Premier, sorry, the MLA for St. Boniface, whose headquarters will be in the premier's office, has to gain delegate support.
During the leadership race, where will the St. Boniface MLA's highest priorities really lie? Will they lie with a few hundred card-carrying NDP members or with the 99.9 per cent of Manitobans who get absolutely no say in the process and whose priorities he has been ignoring for months, according to his own former front-benchers?
Mr. Selinger: As I've said from the earliest onset, Mr. Speaker, the priority is to serve the folks of Manitoba, the citizens of Manitoba. Every member on this side of the House is dedicated to that. That's why they come to work every day regardless of what position they hold. There's a special responsibility for the premier to provide continuity of government and to ensure that the priorities of Manitobans are met.
And we've listened to Manitobans. They have told us that they want us to make sure the economy's doing well in Manitoba. They want us to invest in infrastructure for strategic economic reasons but also to protect communities from floods and municipal infrastructure for quality-of-life reasons. They've indicated to us that they want good job opportunities for young people to live and work in Manitoba.
And we have been diligently following up on their priorities, by example–for example, the announcement we made today at R.B. Russell school; for example, the announcement that I was a party to last week which allows students in high schools to get dual credit now: high school credits, college credits, university credits and trade credits all at the same time as they're going to high school, which gives them a better education and a greater prospect of getting a job in Manitoba.
MLCC Labour Negotiation
Mr. Pallister: The Premier's not concerned about students' credits, he's concerned about getting credit for what he does, and the fact is he's created a situation here. I can't tell whether that response came from the Premier or the candidate, and I'm here a few feet away from the gentleman opposite, so how could Manitobans possibly be able to ascertain where his real priorities lie despite his talking points?
The MLCC workers are threatening to strike. Now, their union, along with several other unions, gets 20 per cent of the votes, gets the decisive influence in the NDP leadership vote. Now, this labour negotiation is a serious issue, not just for those workers but for Manitobans who bear the consequences of its settlement.
Now, when this labour negotiation is settled, how will Manitobans be sure that it was not settled in the best interests of the candidate?
Mr. Selinger: First of all, the member just puts inaccurate information on the record. His suggestion about the role that that particular labour organization plays within the political party that he referred to, it's just completely inaccurate, Mr. Speaker.
Collective bargaining goes on all the time in Manitoba. We proceed through the proper procedures on collective bargaining. The Crown corporation has its own officials on the management side that bargain on–with the labour organization, the union on the other side, to come to a collective agreement that works for everybody in the organization, the people running the organization on the management side, the people delivering the service on the employee side, and they will do that through the normal procedures.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a new question.
Budget Preparation (2015-2016)
Mr. Pallister: His own people don't believe him, Mr. Speaker. They don't believe him. He's trapped. He's trapped and he doesn't even see it.
While the Premier or MLA for St. Boniface, whichever hat he is wearing, is trying to be a contender and a premier at the same time, he is caught–he is caught–in an undeniable conflict of interest and he will work while–he will work in an unfocused manner at trying to be the Premier while trying to be a candidate simultaneously, but his opponents will not be so confused. His opponents will work against him. They will work with a single-minded purpose. His opponents within his own party will work solely to replace him.
And this NDP family feud has a high price for Manitobans. We on this side are not concerned about the price NDPers will pay for fighting amongst themselves, but we are vitally concerned about the price that Manitobans are being asked to pay here.
Now, while the MLA for St. Boniface is focused on campaigning, the Premier of Manitoba should not be. The Premier of Manitoba should be focused on one thing.
And I want to ask this member: How much of his time over the next three months will he be devoting to the preparation of Manitoba's upcoming 2015-2016 budget?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, we will be devoting all of our energies on the job to the priorities of the people of Manitoba.
That is why we brought forward a Throne Speech that identified what Manitobans have been telling us, and they said–they've said in that Throne Speech they want to ensure that young people have the kind of education that will give them the potential to earn a good living in Manitoba, to go on to post-secondary education, and I announced a dual‑credit plan for that on Friday, based on a very successful experience in the Seven Oaks School Division. We are now extending that plan all throughout Manitoba so students in high school can get dual credits. They can get a high school credit, they can get a college credit, they can get a credit at university, they can get a credit in a trade, and all of that will give them a pathway to a more prosperous future.
That's what Manitobans said they wanted. They also said they wanted good infrastructure, safer communities. We are following up on those priorities.
If the Leader of the Opposition is really concerned about the priorities of Manitobans, I want to see him stand and vote for the Throne Speech in this Legislature.
Mr. Pallister: So we have 16 billion reasons now not to believe the Premier.
The Premier has just said that he'll devote all his energy to the preparation of a spring budget, which means he has no energy left to campaign for leadership of the NDP. And what that means, according to the rebel five, the rebel five have said this. [interjection] If you listen, you'll learn–if you listen, you'll learn.
The Premier is opposed by his own people who have said that he puts his personal priorities ahead of Manitobans'. Today, they're going to vote to let him do just that. They're going to vote today to let this gentleman design a $16-billion fiscal plan for Manitoba which will take us to the next provincial election. They may overthrow their leader, but their victory will be pyrrhic because, whether they change leaders or not, the rebel five will inherit the NDP MLA for St. Boniface's budget. They have given him the reins of power to make that decision and they will support him in it.
Mr. Speaker, does the Premier plan to preside over the budget preparation process totally, and, if he is using 100 per cent of his time to do so, how does he propose to withstand the challenge to his leadership posed by his own people?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House come to work every day at the Legislature and we go out into the communities, whether we're caucus members, whether we're Cabinet ministers, whether you're the premier, you come to work every day with a very clear focus on addressing the priorities of the people of Manitoba. That's what we do every single day in this House.
And you can see in this Throne Speech several of the initiatives, and you can see in–from the bills we presented in the House several of the initiatives to do that. We have presented bills to make sure Manitobans are safer. We have presented bills to ensure that Manitoba's economy will continue to grow.
We have presented bills to make sure that our schools have smaller class sizes so that young people can get off to a good start from kindergarten to grade 3. We have presented a bill to ensure that daycares can be available and will stay available in schools, Mr. Speaker.
And we have in our Throne Speech several initiatives that will move forward and make Manitoba communities safer. We have announced that we will have 7,500 cubic feet a second flowing through the new channel coming out of Lake Manitoba into Lake St. Martin, the equivalent of five Olympic-sized pools.
The members of opposite are–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time on this question has elapsed.
Mr. Pallister: This Premier only has today and three more days left to do the right thing.
He's trapped by the arrogance and inability that he's demonstrated, repeatedly, to listen, as pointed out to this House and to Manitobans by numerous colleagues of his. He'll be replaced by his own members because of this arrogance, and nothing will change. His rebel faction will support him today so they can bring him down a few weeks from now, and nothing will change. They'll inherit his budget, they'll inherit his budget agenda, and they'll claim that a new leader means a new NDP, but it won't; it actually means nothing will change.
And this Premier will go down in history as the only Canadian premier ever to defeat himself between elections, unless he decides to give Manitobans a chance at real change and call an election.
So will he do that?
Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the people of Manitoba gave us a mandate. They gave us a mandate to ensure that we stay focused on the priorities of Manitobans.
And as we've gone through this '08-09 recession, which is still in recovery mode all around the world–it's a very fragile economy; as we've gone through the 2011 flood, which cost at a minimum 1 and a quarter billion dollars; as we've gone through the flood of 2014, which is estimated to be at least 200‑plus million dollars to Manitobans, Mr. Speaker, every single time we have had a challenge in Manitoba, we have responded by putting the Manitobans' priorities first, whether it's safety, whether it's recovery, whether it's jobs for people, whether it's building infrastructure.
And we have pursued those objectives with diligence. We have pursued those objectives with the appropriate level of resources to ensure that the Manitoba economy is now predicted to be in the top three for Canada. And for this year, one major agency, the Conference Board of Canada, is saying it'll be the No. 2 economy in Canada. That is a very important achievement, only done because of the hard-working Manitobans, businesses, community organizations, community development corporations, and we've been pleased to partner with those groups to ensure that we have this strong economy–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time on this question has elapsed.
Impact on Ratepayers
Mr. Ralph Eichler (Lakeside): Dictatorship looks like it's alive and well, Mr. Speaker.
Committing today to build dams without firm sales linked to the interest rate changes is suicide for investors. Who said that, Mr. Speaker? That was former Hydro minister, MLA Tim Sale.
Will this Hydro Minister follow the advice of one of his former colleagues and commit to stopping this suicide that will cost Manitoba ratepayers?
Hon. Eric Robinson (Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro): I'm indeed honoured to answer my first question on Manitoba Hydro.
First of all, let me point out that Manitobans pay among the lowest rates in North America and will continue to pay the lowest rates over the long term, and exporting clean energy, I believe, helps cover the cost of building dams and the new transmission while keeping these rates low for Manitobans.
Allow me to say as well, Mr. Speaker, that the public has been consulted on the Bipole III reliability project, which is what the Bipole III boils down to, is the issue of reliability.
Mr. Eichler: Mr. Speaker, when risk is significant, which Hydro agrees is the case in its development plans, the responsible thing to do is choose the option with the least risk. That was also NDP MLA Tim Sale. We know that Tim Sale thinks it's time to reroute Bipole III.
Does the minister agree with his colleague from Brandon East who said last week at AMM perhaps it's time to reconsider Bipole III?
Mr. Robinson: There is one thing that the member of Brandon East and I do agree on and that is the reliability of Bipole III. And let me further say that this is a reliability project that is necessary to ensure that the supply of electricity to southern Manitoba in the event of a catastrophe–you'll remember back in 1996, Mr. Speaker. In fact, you know what? I'll table some of the headlines of the papers that day when the wind factor downed some power lines, which crippled a city.
So let's fast that track to the current day, and that is why we're talking about a Bipole III initiative, because we believe that this is going to ensure reliability as we step into the future.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time has elapsed on the question.
Mr. Eichler: And they put it right down tornado alley. They call that as wise decision? I guess not, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the construction of big dams with big debts isn't the only way forward. That was also former NDP Hydro minister Tim Sale.
Does the minister agree that there is another way forward for ratepayers, a way that doesn't involve at least doubling hydro rates in Manitoba over the next 20 years? Does he have that initiative, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Robinson: Let me go back to what I said earlier. Extensive public engagement on the project has included over 400 meetings between 2008 and 2013. And also, let me repeat that Manitoba pays among the lowest rates on the continent and will continue to do such over the long term.
You know what, Mr. Speaker? I just–was just reading the US Department of Energy's 2013 report and the Edison Electric survey of 2013, the same month, where it outlines that Manitoba pays the lowest hydroelectric rates in North America. Allow me to table that to the House.
Youth Correctional Centres
Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach): Mr. Speaker, a new–statistics today show that, under the NDP, violence continues at an alarming rate in Manitoba. In fact, Manitoba leads the homicide rate and the statistics show that gangs continue to fuel a great deal of that violence.
We know that the currency that gangs trade in, Mr. Speaker, is violence, is intimidation. The problem won't improve until we get a handle on the gang problem.
Can the Minister of Justice inform this House how many known gang members and how many known gang associates there are in Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. James Allum (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I thank the member for the question. Of course, the statistics that came out today do show that there are simply too many homicides in Manitoba and there are too many homicides in Manitoba, because one homicide is too many. It results in the tragic loss of life, as we know, and has profound consequences for families as well.
One thing that the member, however, didn't know, Mr. Speaker, is that the trending for numbers on homicides and for violent crime are going down. They're going down for Winnipeg. They're going down for Manitoba. As I said, those numbers are too high, but we want to keep those trend lines going in the right direction.
Mr. Goertzen: I asked the Attorney General a very specific question about how many known gang members and associates are in Winnipeg, and he refused to answer the question.
We know, Mr. Speaker, that young people are drawn into gangs at an alarming rate. Often young people are going into gangs because they're looking for fellowship because they're not getting it at home with their family or they're not getting it with friends. Unfortunately, when they join these gangs, they enter a culture of violence, and ultimately that violence leads to victims in Manitoba.
Can the Minister of Justice advise this House: Does he know the answer in terms of how many young people who are in our youth correctional centres are known gang members, Mr. Speaker? A simple question.
Mr. Allum: Well, Mr. Speaker, the really important point is this, is what we're actually doing to prevent young people from getting into gangs in the first place.
I'll remind him about the Turnabout program, Mr. Speaker, which works with children who are too young even to enter the youth criminal justice legislation at all. That's an important program, one of the only ones that there is in Canada.
In addition, the Spotlight program provides supervision and services to high-risk gang youth and their families to help them to deal with substance abuse. We help them to stay in school and to find a job.
And I know, Mr. Speaker, and though the member doesn't like this particular program, that we have nearly 71 Lighthouses here in Manitoba and provides a safe place for young people to go. There were 143,000 visits to our Lighthouse programs last year.
We're concerned about keeping kids safe at every opportunity.
Mr. Goertzen: Mr. Speaker, I asked the Attorney General two specific questions. He didn't give the answers. So, as the opposition, we will give him the answer.
We don't know how many known gang members there are in Winnipeg because this government unplugged the gang database so there's no way to track how many known gang members there are in Winnipeg or Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker, as of September of this year, there are 47 per cent of those who are in our youth correctional centres who are known gang members. If he'd asked his department for a briefing, he would know that answer.
We're never going to get control of the problem of violence in Manitoba unless we recognize what the problem is, measure it and start working towards a solution.
There's a reason that this violence continues in Manitoba, because the government simply doesn't know the answers to simple questions and they don't care to know the answers because it's embarrassing for the government and for the minister, who clearly doesn't know what he's talking about on this file, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Allum: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know the member gets in a frenzied fit all the time, as he's always worried about numbers. He spends sleepless nights worrying about this number and that number. What we're concerned about on this side of the House is making sure that we're preventing crime at every possible opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, the Throne Speech clearly lays out a plan for making sure that there are opportunities for young people to make sure that they get the skills and the knowledge they need to go on and get a good life and live productive lives here in Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker, every single initiative on crime prevention that we put forward in this House has been opposed by the members opposite. I invite them now to do the right thing and vote for the Throne Speech and give young people in our province opportunities for a good future.
Winnipeg Police Service Notification
Mr. Ian Wishart (Portage la Prairie): Mr. Speaker, Manitobans became aware of the tragic death of Tina Fontaine on August 17th. Over the next two weeks, further details came out about Tina Fontaine's involvement with Child and Family Services and the Winnipeg Police Service.
I'd like to ask the minister: When did her department come clean on their full involvement with Tina Fontaine to the Winnipeg Police Service?
Hon. Kerri Irvin-Ross (Minister of Family Services): The murder of Tina Fontaine touched lives throughout this province, this country and beyond the borders of Canada.
When we learned about this tragedy, this murder, we co-operated with all of the officials, provided them with all of the information and we will continue to co-operate with them, and we dearly hope that they can find the person that murdered this young child.
Mr. Wishart: Mr. Speaker, an on-call Child and Family Services worker last had contact with Tina Fontaine on August 8th when she was picked up at the hospital after being brought in as a suspected victim of a sexual assault. The worker then checked Tina Fontaine into a hotel, where she was allowed to leave again.
Mr. Speaker, we have been reliably informed that there were spaces in a safe facility that deals with at-risk girls less than 30 minutes away.
Wouldn't the minister agree that Tina would have been at less risk in such a facility, and why wasn't she taken there?
Ms. Irvin-Ross: We know that when children and families are in crisis that we rely on the authorities and the agencies to reach out to those individuals, to provide them the support that's necessary.
We have developed a foundation of support that includes supporting high-risk victims. We have a dedicated group of men and women called StreetReach that go out every day and look for vulnerable children to bring them to safe, secure places. We continue to support them as they do their work, along with other community organizations and the Winnipeg Police Service as well as the RCMP. They need to continue to have the resources that they need.
We need to ensure that as we discover these children we are able to provide them with the necessary supports. That's why we announced recently the expansion of a high-risk victims home for young girls in Manitoba.
Mr. Wishart: It would appear, Mr. Speaker, that the spaces were there, but the minister was not aware.
Mr. Speaker, the safety of children should be the No. 1 priority of CFS and this minister, and yet even though there were spaces available, they were not used to help protect a vulnerable young girl like Tina from the predators that are out there. How can this be?
Why is the minister and her department not even aware of their own resources?
Ms. Irvin-Ross: What happened to Tina Fontaine is a tragedy and it's heartbreaking and a day doesn't go by that I don't think of that young girl and the potential that was lost by her murder.
The department continues to work to strengthen our system, to ensure that we are able to build a strong safety net that is involved in prevention, that also provides early intervention and also is there to provide intervention in a crisis situation, and throughout that system we're continuing to ensure that individuals that are working the front lines every day and making those very difficult decisions know what resources they have available.
We've hired more social workers, we've expanded and supported foster parents, and we will continue to do that as well as opening high-risk victims unit for young girls in Manitoba.
Impact on Migration
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, one of the important–most important measures of the health of a provincial economy and the society within the province is whether there is a net movement of young people into the province or a net movement of people out of the province. In the case of Manitoba, under the watch of today's NDP we've seen an extraordinary exodus, net exodus of over 50,000 people to other provinces.
As well, it should be noted, in the latest StatsCan report, there are 6,000 fewer people employed in Manitoba in October this year than there were 17 months ago in June 2013.
Why has the Premier failed so miserably in making Manitoba an attractive choice for individuals to come and to stay in our province instead of leaving?
Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, since '99 our population in grown–has grown in Manitoba by 140,000 people. That's three cities the size of Brandon, roughly. That's a huge, huge population growth.
In Canada, we are a welcoming place from people from all around the world. In Manitoba, we're a welcoming place for people around the world. We get people moving here from the rest of Canada. We ensure that when people come here that they can put down their roots and stay in Manitoba.
We have a very successful Provincial Nominee Program. Over 80 per cent of people that come here stay here. Within five to six years, more than 80 per cent of those individuals are homeowners and well along their way into being fully integrated into the community and into the economy.
And we look also, Mr. Speaker–and I've talked about this on numerous occasions in the House–to make sure the people, young people that are here have good opportunities to remain in Manitoba, and that's why we're pursuing very aggressively our skills agenda, our high school plan to have dual credits, opportunities for people to get mentorship and job experiences in Manitoba and expanding the trades from less than 3,000 opportunities a year–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time on this question has elapsed.
Impact on Migration
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Monsieur le Président, il y a beaucoup de nos gens qui veulent quitter notre province. Au cours de la période de gouvernement NPD, il y était une migration nette de notre province vers les autres provinces. Au même temps nous avons perdu notre leadership dans la fabrication de produits en comparaison avec le Saskatchewan.
Pourquoi le premier ministre ne pas mettre en place un plan d'action de reprendre le leadership dans le secteur manufacturier ici au Manitoba?
Mr. Speaker, there are many of our people who want to leave our province. During the NDP period of government, there was a net out-migration from Manitoba to other provinces. At the same time, we have lost our leadership in the manufacturing of products compared to Saskatchewan.
Why does the Premier not put into place an action plan to re-establish our leadership in the manufacturing sector here in Manitoba?
Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Monsieur le Président, nous avons agrandi la population par plus que 140,000 personnes dans la province de Manitoba durant la dernière 15 ans, et dans cet sens nous avons fait beaucoup de succès. C'est le troisième plus haut agrandissement d'une population d'aucune province dans le pays du Canada. Et pour l'avenir, nous avons mis en place une bonne programme pour l'économie. L'économie est la deuxième plus fort dans le pays du Canada–la deuxième plus fort dans le pays du Canada. Ça c'est un vrai accomplissement en comparaison avec toutes les autres provinces.
Monsieur le Président, pour les jeunes, il y a plus–beaucoup des opportunités ici de travailler, d'avoir une bonne formation, d'avoir l'opportunité de vivre dans un province très abordable et d'avoir la culture et la possibilité d'avoir une bonne qualité de vie. Ça c'est notre vision pour la province de Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker, we have increased the population by more than 140,000 people in the province of Manitoba in the last 15 years, and in that sense we have had a lot of success. It's the third highest provincial population growth in Canada. And for the future, we've put in place a good program for the economy. Our economy is the second strongest in Canada–the second strongest in Canada–and that is a real accomplishment compared to all the other provinces.
Mr. Speaker, for young people, there is more–many opportunities here to work, to receive good training and also to have the opportunity to live in a province that is very affordable and to have culture and the possibility of a good quality of life. That is our vision for the province of Manitoba.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): And still too many young people are planning to leave.
Mr. Speaker, the CEO of Canada West Foundation, Dylan Jones, told the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce last week that Manitoba would be far more successful in raising capital if our province were a member of the New West Partnership. If Manitoba were part of the partnership, one of the advantages is that foreign investors would see the benefit of entering a common market of nearly 10 million people and an economy worth half a trillion dollars.
I ask the Premier: Why is Manitoba not joining the New West Partnership?
Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): The country of Canada is based on an economic union. The idea of this country is an economic union, as well as a union of First Nations, of indigenous peoples and founding peoples that have come to this province from other parts of the world.
We have a country that is looking at–and I'm a member of the premiers' committee that's involved in this internal trade–how to accelerate our capacity to trade east and west as well as north and south, Mr. Speaker. Manitoba trades more east and west into other provinces than any other province in Canada. We are less reliant on trading to the United States than any other province. We do more trade east and west than any other province. We are doing energy trade to the east and west of us. We are doing transportation harmonization to the west of us. We are doing securities work with the province of Quebec and the province of Alberta. We are looking at climate change initiatives with the provinces to the east of us as well as provinces to the west of us. We are a resupply place for northern economic development, including in the mining sector.
Manitoba is a trading province. Nineteen billion dollars of trade flows down Highway 75. We announced $200 million to improve that road. I suspect all the members of the opposition, including the member for River Heights–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable First Minister's time on this question has elapsed.
Renovations and Expansion of Programs
Mr. Ted Marcelino (Tyndall Park): Mr. Speaker, our children do their best when they have opportunities they need to succeed. When our children are in school they should be able to get a head start and get the training they need to get a good job here in our beloved province.
Our government has been investing in new shops and in new opportunities for students throughout the province.
Can the Minister of Education please inform the House about the exciting announcement he made earlier today at R.B. Russell?
Hon. Peter Bjornson (Minister of Education and Advanced Learning): Mr. Speaker, I was thrilled to be joined by the Minister of Jobs and the Economy (Mr. Chief) in his constituency of Point Douglas, and we were also joined by many industry, educational and community partners and, of course, the dedicated students in R.B. Russell, who are very thrilled with the announcement that we made today to enhance, expand and revitalize the shops at R.B. Russell School.
We know the value of investing in quality education, unlike members opposite, but I digress. We know the value of investing in training opportunities.
We're renovating and expanding the carpentry and construction facilities, the landscaping and small-engine repair shops and the 'wending'–welding facilities, Mr. Speaker. And with this particular program, we're also engaged with many of the wonderful businesses here who will be employing these students who are getting these opportunities. Industries like New Flyer, Carriage House and FortWhyte Alive, as well as the Health Sciences Centre, were on hand to talk about the partnerships, because they believe in the children of this province.
We believe in the children of this province. We're investing in the children of this province.
Impact on Families
Mr. Blaine Pedersen (Midland): Mr. Speaker, this government has closed Ag offices, Conservation offices and Hydro offices across Manitoba. The broadening of the PST to include insurance and the subsequent 14 per cent increase in the PST has cut deeply into farm family income.
Now this government is clawing back an additional 5 and a half million dollars in education tax rebates from farm families. Manitoba farm families are spending more and getting less.
Is the Minister of Agriculture at all concerned about the impact, the chaos and mismanagement of–his government is having on Manitoba farm families?
Hon. Ron Kostyshyn (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development): Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member opposite for the question.
Let me just say, first and foremost, let's show our round of applause for the 19,000 farm families that support the agriculture industry in the province of Manitoba.
Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity to celebrate today when we talk about the beef crisis that the agriculture industry suffered for 10 years because of the BSE scenario, and today finally the beef industry is getting what's been deserving for them for the last 10 years.
But last but not least, let's take this as a basketball game. When they were in power, what was the school tax rebate? Zero. Where was it when we got into power, and what's it at today? Eighty per cent. I rest my case, Mr. Speaker. That's my answer.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, please. Time for oral questions has expired.
Mr. Speaker: The time for members' statements, it's–the honourable member for St. Vital.
World AIDS Day
Ms. Nancy Allan (St. Vital): Twenty-six years ago, on December 1st, 1988, the international community came together to recognize the first ever World AIDS Day. It gives people from around the world a chance to stand together against the pandemic that has claimed more than 35 million victims, today known as HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day is also a time to remember the tragic number of lives that are lost to HIV and AIDS and a day to celebrate the steps that we have taken to prevent, treat and provide education around this often stigmatized disease.
Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today, we have three individuals who are working hard to mitigate the impacts of HIV and AIDS in our community and in Manitoba. Nicole Chammartin is the executive director of the Klinic Community Health Centre and the 'sexualigy' education resource centre, Mike Payne is the executive director of Nine Circles Community Health Centre and Jim Kane is the president of the board of directors of Nine Circles.
The work of these individuals to advance HIV/AIDS prevention, education and treatment is critical in this fight. Yet there are still too many people getting sick and dying from this disease, especially among our Aboriginal peoples and communities.
We know that testing and early diagnosis of HIV infection can improve the care provided to HIV‑positive individuals and reduce the likelihood that they ever develop AIDS. Early testing and treatment is very important; it can reduce the risk of transmission from one person to another. That is why our government has adopted a proactive stance in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Manitoba, and why we continue to work with important partners like Klinic, SERC and Nine Circles.
Today we stand in solidarity with all of those affected by this disease, and applaud the researchers, doctors, social workers and community health professionals who dedicate their lives towards eradicating AIDS. I hope you will all stand with me today to thank Nicole, Mike and Jim for the invaluable work that they are doing for the health of our communities, and to recognize that we must all continue to work together to fight this terrible disease.
Mr. Cliff Graydon (Emerson): I never get tired of addressing this Assembly with good news from the constituency of Emerson. It is an amazing constituency filled with amazing people, and it is my honour and privilege to pay tribute to a most deserving community leader today.
Karine Sabourin, daughter of Ross and Mona Sabourin of LPR Sabourin Transport of St. Jean Baptiste, is a force to be reckoned with. Whether this be on the ringette ice, in the classroom or fundraising money for our Manitoba charities, Karine will not take no for an answer and will ensure that she finishes what she sets out to begin.
Most recently, Karine was the winner of the Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award for seniors athletic. A dedicated athlete and youth coach, Karine played on a under-19 Canada West national ringette team at the World Ringette Championships.
Karine has also been recognized with achieving the Asper School Aboriginal Business Education Partners top grade point average, and has taken part in an international exchange program where she completed a semester in France while retaining a 4.0 GPA as a finance student, and being recognized as a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honour society.
If this isn't enough, Karine is also a community advocate who is very charitably minded. As the organizer for the Skate for Pink fundraiser in St. Jean Baptiste, Karine has been instrumental in raising over $8,000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, with the numbers growing annually.
According to Karine, she lives by the motto: Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction and knowing that you did the best you could do because the best you are capable of becoming. She attributed these works of wisdom to her mentor, Coach Wooden, and evidently she practices what she preaches.
For all Karine's successes in academics, athletics and her unwavering community spirit, I would ask all honourable members to join me in a round of applause, giving credit where credit is undoubtedly due. Karine, you make all of those around you aspire to bigger and better things, and you continue to make the town of St. Jean Baptiste and your family very proud.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
St. James Horticultural Society
Hon. Deanne Crothers (Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors): Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize the St. James Horticultural Society, an enthusiastic group from my constituency. On August 19th, they celebrated an incredible milestone with their 100th annual exhibition.
In honour of their centennial, this year's exhibition theme was 100 Years of Flowers. The horticultural society displayed beautiful collections of flowers and vegetables, including many varieties that were popular in decades past. There was also a tea party and fashion show for everyone to enjoy, and members of the St. James Horticultural Society, along with other horticultural societies, provided tables for baking and crafts.
The St. James Horticultural Society is a thriving organization with a strong membership. The community garden plots located along Silver Avenue are very popular and plots are always in demand. The care with which residents tend their plots helps to create a visual feast in spring and summer for the people who use the Yellow Ribbon Greenway Trail, which runs along the edge of the society's garden plots.
There are many benefits to having the St. James Horticultural Society in our community. They help educate people on various aspects of growing flowers and vegetables. They encourage members and gardeners to donate fruits and vegetables to soup kitchens, and they hold plant and bake sale fundraisers throughout the year.
Knowing your neighbours goes a long way to making our community stronger. The St. James Horticultural Society enables members to share ideas with each other and create opportunities to form lasting connections through the exchange of valuable knowledge gained from years of gardening with those who are just getting started. The society helps foster both community identity and spirit.
Congratulations, St. James Horticultural Society, on your 100th anniversary and may you continue to thrive for many more years to come. Thank you.
Mr. Dennis Smook (La Verendrye): Manitoba is home to made-in-Manitoba agricultural products that we are all very proud of, but there's one in particular that stands out for its recognition of excellence on the world stage. Bothwell Cheese, Canada's largest independently owned cheesemaker has been in operation since 1936. It produces and distributes over 25 variety of cheeses and one is the–one of the few artisan cheesemakers left in Canada and continues to have milk delivered to its facility, which employs 60 people.
Earlier this month, Bothwell Cheese won first place in the 87th annual British Empire Cheese Show in the marble cheddar category. They have won this title for the eighth time in the last nine years. Bothwell also receives awards for its Gouda and cheddar cheeses. The company is also known for its unique creations, such as the Madagascar peppercorn and smoked jalapeno jack cheeses which have won awards.
Bothwell was named the Business of the Year by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and was named the grand champion in the two-year-old aged white cheddar class in the Canadian Western Agribition Cheese Competition in 2006.
The recent success of Bothwell Cheese at the British Empire Cheese Show puts Manitoba on the global map for its cheese products and dairy industries. Its products are some of the best in the world and I am proud purchaser of their products.
I would like to ask all members to help me congratulate Bothwell Cheese for its achievements.
The Komagata Maru
Mr. Mohinder Saran (The Maples): Mr. Speaker, many of us were very excited about the Canadian human rights museum's grand opening last month. One of the newest exhibits on the Komagata Maru will particularly resonate with the Indo-Canadian families in my constituency.
The Komagata Maru is a ship that landed in Vancouver in 1914 carrying 376 passengers from India who were not allowed to land because of the discriminatory immigration laws. Under the continuous journey regulation, immigrants travelling to Canada by ship were required to a direct route to Canada with no stopovers. At this time was impossible for–at their time was impossible for those travelling from Asia. After two months abroad, the ship in appalling conditions, they were forced away. They eventually arrived back in Calcutta, where the passengers were deemed dangerous and ordered to board a train for the Punjab. Many resisted, which resulted in a conflict that left 19 dead and the rest imprisoned for the duration of World War I.
The story of the Komagata Maru is permanently featured in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It is the subject of a short film that plays in the Canadian Journeys gallery.
The story of the Komagata Maru is a powerful one that reminds us that while we have made good progress in the pursuit of human rights, we also have to remember those who suffered because of the policies that did not treat all people with dignity and respect. This exhibit is a good way to encourage thought and conversation around issues of discrimination and opportunities for change that still exist today.
The Komagata Maru exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a powerful educational tool to teach the next generation about the tragedies of the past so that they can hopefully be avoided in the future. We are all Manitobans. Let us stand united to continue building this great province. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker: That concludes member statements.
(Seventh Day of Debate)
Mr. Speaker: We'll now move on to orders of the day, government business, and to resume the adjourned debate on the proposed motion of the honourable member for Wolseley (Mr. Altemeyer) and the amendment thereto, standing in the name of the honourable member for Fort Rouge, who has 20 minutes remaining.
Ms. Jennifer Howard (Fort Rouge): I think on Friday, when I was speaking, I was speaking about the vision in the Throne Speech that has to do with health care, and I was talking about the work that this government has done in making sure that there are doctors and nurses and other health professionals available to work in our hospitals and personal-care homes and clinics when we need them.
And I did get to experience the health-care system first-hand over the summer more than I wanted to, but I think that's usually the way. You never want to be in the hospital until you need to be, and then it's a good place to be, and it was for me. And I do want to say thank you to members of this House on all sides who showed me a tremendous amount of kindness and concern during my stay and my recovery.
But what I also discovered in that hospital stay was the number of young people working in our health-care facilities–young nurses, young doctors in training, and I couldn't help but think about the time after time that we have increased the numbers of people able to go to nursing school, the numbers of spaces in medical schools, that we've increased or expanded the scope of practice so those people can work to the fullness of their abilities. And I was very–for me, being a patient and receiving their care and their professionalism, to see, really, the–that work of training more doctors and nurses come to fruition in a very real way, I was very proud to have been part of a government that had that vision for the future.
Even in times when there wasn't a lot of money, we continued to make those investments. We didn't do what the government of the past had done and when times were difficult decide that now is the time to reduce the number of nurses, to reduce the numbers of doctors. Those decisions had ramifications for years and years and years.
Also, in this Throne Speech, I listened to some of the innovations that have been introduced into the health-care system, things like the QuickCare clinic, a way that people can get their health-care needs seen to more quickly, a way to hopefully take some of the pressures off of emergency rooms. And in the Throne Speech we learned that those clinics have seen 100,000 visits, and we also heard that there were going to be more of those types of innovations in health care, and we should all welcome those.
We also heard about moves to use paramedics in new ways, to use paramedics so that they can also use all of their skills in treating people and providing life-saving treatment earlier. And that, I think, is also an important innovation, an important advancement in the health-care system.
But one thing I think that we know about health care that I have known in working both within the health-care system and being part of this government is that the job of improving health care is never over. You never put up the mission accomplished banner to say that everything is perfect now. You work every day to try to make things better, but you also have to be ever vigilant against those voices and those people who will embrace the false solution of privatization of our health-care system.
And those voices have been talking ever since Tommy Douglas had the dream of a universal health‑care system. There have been those critics that say, no, the way forward is a for-profit health-care system. That's what we should embrace; that will solve all of our problems. And we know that those voices are wrong, but we also know that they will continue to try to put forward their ideology that introducing profit into the health-care system would somehow make it more efficient, and it's just patently not the case. We only have to look as far as the example south of our border to see that in the States you have a system that's widely for profit and it's more costly and covers fewer people. There's been some tremendous progress made there, but certainly they don't have the extent of coverage and nobody in this country–or very few families in this country worry about going bankrupt because they can't pay the medical bills that are incurred within Canada. We have seen recently, I think, a situation where a woman who gave birth in Hawaii is experiencing how inaccessible that system is, and we don't ever want that kind of system to be in place here in Canada.
So we have to remain vigilant against that, because it is clear to me, and in hearing some of the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, that that approach is something that he has no problem with. He has said in the past that a two-tier, for-profit health-care system, he believes, is something that Manitobans need, and we have to be vigilant against that kind of approach. We only have to remember back to the last time we had a Conservative government in this province and what was suffered in the health-care system. They made an attempt to privatize the home-care system–unthinkable today as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of that system. Imperfect as it may be on some days, it is a system that helps people stay in their homes. It is in many places an enviable way of delivering health care, not only cost effectively but to people where they want to live: at home.
We also saw in their time in office that they made a decision when times got hard, when economic fortunes were not in their favour, that they would stop building hospitals, that they would stop building personal-care homes, that they would just put the brakes on all kinds of investment in health‑care capital.
And we didn't make that decision. When the economy went down in 2008-2009, we didn't put the brakes on funding for the new Women's Hospital, which is going to be a place where families in Manitoba are going to come and experience one of the great joys in life, the birth of a new child.
In fact, I remember, Mr. Speaker, in discussions with the leadership within the medical community, the leaders of what is now called Doctors Manitoba, they referred to those days, the '90s, as the dark days, and that is what they were. And we will never go back. I will never allow us to go back to those kinds of approaches, and that is why I'm going to stand today against the amendment by the opposition, and that is why I'm going to stand in favour of the Throne Speech because, if on no other issue but our approaches to health care, I believe in the vision of this government, a vision where you get the care that you need not because you have money, not because you have status, not because you have power, but simply because you need that kind of care and because we believe that Manitobans are people who take care of each other. Those are their values, and you see that evident in the health-care system.
So I'm going to certainly share my time with other members who want to speak to the Throne Speech, but I believe in the vision that was laid out in the Throne Speech. I believe it's a vision that is going to take several years to accomplish and I intend to make sure there's a government in place to realize that vision.
Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): It's a pleasure to rise today to speak to the amendment to this Speech from the Throne, moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the member for Fort Whyte (Mr. Pallister).
As the MLA for Riding Mountain, there are a number of concerns we have with regard to this government and how they've been handling situations that directly impact the life and well-being of–the lives and well-being of my constituents. There are so many issues that this government has failed on with regard to families and business owners and just the general everyday lives of the people that I represent, so I look forward to continued debate on not only the Throne Speech but as we go forward over the next year or so with regard to how this government could have done a lot better.
I want to start today by recognizing World AIDS Day and the significant loss that we've seen in the world: 35 million victims, Mr. Speaker. That is a very tragic number and a tragic number of families who have been affected by this vicious disease. Every December, we reflect on what this disease has done and how we, as Canadians and members of society as a whole, can do more in the area of prevention and education and treatment. And I was pleased earlier today to see that we had members from the community from Manitoba who were in the gallery today, leaders in leading the cause or leading the charge in prevention, education and treatment, and I was pleased to see them in the gallery.
World AIDS Day has an impact on my family personally, Mr. Speaker. Scott Rowat, my husband's brother, died of AIDS on April 20th, 1986. He died from AIDS when it was very, very new–very–a lot of unknown with regard to the disease. We believe Scott, who was a world traveller, likely contracted the disease in Africa–from his journals, which are very fascinating. He writes of this disease and how it is ravaging the communities that he was visiting and how very serious this disease would be if it manifested itself and did travel to other parts of the world.
Shortly after that, Scott was diagnosed, and in 1986 it was a very vicious disease with very little treatment. Scott, as all Rowats, was a very active and very physical–physically fit individual. On the Monday he ran to work, and on Friday he succumbed to the disease. So, in 1986, our family was devastated, Brad's mom and dad were devastated, and we continue to try to understand how something so vicious, so deadly could take a very vibrant and outgoing individual–and healthy–and take him within a week.
So World AIDS Day is something that our family looks on as a day of awareness and a day that we remember Scott and all the things that he represented in a family of six siblings who were very active and loved life, Mr. Speaker. So this is the first opportunity I've had to mention Scott, and I've often thought of him on World AIDS Day and never really had an opportunity, so I just wanted to put that on the record that he is missed, and it's somebody that my kids have often asked about. And Scott was a crazy character, and so we have a lot of fun stories to share, but it has also taught my children the significance of a deadly disease. And, if you do not learn about it and grow from–learn about it and learn how to prevent it, it could cause devastation, as it has to our family.
With regard to the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, reflecting on what was said by the government over the last few months, it has raised a few eyebrows, has caused a few people to scratch their head with regard to what exactly is going on within the Manitoba Legislature, and in some ways it has actually engaged more Manitobans in the political process in Manitoba, questioning what exactly is happening. Why would somebody that sits on the government's side, a member of the Cabinet, speak openly about their concerns with regard to their leader and their Premier (Mr. Selinger)? And I believe that what they said was not that surprising to a lot of Manitobans. It affirmed the concerns that Manitobans have had for a number of years, but it's interesting that when things start to go sideways for certain members of the NDP at the doors, they all of a sudden start to jump ship.
When members of the government's side were talking about the PST and the concern they have with it and the implementation and how poorly it's been sold, that's not news, Mr. Speaker, to the constituents of Riding Mountain. We know that Manitobans are angry and that they believe this government has broken their trust with the voters. We have seen in communities that I represent along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, they have–I have seen in the community of Russell, where our family live, two or three businesses that have put up for-sale signs. And that is a direct result, I am told by the people that own those businesses, from this government's very poor decision making with regard to business policy, with regard to small-business policy, and especially the PST, which has been the nail in the coffin for a lot of these individuals who own businesses in my community.
It's not uncommon to hear of individuals ordering online or through Sears or through any type of online services to actually have their orders shipped to Saskatchewan to a family member and have them then delivered into the community living 12, 15 miles away from the Saskatchewan border. This is not an uncommon practice. And I know that–from living in Souris prior to Russell, that was very much the case as well when people would order things in the US and just have them delivered into the US and brought back into the–into Manitoba, Mr. Speaker. So that is not good business practice; that is not healthy for a lot of the businesses that are along the US and the Saskatchewan border who are trying to make a living.
So I believe when members of the government side said that Manitobans are angry with regard to the PST and they feel that the Premier broke their trust, then they are speaking from experience and they know exactly what is happening in those communities.
We're seeing a huge hit to families who have less to spend on themselves and actually have less say in how their dollars are being spent. There seems to be a lack of interest by this government to look at the competitive tax environment for families, and I find that really interesting, Mr. Speaker, because this is a government–the NDP are supposed to be known to be or say that they are concerned about families who are at risk or families that have challenges with regard to finances or just are hard–having a harder time to make ends meet in this province. But all we're seeing is this government develop more and more tax initiatives, more and more ways that this government has control of how those dollars are being spent and less is being left in the hands of the families, who know best on how those dollars should be spent.
An area that I found rather interesting that this government keeps ignoring is the bracket creep. Every year there's an opportunity for this government to make a difference, to offset the impacts of inflation for countless Manitobans, and a lot of them, Mr. Speaker, are of the lower income bracket. The government has an opportunity to allow families to have more in their pockets right from the get-go, to let them decide how their dollars can be spent. And, when we see this government not even looking at a simple policy like that, we then get to see the full picture on how this government is failing so many Manitobans.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to infrastructure, you know, it's rather interesting that this government talks about how the flood of 2011 and 2014 justify their deficit. We're waiting in the Assiniboine valley area for this government to actually come clean on the Shellmouth Dam act. We've been–we've heard from people fairly high up within the Department of Agriculture who have said that that act was developed to make sure that there was no dollars being allocated to the people that need those dollars, the farmers and the people that actually are being hit by the floods. We've been told that that act was developed to ensure that no dollars would flow, and you know what? We're seeing that happen. Those individuals have not seen a penny. They've not seen a red dime from this government with regard to compensation, so I think when this government talks about flood and the justification of a deficit with regard to that, it rings hollow to so many people that live along the Assiniboine and the Qu'Appelle valley in my constituency.
Mr. Speaker, what also is interesting is that in 2012 expenditures on water-related infrastructure decreased by an astounding 70 per cent, from $55 million to $17 million. So in 2012, after the 2011 flood, this government thought, oh, flood of the century, it's over. You know, we made these announcements, but we don't have to worry about developing these infrastructure projects that we said we would be implementing because, really, what are the chances of something happening again? Well, 2014 proved that this government, by not initiating and fulfilling their promises, have actually caused greater hurt in–to so many communities that expected better from this government.
With regard to health care, Mr. Speaker, we've seen so many facilities in rural Manitoba close. And they say they don't close facilities. Well, we know when people have to travel from one community 30 minutes to get treatment, then that is definitely a closed facility and that community is definitely not receiving the care that they deserve, because this government has decided to close those facilities.
Mr. Speaker, we've seen 2,300 doctors leave Manitoba to go to other provinces. This is not a number that has been made up. This is coming from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, and we know that that is a real concern. We know that that's an issue because we hear that from the medical professionals in the communities that I represent. You know, the on-call is just outrageous; some physicians have to pretty much beg for time to spend with their families or just to get some respite, and that's not on. You don't want physicians that are going to be put to such stress levels that they just have to beg for time to spend with their families. My husband does call, and he's on every three to four weeks. You know, and at times it does put, you know, family situations or family events on the back burner. But, if you continually have to be on call, it does take a toll on not only the individual who has to work through that time, but also on the families. So I believe that this government has a lot to do in–with regard to improving the conditions for these medical professionals in these communities.
We know that some of these health-care facilities need upgrading. And I applaud any opening of new services that are being made available in my communities, but I do know in community like Russell where we have received, you know, a palliative-care enhancement and diagnostics, but what we've just recently seen is a very serious, very serious health concern with regard to asbestos in the mechanical room. You know, you do these improvements, but then you forget about the health issues that are not sexy, that this government tends to ignore. And I believe that when the–you know, when people in the health-care system say, you know, my personal health is very important and I believe that this has to be addressed, then this government really should stand up and take notice of those types of things.
So, when you hear about all these wonderful things that are happening there, the government has to pay attention to the overall needs of health facilities and to ensure that the people that work in those facilities are actually in a safe environment. So I am tracking and I'm following and I'm getting positive results from the individuals who work in this facility, but it makes you wonder about all these upgrades that have happened in that facility and just now are realizing that there are some very serious health issues with regard to that facility.
We've been raising questions with regard to Manitoba's rates on scores in science, reading and math, and when we hear about them being the worst in Canada, that in itself is very, very concerning. And our Health critic has raised those concerns and has been diligent in trying to get this government to provide some type of a strategy in how they're going to be addressing that. And one area that of–that is of personal interest because of my critic area but also being a mom is knowing that when you're not feeding your children before they go to school has a very direct impact on how well they learn. So I believe that poverty and the poverty numbers that we have in Manitoba–we have the highest incident of children that are in poverty in this country and we can't seem to get this government to understand that if they don't address the root causes of low scores in reading, math and science or we don't look at high school dropout rates or we don't look at teen pregnancies or if we don't look at youth suicide and look at the root causes of a lot of this, we're not going to be making progress.
We continually see double-digit numbers of children who take their lives within this province. A significant number of those children are children who are directly connected to the child-welfare system, so we need to be looking at the systemic issues and what's causing these children with very, very serious, complex needs to be ignored or to not be heard, because when you see double-digit numbers of children taking their lives in Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, it's tragic. It's a very, very serious issue that this government seems to have missed the boat on.
In 2008, the government brought out a youth suicide strategy, Mr. Speaker, and you know what? We have not seen the numbers decrease. What we've seen are a significant increase in the number of girls who have taken their lives. We're seeing a significant increase in young age of suicide victims. We have seen three or four, I think–I believe four children but–of the age of 12 take their own lives. Now what would a 12-year-old be thinking at the time that they take their life? Is that–how can they feel that there is just no hope? And that's the whole thing; they've lost hope in the system, in the people that are providing the supports and they see no way out of their troubled situation.
So it leads to the point that if we don't start taking control of the systemic challenges and the issues that these families are facing, then we're going to continue to see increases in numbers in the areas that I've earlier indicated.
The member for Portage today brought up some questions with regard to Tina Fontaine and her tragic death–her murder–and said that this system has failed Tina. And the system has failed a number of children in the 11 or 12 years that I've been here, that I've recognized. Phoenix Sinclair was a very significant breach of support by this government. And, you know, the recommendations that come out of these reports, Mr. Speaker, they're pages and pages long. And this government has failed to respond to them, so we're going to continue to see tragic situations like Phoenix Sinclair and Tina Fontaine and many others.
Tina Fontaine–her situation that was raised earlier today–Mr. Speaker, if we would've had the computer program that this government refused to implement, that this government was asked to implement–the Manitoba Child and Family Services Information System, it's a computer system that would track where kids were, the needs that they have and the supports that would be available for those kids. Now, this ask went to Cabinet. It went to Cabinet more than five years ago–I would say closer maybe even to 10–and Cabinet said, no, we can't afford it. How can you not afford a system that would organize a child-welfare system that is the busiest in this country? It would help organize where the kids are, what those kids' needs are, the supports that would be available for those kids and that system is not in place.
And I believe Tina Fontaine would've been tracked in a more effective way, and I believe that she might've had a chance. We would've then been aware, and the social worker would've been aware, that there was a treatment facility. There was a facility–a safe facility for her to be in, instead of a hotel, a facility that was 30 minutes away that would've provided the protection that she needed to stay safe, Mr. Speaker.
So I believe that when the government says that they haven't been able to afford this information system–an information system that is in place in Finance, is in place in Health, is in place in other departments. So if you can spend the money to track the dollar, to track the taxes, to track how your income is coming in for the government and if you can bring into play the same type of a tracking system for Health to ensure that you know who has what illness and what types of supports are available for that illness, then why can't you bring in an information system similar for the 10,000-plus children in care, Mr. Speaker? So shame in this government for not bringing in something like that.
And we talk about this system–this system would also provide the information that is required by this government to look at the complex needs of kids in care. We have no idea how many children have complex needs in this province. We only have what is provided to certain areas within the department, and what those–what is that department called? PPD, Provincial Placement Desk–the Provincial Placement Desk is an area where they're taking some intake, so there'll be some kids that'll come in through that system, and so we know that there's about 289 children that have complex needs in the province. And that might be complex needs which would've arisen from sexual abuse, which we've also talked about this session, the need for this government to get a handle on the children that they have in care and the supports that are available and to ensure that predators are not prying on those children.
So those are one of the areas that, you know, this information system would be able to keep track of these children and then provide specific supports for those kids, and we believe that this government, by saying they can't afford to have the system in place, is failing kids with all kinds of needs in this province. So I believe that before this government can really get a handle on these 10,000-plus children in care, they've got a lot of work to do with regard to this–getting this system up and running, Mr. Speaker.
My colleague here from Portage has been raising a lot of questions with regard to poverty, and, as I said earlier, if we could at least address the nourishment issues for over the 20,000-plus children that see a food bank in Winnipeg it would be a huge, huge step forward. In Manitoba, there are almost 84,000 children growing up with fewer opportunities and in poorer health than their peers. So, as I said earlier, when we talk about children who come to school hungry, when we talk about children who just are looking for a meal or some type of sustenance to remain healthy, we're seeing this government turn a blind eye to this. We see a government that actually is using stats–there's three types of stats that you can use to identify poverty in a province, and we always see this government use the stat that is the most positive for their needs or their wants. But, you know what, you can't hide the fact there are 84,000 children in Manitoba who are growing up with fewer opportunities, and that is something this government has failed to respond to.
In the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, the government mentioned a potash strategy, and I find that rather interesting and I think that's great if this government will actually do something with those words. We see in Saskatchewan that they're actually having some action behind their words. They've created new mines. There's a lot of people from Manitoba who work in those mines, a lot of Manitobans who work in those mines. And they also know that this government, when it talks about a potash strategy, better come clean and better have a strategy.
When you go from being No. 1 in the country or the world–never mind the country, Mr. Speaker, No. 1 in the world–to No. 27th in a very short period of time, five years–in five years you can go from No. 1 in the world as being the best place to do mine development and mining overall like just creating the opportunities for that industry and then go to No. 27 in five years, oh, my goodness. And then they come out with a mining–a potash strategy for the Westman area. And, you know, a lot of the people that I've been talking to have said we've had so much hurt in my–in our communities, so many initiatives that this government has intentionally and unintentionally inflicted on the people in that area of the province. So, when they talk about a potash strategy, there better be some meat to those bones. There better be some strategy to that. There better be some outcomes.
And growing up in Russell, Mr. Speaker, I remember Howard Pawley coming to the Russell area and bragging about this potash development that they were going to be implementing in the Russell area. This was, you know–and in good timing, because it would have been in right around when Saskatchewan was developing on their side of the border.
And then it went blank, Mr. Speaker, and then we went from No. 1 to 27 in five years. We now see BHP handing over their interests to the Province saying, okay, you know, you deal with it. And all of a sudden the Province puts out a press release saying, we're going to develop a potash strategy; we're going to–you know, we're moving forward.
Well, Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan is building and building, and they're building on their words. They're actually building new mines, David; they're building new mines. They're building new mines and they're employing a lot of Manitobans–a lot of Manitobans–so we’ve got to look at where this government is going to go with regard to that initiative.
But we'll–we won't hold our breath, Mr. Speaker. We know that it would make a significant difference–a significant difference–for a lot of people along the Saskatchewan border living in–that live in Manitoba, but they're not going to hold their breath.
So, Mr. Speaker, with regard to that, I believe that the government has some work to do with regard to a strategy, and we're looking forward to learning more about it as we get closer to an election, I'm sure.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the daycare issues in the province, Mr. Speaker. Currently there is 16.6 per cent of children who accommodate daycare in Manitoba. That means that there are over 11,000 people looking for child care in this province. Again, that's not a record to be proud of. Any time this government has put their ideas forward and actually said they're going to move forward with a strategy, they've actually fall further behind, and we see that with regard to child strategy–child-care strategy. So, in segueing to the potash strategy, we look forward to learning more about what they have in store for Manitoba.
So, with regard to that Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment put forward by our leader–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Kevin Chief (Minister of Jobs and the Economy): My pleasure to put some words on the record with regards to the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker. It was a Throne Speech that highlighted our work on creating opportunities for young people to build their futures right here in Manitoba.
There's a few things as we've seen some of the latest numbers come out, Mr. Speaker. We've–past month of October, 8,000 jobs were created; 6,600 came from the private sector. In the last six months, 12,700 jobs from the private sector. The Manitoba labour market is one of the strongest in the nation, and we continue to have one of the best unemployment rates in the country, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
You know, when you look at these numbers, of course, we're always cautiously optimistic. You know, these numbers fluctuate, and so you look for trends; you don't look for, you know, a blip or a month. So it's important to look at the kind of trend we've had as a government, and in the past decade we've had the third best economic performance in the nation, so it shows our commitment and our ability to engage companies and businesses and non-profits.
This year we're considered the second best economic performance in the nation, as well as forecast once again be the third best in the country, Mr. Speaker. If you look at, you know, retail sales, the Manitoba retail trade increased by 1.2 per cent, the largest month-over-month increase amongst all provinces. All of us who are in the House are getting ready to do some Christmas shopping. We're going to be out, you know, getting gifts. Well, right now we have, you know, big companies like Ikea and H & M, Target, Marshalls, setting up shop right here in Manitoba. We have Polo Park under a $49-million expansion, with 17 new stores.
Weekly earnings have gone up by 5.4 per cent, the best amongst the provinces, far ahead of the national average. And if you talk to businesses, they talk about affordability; you talked about families, they'll talk about affordability: lowest combined heat, electric and Autopac in a nation and protected in legislation. Only province in the nation to eliminate small-business tax, remove 12,000 businesses from the tax rolls, savings of $55,000 per small-business owner; one of the most affordable and excessive–accessible post-secondary education systems in the nation. We're looking for making sure that we're staying ahead of the trend and looking at what young people are interested in, you know, we're–the digital media tax credit, every dollar we invest, you get a $20 return in economic and job growth.
And, you know, you get to hear the member for Steinbach (Mr. Goertzen) and he always says, it's worth a trip to Steinbach. Well, I was proud to go to Steinbach last week with Mayor Goertzen and Valeant closes up shop in one part of the country and they open up shop in Manitoba, right in Steinbach. And so we got companies like Valeant come in here–and expanding–expanding their companies here. You have Canada Goose coming here; you have New Flyer and Boeing coming down to Manitoba, Mr. Speaker.
The question that we have to ask ourself is why are these numbers so strong? Why do we see these kinds of trends in Manitoba? Well, Mr. Speaker, and the Throne Speech continues to highlight this, it's our ability to collaborate, it's our ability to partner and it's our ability to work together. We're working with people in the private sector. One of the first announcements I was able to do with Mayor Bowman and also under the leadership of Dave Angus at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce was down in Innovation Alley. At the time, Innovation Alley is also known as Adelaide Street, where we worked with Michael Legary, a very exciting company called Startup Winnipeg, where they're saying to young entrepreneurs that if you have a new idea, that if you have a new approach and you have a new product, as Bob Barker from The Price is Right would say, they say, come on down to Innovation Alley.
And I know members opposite–it's been a while since they've probably been down on Adelaide Street, back when members opposite were in–governing. You know, that was a street in an area that people saw a lot of hardship and challenge. Well, now, it's become one of the most exciting places to be, one of the most exciting places to be in our city because of good work like Dave Angus, because of people like Michael Legary. Because of our ability to partner with them, you're turning these areas that at one time were seeing hardship are now incredibly opportunities for incredible potential and possibilities.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, Mayor Bowman, I want to thank the Province for its commitment to help local businesses in Winnipeg's tech sector. It'll help them grow and thrive on a national and international level. At one time, back when members opposite were in government, that was a street that people saw a challenge. Now, it is something that the nation could look at it with incredible pride.
And, Mr. Speaker, these are the kinds of partnerships that we've been able to create, these are the kinds of opportunities that we're working with people like Dave Angus, with Mayor Bowman, with Michael Legary to make these things happen.
Got to be able to spend some time at ramp up Winnipeg, that it continues to engage young entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs that have been established for a while, that are now willing to give back to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Was able to be down in the Exchange District, Complex Games–Complex Games, which uses the digital media tax credit. Complex Games started with three staff, have now grown to 45 staff and are now, in the next few years, projected to have 80 staff in one of the most exciting, emerging fields in our city, in our province and in our country.
Under the leadership of Noah Decter-Jackson, they work with companies such as Sony and Disney, and when you invest a dollar into companies like that, you get a $20 return in economic development, Mr. Speaker. These are the kinds of stories and success that I get to see every day, that are happening every day in our city, every day in our province because of that ability to partner.
Mr. Speaker, our downtown has changed a lot and I got to see the member from Steinbach, we enjoyed walking with the dinosaurs with our children. That–we got to go there with our families. Our government has partnered with every major redevelopment project in our downtown–over 100 megaprojects, over $2 billion invested in our downtown since 2005. Our MTS Centre is the loudest barn as they know in the National Hockey League, something that we should all be proud of, you know. You go down to the MTS Centre, it is incredible energy, incredible enthusiasm, incredible momentum that is happening.
Now, I've got to say, in one weekend–in one weekend–in our downtown, we had Cher, we had Queen, we had Heart, all visiting our downtown in one weekend, and the following weekend we had Bruno Mars came to town. You know, we should be incredibly proud.
Now, you should remember that members opposite voted against the MTS Centre. They voted against that enthusiasm, that excitement, that momentum. That was their contribution to it, Mr. Speaker.
But that in itself isn't the full story. You've got the leadership of people like Mark Chipman who not only are working incredibly hard with our government to create these opportunities but making sure that those doors are open for everybody. That's why we partner with the After School Leaders to make sure that young people will have that opportunity to get jobs at True North Sports & Entertainment, a very exciting place to work, making sure that young people get the opportunity to play hockey. You know, hockey touches every child in the nation, and under the leadership of Mark Chipman, the Winnipeg Jets foundation and the public who go out to the hockey games, contribute to the Winnipeg Jets foundation, we're making sure we're working with that.
Another partnership is with Right to Play to make sure that young people have sport and rec and those kinds of opportunities where they can get that sense of belonging. This is the kinds of things that are happening.
Mr. Speaker, close to 70,000 people, if not now 70,000 people, now work in our downtown; 25,000 students now go to school in the core in our inner city. Now, why is that important? Because what it says, what it symbolizes, is that no matter who you are or where you come from, you'll get a tap on the shoulder to say post-secondary is for you.
You see the emerging and–how the University of Winnipeg has expanded. You see the incredible things. When Prince Charles came to town, he went into the Exchange and he hung out there at Red River College. You see all the health facilities happening with the University of Manitoba. You know, Mr. Speaker, incredible things happening.
When you have people working in the downtown and you have students going to school in our core area, what ends up happening is more people live in the downtown. You know, Mr. Speaker–and we were able to partner with CentreVenture with–under the leadership of people like Ross McGowan to be able to make these things happen, the good folks at City Hall, many of the small, medium and large entrepreneurs, businesses, making our downtown or our core bigger and brighter.
You know, at one time–at one time–it was known as the no-growth '90s. We talk about the MTS Centre, could talk about Bruno Mars, but at one time it was talked about the no-growth '90s in our downtown. Those are actual quotes that have come out.
We, of course–if you go down there, you see the expansion of the Convention Centre–the RBC Convention Centre. You've got the national museum of human rights, something that all of us should be incredibly proud of.
The Forks, a place for families–over 4 million visitors per year–and I've got to say for the record, and I'm incredibly proud of this and I was able to work with Jim August, an incredible statesman–he is now retired–incredible ambassador to our city, and he told me that Aboriginal solidarity day, June 24th, has become the single biggest event that's now happening at The Forks. What that says is The Forks is engaging many families, many different groups of people, which is fantastic–over 4 million people going down to The Forks.
Now, all of these things are happening, Mr. Speaker. Members opposite–they oppose it, they vote against it, but they never forget to come and celebrate with everybody when those investments happen. When you see those partnerships making a difference for businesses, for students, for families, they're always there to celebrate with us, but they vote against it. They oppose it, but we'll continue to collaborate, we'll continue to partner and we'll continue to work together to create these opportunities.
Now, education and training: Very proud the very first announcement as the Minister for Jobs and the Economy to do it for the military credential recognition regulation. Working with Apprenticeship Manitoba, working with the military, working with Manitoba employers and businesses, we're making it easier and faster to recognize the incredible training that people in the military that are serving–their skills and talents are being developed there as they serve in the military. These are people who make incredible sacrifices. They go through rigorous training to make sure they can protect us in harm's way. They make the ultimate sacrifice in the most dangerous situations. And I think we can all recognize in the House how hard it can be to be away from family and loved ones, and they do this willingly to make our lives better. So, over and over again, they looked out for us; this is the kind of partnership where now we can look out for them. When they're transitioning out of the military, they can get their Red Seal approval faster and easier. These are the kinds of thing that we are doing. We've been able to over double the amount of apprentices–over 10,000 active apprentices with 55 provincial and Red Seal trades.
You know, Mr. Speaker, what's incredibly powerful about the Manitoba model, whether you're an apprentice or an aspiring entrepreneur or you're somebody who wants to make a difference through social services, one of the things that we know and we see over and over again is that no matter who you are or where you come from, you faced adversity; you have faced struggle; you have faced some hardship. But there's always a willingness that once you have faced it and overcome it, that you have a willingness to help others. That's what you see in the apprenticeship model. That's what you see when you go down to Startup Winnipeg. That's what you see when you see people in social services. We are actually known for this kind of generosity throughout the nation. These are the kinds of principles and values in which the Throne Speech is written.
I was able to go down to Complex Games, the business that I was telling you about that works with Sony and Disney and launched the career prospects. You know, generation after generation we have this simple question we ask our children, we ask students, what do you want to be when you get older? And it's hard for young people to be able to answer that question because they have to make sure they have enough information, they get exposed to the kinds of–so parents ask their children that, teachers ask students that, classmates ask each other that. Well, the Career Prospects program creates a bridge. You have these incredible employers and businesses over here, and you have this incredible young population–we have the fastest growing demographic and the youngest demographic in the nation, and what we want to do is make sure that we're giving parents and teachers the necessary information and resources they need to be able to help young people answer that question. So we're taking employers and bringing them into the classroom, and we're taking the classroom and bringing them to the employers, and that's the best way young people can learn.
I was able to travel the province this summer. I went all throughout the province. What did I see? This summer, more young people working this summer than ever before. They were making more money than ever before because of our policies around and our legislation around minimum wage increase. They were more–working more hours than ever before. When you get to approach a young person and they're getting that critical first job, Mr. Speaker, when you ask them what they want to do when they're older, it fundamentally changes after they get that first job. Once they get that first job and you ask them, they start to think about post‑secondary education; they start to think about the careers that they could possibly have; and then they know they can raise their families here in Manitoba. That's what I saw. And I do want to say for the record that I want to thank Doug Dobrowolski from AMM for their leadership on that, for working with our government to make sure that young people are working in their neighbourhoods, they're working in their communities all throughout the province.
Mr. Speaker, 1,300 high school students right now are getting their level 1. In fact, we were just announced with the Minister of Education state‑of‑the-art, cutting-edge facilities we're investing in, industry standard approved, right today at R. B. Russell school. So I got to see the pride in people's faces in Steinbach–the member from Steinbach, I got to meet many of his constituents, and when they had that job and they saw the things that are going on, finally I got to see the pride. But even when I was down in my own area at R. B. Russell in the point, in the inner city, I saw that same level of pride. You know, young people getting a tap on the shoulder to say this career is for you. This incredible job is for you. Those are the kinds of things that our Throne Speech is written on.
Mr. Speaker, $30-million fund to build and expand these kinds of shops and facilities; $1-million fund for equipment. Why is that important? You got this incredible demographic of young people, and then you have these businesses, businesses and manufacturers, big ones like Boeing and New Flyer. The kids at R. B. Russell, not only are they going to learn in the shops in those facilities, but they actually get to go into New Flyer and work in New Flyer and get to see these emerging and incredible jobs that are happening out there. There was a young lady, her name was Amber. She's a student at R. B. Russell and she talked about how she's renovating a house on Arlington Street right now, and you saw the pride. But she actually is getting the skills right at her school at R. B. Russell because of the kinds of investments that we're making.
Boeing–the partnership we have with Boeing, 669 employees are being touched, Mr. Speaker: 109 new, 506 are getting retrained to be able to move and continue to advance their careers. Winpak, 717 employees: 107 new, 610 being retrained. Valeant, 60 employees down in Steinbach–60 employees down in Steinbach–and I was proud to be able to do that tour. They close shop in one part of the country and they open shop here in Manitoba. But here's what they said, they said–not us, this isn't me saying this; this is members of the private sector, this is businesses all throughout the country–they said the reason that they want to do business in Manitoba because of cost of doing business is less here than anywhere else and it's more affordable. They said their ability to hire and retain and train staff is absolutely–the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the nation, the Province's willingness and leadership to work with the private sector and the companies' ability to grow. That's what they're saying, Mr. Speaker.
We have–we should be incredibly proud of this–locally based companies that are having a worldwide impact. I'm the guy standing here, I represent Point Douglas and I'm telling people to buy COLD‑FX. The member from Steinbach should be promoting COLD‑FX. Those–that helps not only the Steinbach economy and the provincial economy. Locally based companies are having worldwide impacts. Once again, why? Collaboration, partnership and working together–our government understands that the best ideas come from community experience.
We live in an incredibly diverse city, an incredibly diverse province and understanding the incredible cultural knowledge that individuals have in neighbourhoods and communities is incredibly important, but making sure that we continue to research and get the science and data to have evidence-based programs makes a huge–we lead the nation on this. So we continue to invest and work with our non-profit organizations, our community‑based partners.
You know, Mr. Speaker, there is a single mom who got up this morning, she's on social assistance, she has three kids and she got up and she's doing the best she can. And she got her kids ready for school, and as she got her kids ready to school, she got them to school on time. She grabbed her backpack; she walked about five or six blocks; and, as we speak here today, she sits in a classroom to get her GED at Urban Circle. She actually has a place where she belongs, she has a place where she can get the skills and the things that she needs. She has an organization that she can work with that removes those barriers that hinder participation so that any person aspiring to get to the middle class will have that opportunity to do it.
The only way in which that is possible and achievable is through collaboration, partnership and a willingness to work together. That is the principles in which that Throne Speech is written, Mr. Speaker.
At CAHRD, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development, one of the top non-profit organizations in the country when it comes to the education, employment and training of Aboriginal people– Yes! Winnipeg, who promotes Winnipeg and promotes Manitoba, talks about that. When I got to visit CAHRD, they partner with the Manitoba aerospace sector, I got to meet a group of people–three women actually I met that are welders that are excited to get those jobs. The strongest social enterprise movement in the whole nation comes from Manitoba.
You know, Mr. Speaker, when the Manitoba Business Council, not this past year, the year before, talked about their AGM, they talked about this demographic. This is the demographic that is the youngest, fastest growing demographic in the province of Manitoba because of Aboriginal young people, and most people can look at that and see challenge. The Manitoba Business Council said, look, that's not a challenge for us; that is an opportunity. The willingness to invest where you know you're going to have the greatest impact is where we got to go in the province over the next decade. I didn't say that; the Manitoba Business Council said that. What they're excited about is that they have non-profit, community-based organizations in which to work with to maximize that incredible potential of young people.
But, Mr. Speaker, when members opposite were in government, when the Leader of the Opposition was in Cabinet, in one budget they cut 56 organizations; those organizations were organizations that supported our most vulnerable children. They wiped out the friendship centre movement. They cut the budgets of the friendship centres. They invested in the snitch line; that was their government policy, and then they invest in the snitch line and then what they did is they campaigned on it. That's not how you bring people together, that is not how you create partnerships, that is not how you collaborate.
When the Manitoba Business Council, people like Mark Chipman, people like Dave Angus, people like Mayor Bowman, they're looking for partnerships. They're looking to partner with levels of government. That is how you move forward, Mr. Speaker.
Our plan has always been better because it supports all young people, including our most vulnerable, those low-income families. It's smarter because it puts emphasis on transition, meaning that if you or anyone aspiring to get to the middle class, you will get the support that you need to be able to do it. And it's always been more fair, Mr. Speaker. I am proud that I–I am very proud to support the Throne Speech, very, very proud to support a Throne Speech that continues to create opportunities for young people to build their futures right here in Manitoba, a Throne Speech that's put emphasis on collaboration, on partnership and working together.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Kitchi miigwech.
Mr. Shannon Martin (Morris): I'm–it's a pleasure to rise today and speak to actually what is my very first Throne Speech, so it's a very auspicious moment.
Mr. Speaker, despite, obviously, the 360-day delay–a record, I might add–in the calling of the Morris by-election–and, by the way, today marks 199 days that The Pas is vacant without a political representation. But I think–what's that catchphrase the NDP like to use this days? Business as usual.
You know, Mr. Speaker, it's–we sit here in the House and we listen to speeches, and I just listened to a–quite a–quite interesting remarks by the Minister of Jobs and the Economy (Mr. Chief), and he spoke for almost 25 minutes about a whole host of things going on in this province. He talked about leadership and he talked about innovation, but what was particularly interesting isn't what he did say, it's what he didn't say. And not once when he talked about leadership and innovation and support did he ever mention the MLA for St. Boniface, an individual that was particularly or interestingly missing, nor did he even mention the member for Seine River (Ms. Oswald), his predecessor, whose work obviously led him to the ability to cut so many ribbons that he currently cuts.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I noticed as–with my first Throne Speech, and now that I have the opportunity, I'd like to talk a little bit about what's going on in my own community since we last concluded in the fall. We've had opportunities to be out in Niverville at the wonderful Niverville fair, the La Salle's kids fest, Rosenort Summer Festival, the Ste. Agathe Cheyenne days, the Morris Stampede, and, of course, the RM of Cartier celebrated their 100th anniversary which culminated the unveiling of a clock tower. So, for want of 1.21 gigawatts and a DeLorean, the Premier, the MLA for–or the member for St. Boniface (Mr. Selinger), could travel back in time and stop the coup crew from beginning this revolt against him.
Mr. Rob Altemeyer, Acting Speaker, in the Chair
Now, of course, the highlight or lowlight depending, I guess, on your perspective on the flood waters during the break–was obviously the flooding we saw along the Assiniboine which impacted two communities, two RMs in my constituency, the RM of Cartier and the RM of St. François Xavier. Those communities had a number of homes and properties that were threatened by the rising Assiniboine, and going out there every day and doing what I could to provide my assistance and lifting some sandbags, but I was struck by the communities that came together to provide assistance during these trying times.
Very fortunate I have a number of Hutterite colonies in my constituency and they would come out en masse, and not only would they come out–and their young people, both young men and women, come out to form part of that chain to bring those sandbags from when they were dumped by the thousands on the dump trucks and to form those walls, but in many instances they would bring food and meals for the many, many volunteers, including, obviously, the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces that were out as a result of the declaration of a state of emergency to assist homeowners.
And there was also volunteers from out–from not just within the–own constituency and the military, but the–I remember engaging with a number of young men from the Canadian Filipino friendship centre who came out, and there must have been a good 20, 25 of them that I met in the RM of Cartier who just heard and saw on Twitter the call for volunteers and came without question to see what they could do.
And, actually, I ran into one mayoral candidate while I was out there, a Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who her and her husband also volunteered their efforts, and I'm sure that at that time, Ms. Wasylycia‑Leis didn't quite envisage that the outcome of the mayoral election would hinge so poorly on her colleagues here in the House and their raising of the PST.
The other comment when it comes to flood and flood protection, there was one home in particular in St. François that had a grand total of approximately 50,000 sandbags. The bags were higher than about seven feet. And what struck me in talking to the homeowners is that they were in this exact situation in 2011, and yet in that time frame, absolutely nothing had been done. But, actually, well, not quite nothing. The PST had been raised, and it'd been raised apparently to flood–or to fund critical flood infrastructure; that was the NDP's own words, critical flood infrastructure. And yet you look at their own budget numbers, not only did the funding of flood infrastructure go down and decrease subsequent to the 14 per cent hike in the PST, but then they released a report that found that some 40 per cent of the PST hike simply didn't even go to infrastructure; it just went to the grand maw that is government.
Now, it's always interesting, you know, it's about Throne Speech, the–we talk about, you know, they say that they're listening to Manitobans and the Throne Speech is a reflection of what they're hearing from Manitobans. So I, too, have been listening to Manitobans, and I've heard from many, many Manitobans, somewhere, I think, more than nine and less than 500, to borrow a phrase from the leadership candidate for Seine River. But the Premier (Mr. Selinger) is increasingly being driven by desire to hold on to his own leadership rather than the best interests of Manitobans, that the Premier has become more concerned about remaining leader, that the Premier has broken not only the trust of Manitobans but the trust of his own Cabinet.
Of course, the one comment I thought was particularly insightful was that you don't raise PST–you don't raise beer prices and you don't raise PST. And, of course, with the NDP, we've seen them do both and on more than one occasion.
Now, of course, I mean, these aren't just any Manitobans who are making these kinds of disparaging comments about the MLA for St. Boniface, and, in fact, it's not even members from this side of this House. It's members from that side of the House, members of his own inner Cabinet, a number of bright, some–probably his entire front bench, who came out en masse to denounce his leadership, his leadership style and his priorities. And what was quite telling was the one comment that if you weren't in line with the Premier that your priorities and the priorities of Manitobans found themselves replaced by those that basically brought him his double double first thing in the morning.
So we hear and I listen attentively every day to members of the government, and they talk a great deal about the provincial economy. We're either first or second depending on who's speaking. But I always find it interesting the dichotomy that exists between their claims that we have such a strong, strong economy and the fact that 60,229 people use and rely on Winnipeg Harvest every single month, and 45 per cent of those are children, or 26,922. I mean, hardly a number to be proud of, and just 13 years ago, it was still woefully high and too high at 5,500. And yet today we have over 26,000 children on a monthly basis requiring Winnipeg Harvest to get their nutritional requirements met and not a mention in this Throne Speech about that number or actions to take that–to take control of that number and to do something to address that situation, nor does the government explain how they have this great, great economy and we have the highest child poverty rate, provincial poverty rate, in Canada, a 29 per cent child poverty rate.
So, on the one hand, the NDP like to tell us that we have this, you know, great provincial economy; on the other hand, Statistics Canada is telling us we have the highest child-poverty rate in this country. So somewhere between their dreams and the facts there's a bit of a disconnect.
We didn't hear members opposite at all, in any of their speeches, talk about the fact that there's 10,287 children in care, and that just a few–just nine years ago it was 6,629, and so we've had an increase of 61 per cent more children in care under the NDP over the last several years than ever before, the most children in care, and 87 per cent or 8,960 are First Nations children, Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis children. This is a crisis in our province and it's a crisis that's being ignored by members opposite.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the Minister of Family Services (Ms. Irvin-Ross), in relation to a question posed by my colleague the member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Wishart), about Tina Fontaine and the fact that on the night that–the last night that CFS had her in custody, that instead of turning her or taking her to a crisis house that specialized in young children in crisis, they took her to a hotel room. And, of course, the minister, in her reaction, talked about how not a day went by that she didn't think about Ms. Fontaine, but she didn't mention the other 75 children who have died under this government's watch since 2009. And, as my colleague for Riding Mountain noted, 25 per cent of those have been by their own hand. If a 29–or 25 per cent suicide rate among CFS wards isn't an alarm bell, then I'm not sure what is.
But this government ignores so much. The government talks about–again, they talk about their economy, but they don't mention, again, that our–the basic personal exemption–we talk about our child‑poverty numbers, we talk about our reliance on Harvest as a nutritional supplement for these 60,000‑odd families and that in Manitoba you're taxed after earning your first $9,100, and yet next door in Saskatchewan you wait until you earn over $15,000; that in Manitoba you're considered the highest income earner, subject to the highest tax level that this government can apply to you at $67,000. And, again, you go over to Saskatchewan and it's actually over $123,000. Now, what's interesting about this is that the Premier (Mr. Selinger), when he was actually Finance minister, had a grand plan–another one of their much talked about five-year plans.
And we know, again, my colleague from Riding Mountain commented about what happens to the NDP's plans and strategies after they're announced, but he had a grand plan to take action on the brackets and bracket creep and laid it all out. And, of course, I think it was a year after that plan was laid out it was quickly sent to the dustbins.
When I look at this Throne Speech, I notice that they don't–they talk about our population. And in my own communities, in Niverville and Oak Bluff and in Headingley and La Salle, I mean, the new housing is quite significant. But what they don't talk about is the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics, their own agency that's found within the Department of Finance is reporting that over 60,000 net loss through interprovincial migration, and it's a problem largely or completely ignored. Well, actually, I shouldn't say completely, and some may–some of the members across the way may not recall, but their former leader, Gary Doer, actually recognized, I think, when it peaked at around 9,000, when they lost 9,000 people in a year, that this was a significant problem; that this out-migration, this net loss of people to other jurisdictions–and if you look, an economist will tell you that the majority of those people that do decide to leave a jurisdiction are young and have a level of post-secondary education.
But, anyway, so the NDP got it in their head, well, we'll create a magazine, we'll spend a few hundred thousand dollars and we'll create the magazine. And they call this magazine, Manitoba Comebacks, and so one–think it was–I think the magazine lasted for all of one issue and fall–or fell afoul, actually, of the Ombudsman's office because the government wanted a list and they wanted Manitobans to provide them with a list of names and addresses of Manitobans who had dared to leave this jurisdiction so they could be sent this magazine that would tell them, you know, all the great things happening in the jurisdiction. But, again, I guess the brain trust realized it was kind of embarrassing for the government to have a magazine called Manitoba Comebacks when there was–actually when they decided that the more appropriate approach to dealing with the exodus of 60,000 individuals–the net loss of 60,000 individuals of Manitoba–the most prudent approach, they thought, was to simply deny, deny, deny.
When we talk about education and we talked about the things that are or are not happening within our education system, I have three young just–children and had the opportunity to meet with those–the teachers, and what was quite interesting was that I got an email from one of my teachers saying, you may have noticed with our new report cards that there are no grades. There are just comments, and we don't grade in the first half of the year. And I am left wondering–is how am I supposed to get–as a parent, how do you–supposed to get an understanding of how your child is really doing in–relative to the provincial curriculum, if they refuse to offer or if the government, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that grades aren't simply an important component of it.
I mentioned earlier about some of the growth in my own communities, and I'm very proud to see that growth, but it's causing some–obviously, some strain on the infrastructure in those communities, and I'm talking about educational infrastructure. In La Salle, we have three of these huts that the government loves to put up, and there's plans actually to put in five more huts. And they've actually taken out part of the children's playground just to put in these huts. In Niverville, we have almost 10 huts and there's plans for even more huts again because the community's growing, but the government refuses to recognize that there is a problem requiring a more permanent solution than simply just putting these huts on flatbeds and then dropping them onto the property.
The Throne Speech is about or should be about vision. Nowhere was that vision more–or lack of vision more pronounced than in their failure to address the most recent Pan-Canadian Assessment Program data that showed that students–grade 8 students, who would be about 13 years of age–so, I'm trying to think. Okay, the NDP have been in power for about 15 years, so–wait–those children have all been raised and educated under the benevolent yoke of socialism and, as a result, find themselves last place when compared to their peers across the country.
What's particularly interesting about those results is they're done on a 'fegularly' regular schedule, so I decided to look back and see, you know, what was the trend line here? And, you know, when we ranked eighth, the MLA for St. Vital said, you know, these numbers are unacceptable, we need to do more, we're going to target teachers and students and then just went 'ubon'–upon her business. And then her predecessor, when the numbers came out as No. 9, said these numbers are unacceptable, we need to do better and we'll give more resources to teachers and students. And now, here we are, we're 10th out of 10th, and what does the latest minister say? These results are unacceptable; we need to do more.
There's about–there's a pattern, as my colleague from Midland points out, and the pattern–the more they do, the worse it gets.
I always–it's always interesting, too. You know, they talk about and the Minister for Jobs and Economy talked about adult literacy, and obviously adult literacy–especially for a lot of our newcomers in–or English as an additional language is a powerful tool of equality and equalization, in terms of job opportunities and integration within the community. But nowhere did they mention the fact that just weeks before bringing in their Throne Speech and where they talked about the importance of adult literacy, they cut the knees out–they eliminated funding to a–English as an additional language program in Charleswood. So apparently it's not as important as the NDP like to say it is.
You know, they don't talk about the fact that they've cut the funding to Community Places by one‑third under the leadership of the MLA for St. Boniface. And they wonder why that people are cynical towards this government.
Now, infrastructure's always an interesting thing. I get to listen to the Minister of Transportation, you know, with much, much delight, talk about the plans. And many of the plans are happening in my own constituency on Highway 75 in the Morris bridge, and I always find it amusing because this is the–you know, they were just in my community–the Premier (Mr. Selinger) and one of his leadership candidates, the member for Thompson (Mr. Ashton) were just in my community a couple weeks ago announcing for the third time the improvements to 75 and the raising of the Morris bridge.
And so I was talking to some of the local bureaucrats who helped put that event together, and they had said to me that the event had got–they got a phone call from the Premier's office at 4 p.m. the day before the event was to occur, and that in all their combined tenure they'd never seen anything like it, that this government was literally throwing everything at the walls and hoping that some level of good news would possibly stick. And, if it meant reannouncing again for the third time the raising of the Morris bridge, then so be it; we'll reannounce it again.
This government likes to talk about their investments in infrastructure, and they'll throw out dollar figures, and, of course, the–one of the dollar figures they won't throw out is the $2.2 billion they've underspent in infrastructure since 2009. But what we need to look at is also where this funding is going, and so much of the infrastructure monies are being wasted or misspent. And, again. I'll point out one very, very quick example, on the intersection between the Perimeter and Highway 330, it's probably–it's a very dangerous intersection, especially now in the wintertime, and talking to the Manitoba Paramedic Association they've confirmed or advised the number of accidents that occur at that intersection.
So the government decides to put up a set of lights. And so constituents are calling me as they're seeing this construction going on, and as they put in the set–the government puts in this set of lights, and they're saying, you know, well, I thought the plan was actually to merge Brady and 330 together into a single access point. So I talked to the Department of Transportation and they say, well, yes, absolutely; that's our plan. Our plan is to merge the two of them together. So I said, well, what's the time frame on that plan? Oh, it's probably in the next four years we're going to do that. And I said, well, why then would you spend all these millions of dollars putting lights in here instead of accelerating a plan? You know what their response was? Because we were told to.
So, again, it's that kind of lack of foresight that's quite shocking to see from this government. But, of course, it shouldn't be that shocking. This is the same government that decided to cancel overnight snowplowing; that for some reason that driving on rural roads in Manitoba between the hours of, I believe, I think it's 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. without any kind of snow clearance is somehow the safest thing you could possibly do. But, no, they didn't mention that, nor did they mention the fact, you know, when they talk about, you know, well, we've greenlit the new permanent channel for Lake St. Martin to help divest it of waters and obviously the corresponding drop in water levels in Lake Manitoba, nowhere did they mention that the outlet itself is physically about 80 per cent closed.
You know, the member for Thompson (Mr. Ashton), who's back in his seat, literally lit his fair–hair on fire. He called a small, about 12-hour protest out in Portage–he called them reckless; he called them irresponsible; he said they were a threat to Manitobans; he had the RCMP brought in; he had the legal system brought in, and he used the full power–he even actually brought in legislation so that this could–we can never, ever allow this to happen again.
But what are we seeing happening in northern Manitoba for Lake St. Martin? My understanding, through the department, is that we're talking about a small number of protestors; protestors that are refusing to allow the full opening of the emergency outlet–a full opening that the minister of MIT warned that if the outlet was not fully opened that there would be dire consequences in the days and months ahead. And so–and he made those comments, of course, back in June, July, about five months ago. So in that five months has that outlet ever been fully opened once?
Well, the short answer is no. It has never, never been opened, and yet this–the minister, who was so quick to condemn protesters here in southern Manitoba and to bring in legislation, has never used that same legislation that's at his disposal. He has never brought in the RCMP. He has never used the court system and–nor has he ever even uttered a single word in this House. He has never referred to these protesters as irresponsible, as reckless or as a danger to the rest Manitoba, all words and phrases that he used in reference to, again, some farmers that were protesting here in southern Manitoba for a few hours.
I always thought it was interesting, too, as I flipped through their Throne Speech, and see that they're talking once again that, you know, we are going to reduce red tape which is, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, an $800-million burden on our economy. And, again, the problem with members opposite is they like their plans, but what they don't like is the effort required to follow through on those plans.
This is actually the third time that this government has announced a red tape reduction initiative, and I strongly suspect, like the other two iterations, that this will go nowhere. In fact, my colleague, the member for Tuxedo (Mrs. Stefanson), just this past spring, brought forward a private member's bill that would've called on the government to take action on red tape and, to a T, every single NDP member across the way denied that there was any red tape issue in the province of Manitoba. They denied it. They demanded examples and they voted against that legislation, and yet here we are, fast forward six–several months later and suddenly they've seen the light. They've got the conversion on the road to Damascus and suddenly there is a red tape problem. But I have no doubt that when we go forward that we're going to see them do almost no action on this file.
In the legislation or in the Throne Speech, they talk about invasive species. They talk about, you know, we're going to bring in this made-in-Manitoba–the toughest legislation against zebra mussels. Well, zebra mussels were first discovered in the Red River Valley–Red River basin, I believe, in 2010, and it will not be until 2015, five years later, that this government will finally bring in legislation. This is legislation that should've long been on the books so that it was ready for when the inevitable was going to happen because it was no secret that zebra mussels were on their way and that they would have a devastating impact.
But, again, this government is more interested in splashy news conferences where the Minister of Conservation can get up on his flotilla with his mission-accomplished banner, but what was also interesting, through a freedom of information request, we find out that at the same time the minister was announcing that it was mission accomplished, that his department was finding zebra–larval within the waterways, the same waterways that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars curtaining off and filling full of sulphates to make sure that they could kill off those zebra mussels.
They talk about sharing mining tax revenue with First Nations, and it's always interesting, you know, it's hard to share nothing because something of nothing is just that–is nothing, because what the government didn't mention when they talked about the sharing of mining tax revenues is that, according to most recent public accounts, that the same mining tax revenues has gone from $30 million a year to $8 million a year, a $22-million drop in mining tax revenue. But, you know what, hey, we're going to share that mining tax revenue with First Nations communities. Well, that pot has sure got a lot smaller.
This Throne Speech is light on vision, you know, it doesn't take much to go through this document, and I look at the one number that'll jump out to me and their commitment that they're going to reduce office space by 100,000 square feet, and I wonder how many Ag offices in the communities of Morris that the Minister of Agriculture is going to close in 2015 in order to get to his 100,000. And, speaking of the Minister of Agriculture, it's–you know, the minister likes to get up and applaud the farm family and the 21,000-odd people that are employed in the agriculture sector. But what he doesn't mention when he got up to applaud is that according to Manitoba Bureau of Statistics, the number of people actually employed in the agriculture sector is down by 11,500.
I see that my time is diminishing quite quickly, and I only wish I had another 30 minutes because 30 minutes to talk about the deficiencies of this Throne Speech–
An Honourable Member: How about the moose?
Mr. Martin: –simply isn't adequate. My colleague for Morden-Winkler asked about the moose and where are the moose? And that's a very apropos question because under this government big game hunting has been absolutely devastated and will not be there for either the $500-million industry that hunting and fishing generates in this province, but it won't be there for the First Nations that rely on it and have those treaty rights.
So, with those comments, I allow somebody else to fulfill their duties. Thank you.
Mr. Jim Rondeau (Assiniboia): I'm pleased to put a few words on the Speech from the Throne and a motion by members opposite. And, unlike the member from Morris, I actually did more than just flip through the speech, I actually read it. And I read the Speech from the Throne, and I'm pleased to support it. But, before I go into the details of that, I'd like to thank the people of Assiniboia. It's been 15 great years. I know that I was one of those people who decided to run and I didn't expect to win because it had been a Conservative riding forever, and, actually, the first time on election night I had lost by three–six votes. Then, after the recounts I won by six, and after it went to the supreme court of Manitoba, I actually won by three votes, which was one of the closest margins in an entire history of the country. And I'm pleased to see that we moved that many percentages higher so that my three votes have now moved higher.
I'd like to say thank you to my constituents. It's been truly an honour and pleasure to serve. It's been truly an honour and pleasure to get to know them. Actually, just a few days ago I was at the Y and one young man came and talked to me, and I said, oh, you live on this street, and he actually–I knew his family, I knew his house and all the rest, and it's nice to be able to have that type of relationship with him.
I'd also like to say thank you to my spouse and family. I do a lot of events out in the community and because of that I don't spend a lot of time at home, so I'd like to say thank you to all of them and my family, my friends and because they–it takes time from them to do the job as I think you should do it.
I'd like to also thank the table officers, pagers and speakers. Thank you very much for your time and dedication.
And I actually think about where we want to say what's the difference and why would I get involved in politics? The first one is I have to tell the story. I went to Grace Hospital emergency, and Grace Hospital emergency was closed by the members opposite, by the Conservatives, on evenings and weekends. And I thought it was really passing strange the member for Charleswood (Mrs. Driedger) stood there and said we didn't have a lineup in Grace Hospital; it wasn't a lineup, it was closed under the Conservatives. And so, when I took one of my parents to the Grace Hospital emergency and the member for Charleswood had closed and bolted the doors, put up a sign, go somewhere else, that was one of the deciding factors of me entering politics. And so I'd like to say thank you to the member for Charleswood (Mrs. Driedger) for doing that.
The other thing I'd like to say is that when you're starting to talk about the comparing contrasts, I did a little bit of research and I'd like to say thank you to some of the staff who helped me. In the 1990s there was an increase of 132 per cent to students attending post-secondary institutions. Ours, I have to admit it went up; it's gone up 12 per cent, a hundred and thirty-two, 12 per cent. One decade to one decade. That's an average of 1.2 per cent versus 13.2 per cent per year. I think that our record is better for students than their record.
I'd also like to say thank you for the 60 per cent tax return for those people who decide to stay in our province and work in our province and raise a family. I think student loans are a huge interest; it's a great equalizer. Education is a great equalizer. That's a fundamental difference between the NDP vision and the Tory vision. The Tory vision says if you're the top 10 per cent, you deserve to stay as the top 10 per cent. What we believe is that everyone should have a good shot and good support to succeed, and education is the true great equalizer. So I believe in interest-free loans, and that's an important part of the Throne Speech, that was a vision and a difference between us and the Conservatives.
They mention capital investment, and I noticed the member from Morris talked about schools. Well, I was an administrator in the 1990s in school divisions, and it was interest to note that now he's complaining about the portables and how long he has to wait for capital investment for a school. I know we had to wait; we had to wait 'til an NDP government came into power, and then we started doing capital investments.
And it's not just for capital investments for schools. They froze capital investments for schools, for daycares, for personal-care homes, for hospitals, for roads. They were–we're now doing six times as much roadwork as they are, and they're still complaining and they vote against our budgets.
So I wanted to tell you some of the Tory record: 1993-94, cut of 2 per cent for schools; '94-95, cut at 2.6; '95-96, zero; '96-97, minus 2; '97-98, zero. So it was minus 6.6 per cent in five years. We have increased by the rate of inflation or better every single year.
Mr. Acting Speaker, graduates–graduation rates under the Conservatives were 71 per cent; under us, 85 per cent. Things are getting better.
So let's talk about other things that make a difference in Assiniboia. Let's talk about seniors. Well, under the Conservatives, they took a 325 per cent tax credit for all people and rolled it back to a $250 tax credit. We've moved that tax credit to about $1,200. And what's interesting about that is seniors got a $235 additional support for their tax rebate again this year, and the members opposite–Tories–will vote against it.
Let's talk about liability. The members opposite keep on talking about the debt going up, and it's funny because even people like the member for Brandon over there who sits there and should know a little bit about budgets–I know a couple do–but they had two sets of books, and they were not signed off by the Auditor General in 1997 or 1998. That was fundamentally a fact that the Auditor General said the books were bad. You look at the pension liability; it was not on the books. So, although they owed $2.5 billion to the teachers, they owed money to the Civil Service Commission, they didn't have it on the books. So either they chose to say, hey, we're not going to give these employees their pensions that they were promised and are entitled to, or they were de facto not telling the truth. And so I also thought it was shocking that they didn't have Hydro debt on the books. They didn't have Lottery debts on the books.
We have the debt on the books, and it's being paid off. And that's–a fundamental difference between us and them is we're being truthful. It's fully accountable and it's being paid off, and I appreciate that.
Let's talk about college enrolments. If you want to see things that have gone up, college enrollments went up 52 per cent; 'universary' enrolment, up 42 per cent; apprenticeship, up 300 per cent. And I think that shows–bodes well for our future and economics.
And then we start talking about child poverty, the member from Morris and others who say we don't do anything about it. The Conservatives actually voted in a budget to claw back the child tax credit. What that meant was the amount of money the federal government gave to young families, to children, to single parents, the Conservative provincial government of the 1990s, of which the Leader of the Opposition was a Cabinet minister, clawed that money back from the families that needed the most. And that is a telling sign of what they fundamentally believe.
The members also talk about bracket creep. Under the Conservative government–let's talk about taxes for a second–6,150–that was the tax basic exemption back in 1998. It is now ninety-one, ninety-two hundred dollars. That has gone up 50 per cent and when it's gone up, it's beaten inflation. They talk about indexing the tax rate to inflation. Actually, that beats inflation by multiple points.
Mr. Speaker in the Chair
Number–1995, the small-business tax rate–second highest in the country at 9 per cent; right now, zero, lowest in the country. Small-business tax rate has been hugely important.
Large corporate tax rate: When the member from Brandon West was–his party was in control, it was 17 per cent; right now it's 12 per cent. That's a 30 per cent reduction and, you know what, that's a drop of the provincial taxes, he should know; maybe he should look at his tax calculator.
Capital gains was–general tax on capital gains under the Conservative government was 0.3; it has now been removed for the general capital gains tax. Health and education levy went from an exemption rate of $750,000 to now $1.25 million and the rate has gone down.
And let's talk about what that's done. The GDP has basically doubled. The GDP in Canada–growth in Manitoba's, fourth best in Canada, and just to give you a number, it's from $26.383 billion to $62.4 billion. Capital investment has tripled from $4 billion to $12 billion. The employment rate has gone from 15–sorry, 516,500 to 631,000.
And let's talk about the federal government since the transfers have actually gone down in that period of time, and so the members are wrong when they say the federal government is doing their share–and I know they're talking about their federal cousins. We're getting about $1.75 billion in total from the federal government. The interesting part about that is when you go back to Medicare, if they were going to pay their share of just the Health budget, they would be expected to pay about $2.5 billion. They're not even paying 50 per cent of their share of the Health budget, never mind senior support, police, judicial assistance. This is a fundamental discussion that has to have that they're–the federal government's downloading costs and we're trying to pick it up and provide the support.
How have we done that? We've done well. There's 560 new doctors since 1999, 3,500 nurses, the shortest cancer waiting lists in the country, free drugs for cancer patients, excellent home care, and I should know, because my mom is getting out of the hospital and we're learning about–all about home care for the first time. And let's talk about the things in west Winnipeg. A new ACCESS centre, welcome, and it's treating people and it's been very, very positive. I've heard very positive things about the new ACCESS centre. A new MRI is going into Grace; a new emergency centre is being planned; a new QuickCare clinic, a new health outreach program, and that's just part of what's happening.
Some other things that we're working on–the members opposite are sitting there saying we should do and put the brakes on Hydro. I disagree, very respectfully, they said the same thing under Limestone, and they were wrong under Limestone, which has earned billions of dollars in profit. The amount of electricity is going up that's consumed; every year it goes up 2 to 3 per cent. It's because we have new gadgets; we have an increasing population. So it goes up 2 to 3 per cent. That means we need more resources. Dams make sense. And so the members opposite, they propose to be business people. If I was to make an investment of a few billion dollars, and make it so that a second party or a third party pays for that investment–so, if I build a dam, I have contracts to pay for that dam in the next 20 years and they then hand me the keys to the dam. In 20 years, they've paid for the dam; they've paid for the transition line. And, you know what, then that will enable us to keep the cheapest electricity prices in our country, in fact, in North America, and that's important. For the member's own information the amount of Aboriginals in the Hydro force has tripled from 300 in 1999 to 1,079. As far as the Power Smart under the Conservatives, it was the worst in the country; it's now the best in the country. And we actually have an excellent award-winning low efficiency–low-energy efficiency program that's been replicated elsewhere.
Personally, I'd like to close by saying some of the things I've personally been very pleased about working on in the last 15 years. First, I'd like to say thank you to Denis Rocan for introducing the non-smoking law. I think that was one where we passed unanimously; that's a very positive achievement. The vaccine program, where we worked with the federal government to roll out free flu vaccines to all Manitobans who wanted it. That was a model that was started in the country and moved out. The equal rights legislation, that was something I was proud to chair and move forward. The consumer rights, I think I moved forward about nine different bills on consumer rights.
As far as the jurisdiction on mining, Manitoba was voted the best mining jurisdiction in the world in 2007 and 2008. I'm pleased that I worked on some of the new media and gaming programs, some of the film special 'effectings.'
Some of the other things that we were working on was the farm to school program, which is now making kids happy about selling vegetables and making about three quarters of a million dollars a year, the Manitoba in motion program, healthy school program, suicide prevention line, the Green Team expansion, the new child seat laws, the bike helmet laws, the improved financial support for addictions, the SafetyAid program for seniors, the oil and gas regulations which met new standards, business tax changes and, of course, a number of business-friendly things like the Composites Innovation Centre, the Vehicle Technology Centre, the lean manufacturing centre, and the BizPaL.
Mr. Speaker, I think that when you look at what we have accomplished over the number of years as government–but you look at in this Throne Speech, including universal child care, including support for those who need it most, I'm proud of this budget. I'm supporting this budget, and I'm sure as heck not going to support the motion from the Conservatives, which is regressive, which brings us back, and shows about as much vision as a person in a mine with the lights turned out.
Mr. Speaker, I'm proud of what our 'complishes'–government has accomplished. I'm proud of what this Throne Speech has as a vision, and I'm proud to be a New Dem. And it's been a great 15 years.
Thank you very, very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ron Schuler (St. Paul): Well, Mr. Speaker, it's always an honour to get up in the Manitoba Legislature and have the opportunity, the privilege to speak to issues. In this particular case, it is the amendment to the Throne Speech, and I would like to go on the record by stating very clearly that I very much support my leader, Brian–my leader, the member for Fort Whyte (Mr. Pallister), and I just wanted to be very, very clear where I stood on that, and I appreciate very much the work and the effort that he's put into the last year and some as leader of our party. I support him as leader of my party, and I also support the amendment to the Throne Speech.
And, Mr. Speaker, I also want to take this opportunity to thank the residents of East St. Paul, West St. Paul, and Springfield who, again this year, have been incredibly kind and generous to myself and my family. In fact, I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to be at the 134th Springfield Ag Society dinner. I always point out to them that's probably one of my favourite banquets that I have the opportunity to attend. It is one of the historic dinners that are put on in our province, and it celebrates not just agriculture but also the great tradition and history that we have here in Manitoba.
In fact, Springfield, as members of this House would know, is not just the oldest, but is also the largest rural municipality in Manitoba. At one point in time it almost encompassed most of the east part of the province, but, again, as the province grew, it was split up into smaller parts.
I have–had the opportunity to represent Springfield. This–after this last election I had the opportunity to also represent West St. Paul and always excited and pleased to be going to events and visiting with individuals and addressing the needs and concerns of specific individuals. I find, whether I'm in East St. Paul or whether it's West St. Paul or Springfield, the amount of respect and the kind of integrity that my community shows is always heartwarming.
And, speaking of integrity, we have an NDP government that, in the last election, went to every door, each and every member, knocked on each and every door, and said: Read my lips, no new taxes. In fact, the NDP candidate in the new constituency of St. Paul did the same thing.
Fortunately, for me, she didn't win that election, and people in St. Paul saw through that commitment and they realized there was no way that the government could actually promise and commit to all those expenditures and not raise some form of taxes.
In fact, the NDP went one step further, in which they said they would raise no taxes, and then they said: Read my lips; it would be nonsense to consider even raising the PST, in which both cases they weren't exactly truthful.
So, Mr. Speaker, although I represent a community–
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, please.
The hour being 4:30 p.m., pursuant to rule 45(4), I am interrupting the proceedings in order to put the question on the motion of the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Pallister), that is, the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Do honourable members wish to have the amendment read?
Some Honourable Members: Yes.
Some Honourable Members: No.
Mr. Speaker: I hear a yes.
The amendment reads as follows:
But this House regrets:
(a) That some government and all official opposition members agree that Manitobans are angry and believe that the provincial government has broken their trust; and
(b) That some government members have concluded that serving this provincial government with integrity is no longer an option; and
(c) That these same government members have said that they do not regret speaking honestly as being truthful and holding on to integrity is something that Manitobans have been raised to do; and
(d) That some government and all official opposition members are gravely concerned that priorities may move up the queue, based on political interest and ahead of what Manitobans consider to be their priorities and needs; and
(e) That there is a genuine concern among some government and all official opposition members that the provincial government has become more preoccupied with remaining in power than necessarily doing the things that are in the best interests of Manitobans.
As a consequence of these and many other failings, the provincial government has thereby lost the trust and confidence of the people of Manitoba and this House.
Mr. Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
Some Honourable Members: Agreed.
Some Honourable Members: No.
Mr. Speaker: I hear a no.
Mr. Speaker: All those in favour of the amendment will please signify by saying aye.
Some Honourable Members: Aye.
Mr. Speaker: All those opposed to the amendment will please signify by saying nay.
Some Honourable Members: Nay.
Mr. Speaker: In the opinion of the Chair, the Nays have it.
Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Official Opposition House Leader): Could you summon the members for a recorded vote, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: A recorded vote having been requested, call in the members.
The question before the House is the motion of the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, that is, the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
A RECORDED VOTE was taken, the result being as follows:
Briese, Cullen, Driedger, Eichler, Ewasko, Friesen, Gerrard, Goertzen, Graydon, Helwer, Martin, Mitchelson, Pallister, Pedersen, Piwniuk, Rowat, Schuler, Smook, Stefanson, Wishart.
Allan, Allum, Altemeyer, Ashton, Bjornson, Blady, Braun, Caldwell, Chief, Chomiak, Crothers, Dewar, Gaudreau, Howard, Irvin‑Ross, Jha, Kostyshyn, Mackintosh, Maloway, Marcelino (Logan), Marcelino (Tyndall Park), Melnick, Nevakshonoff, Oswald, Pettersen, Robinson, Rondeau, Saran, Selby, Selinger, Struthers, Swan, Wiebe, Wight.
Clerk (Ms. Patricia Chaychuk): Yeas 20, Nays 34.
Mr. Speaker: I declare the amendment lost.
* * *
Mr. Speaker: The hour being past 5 p.m., this House is adjourned and stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.