Thursday, March 16, 2023

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

Madam Speaker: Good afternoon everybody. Please be seated.


Introduction of Bills

Bill 229–The Farmers' Markets Week Act
(Commemoration of Days, Weeks and Months Act Amended)

Mr. Ian Wishart (Portage la Prairie): I move, seconded by the member for Brandon East (Mr. Isleifson), that The Farmers' Markets Week Act, com­memo­ra­tion of days, weeks, months amended, be now read a first time.

Madam Speaker: It has been moved by the hon­our­able member for Portage La Prairie, seconded by the hon­our­able member for Brandon East, that Bill 229, The Farmers' Markets Week Act (Com­memo­ra­tion of Days, Weeks and Months Act Amended), be now read a first time.

Mr. Wishart: This provides us with the op­por­tun­ity to recog­nize the value of farmers' markets, not only in the region of Winnipeg but all across the province and how they the offer the unique op­por­tun­ity to connect the consumer and the producer.

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

Bill 230–The Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Amendment Act

Mr. Len Isleifson (Brandon East): I move, seconded by the MLA for Dauphin, that Bill 230, The Munici­pal Councils and School Boards Elections Amend­ment Act, now be read a first time.

Motion presented.

Mr. Isleifson: We know in–through­out the country we all care, and especially here in Manitoba, we care about the safety of our families and of our children. And as MLAs and MPs, when we're elected, we disclose any criminal history that we may have. So it's simply creating an environ­ment through the munici­pal election process and the school board election process that there's some disclosure required for those candidates that wish to run.

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

Bill 219–The Consumer Protection Amendment and Farm Machinery and Equipment Amendment Act
(Right to Repair–Vehicles and Other Equipment)

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood): Madam Speaker, I  move, seconded by the member for Flin Flon (MLA Lindsey), that Bill 219, The Consumer Pro­tec­tion Amend­ment and Farm Machinery and Equip­ment Amend­ment Act (Right to Repair–Vehicles and Other Equip­ment), be now read a first time.

Motion presented.

Mr. Maloway: Consumers want manufacturers to make products that are easy to repair, at a reasonable cost and built to last 10 years minimum. This right to repair legis­lation empowers Manitoba consumers and fosters the sustainability by requiring the manufac­turer to make the parts necessary to maintain and repair its farm equip­ment, farm machinery, motorized mobility aids, marine pleasure craft and recreational motorized vehicles, including electronic bikes and scooters, available to consumers and repair busi­nesses at a reasonable price. If not, the manufacturer must replace the products at no charge or refund the purchase price when requested to do by the purchaser.

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

      Com­mit­tee reports?

Tabling of Reports

Hon. Kevin E. Klein (Minister of Environment and Climate): Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to table the Manitoba Hazardous Waste Manage­ment Cor­por­ation 35th Annual Report for 2021 and 2022 for the De­part­ment of Environ­ment and Climate.

      I am pleased to table the 2020‑2021 Climate and Green Plan Annual Report for the De­part­ment of Environ­ment and Climate.

Ministerial Statements

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able Minister of Families (Ms. Squires)–and I would indicate that the required 90 minutes' notice prior to routine proceed­ings was provided in accordance with our rule 27(2).

      Would the hon­our­able minister please proceed with her statement.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister responsible for the Status of Women): Today, March 16th, is proclaimed in the province as Manitoba's Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and we honour this day by calling attention and awareness to the presence of forced labour and human trafficking here in Manitoba and all across Canada.

      Human trafficking refers to labour that an individual is forced to perform through coercion, violence or threats, and may involve forcible confine­ment or indentured servitude. Victims often suffer physical, sexual, financial, emotional, psych­ological abuse and may not know where to turn or how even to turn for support.

      Most commonly, victims are trafficked for their physical labour or for the purposes of sexual exploit­ation, and both cause trauma that may impact a survivor for the rest of their life.

      Here in our province, we intentionally recognize Manitoba's Human Trafficking Awareness Day within the Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week as acknowledgement that child sexual exploit­ation often involves elements of human trafficking and greatly increases the risk of victims being trafficked in their youth and adulthood.

      It is important to understand that anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, but some are at higher risk than others. Women make up 95 per cent of sex‑trafficking victims and–with 43 per cent of them being between the ages of 18 and 24.

      Sadly, in Canada, our Indigenous com­mu­nity is the most dis­propor­tion­ately impacted, as evidenced through the research of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and 2S+ com­mu­nity report.

      Additionally, our growing newcomer and migrant worker populations are often exploited for physical labour without supports to understand their legal rights and local labour laws.

      Human trafficking takes many forms, which means there are many ways that Manitobans can support the work of ending human trafficking in our province.

      Madam Speaker, we must work together within government, within our communities and within our families to ensure that Manitoba's vulnerable populations are protected from human trafficking and can live lives free from the trauma that human trafficking begins.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): Madam Speaker, today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

      Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and one of the most pervasive forms of human trafficking is sex trafficking. Hundreds of children, youths and adults are sex trafficked across Manitoba and our cities–and, indeed, across Canada.

      Around 400 of those sex-trafficked individuals are among the most vulnerable in our com­mu­nities–children and youth.

      Many of Manitoba's missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited are preyed upon and targeted and were trafficked, Madam Speaker.

      A sincere miigwech to those efforts and those folks that are on the front line like Klinic Community Health with their Human Trafficking Hotline and HelpSeeker, an online database that provides helpful resources, including shelter and financial support for trafficked victims here in Winnipeg.

      In spite of this, Madam Speaker, more efforts are–we need to make more efforts to make sure that human trafficking supports and services are available and accessible all over Manitoba, parti­cularly in smaller cities and rural communities. Sex trafficking in our province demands a coordinated, all-stakeholders approach.

      Last Friday, a sexual exploitation and trafficking awareness conference was held at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon. Speakers high­lighted how sex trafficking affects marginalized communities and the need to raise more awareness about the issue, since sex-trafficking victims often do not recognize the signs of trafficking at the initial stages and nor do authorities.

      The need for role models and service providers to protect the most vulnerable community members from human trafficking cannot be overstated.

* (13:40)

      I call on this government to prioritize funding initiatives preventing the trafficking of Manitobans, and I also call on organizations and researchers to work together on programs that share resources and services throughout Manitoba–an all‑hands-on-deck approach to stop human trafficking in our province and provide supports for trafficked victims.


Madam Speaker: Prior to recog­nizing the member for St. Boniface, I would just like to indicate to members in the gallery that there's to be no partici­pation, which means no applauding from the galleries.

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): I seek leave to respond to the min­is­terial statement.

Madam Speaker: Does the member have leave to respond to the min­is­terial statement? [Agreed]

Mr. Lamont: Today, we commemorate Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

      This day serves as a solemn reminder of the millions of people around the world who have fallen prey to the heinous crime of human trafficking. It's a modern-day form of slavery, a violation of basic human rights and dignity and affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. It is a global problem that affects every country, including Canada, and Manitoba.

      Victims of human trafficking are often forced into labour, prostitution or other forms of exploitation. They're stripped of their freedom, their dignity, their identity and their ability to make choices for themselves. They suffer from physical and emotional abuse and they live in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

      But despite the enormity of this problem, it is often overlooked or ignored. Human trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it is up to us to shine a light on it and bring it to an end.

      That means being willing to be unflinching when it comes to examining it, including in our own province. Every year, hundreds of young people in the custody of Child and Family Services are targeted by predators for exploitation.

      We must raise awareness about human trafficking and educate ourselves and our communities on the signs and dangers of this crime. We should support organizations that provide assistance and protection to victims and advocate for stronger laws and policies that prevent trafficking and hold traffickers account­able.

      As individuals, we can also make a difference. We can speak out against human trafficking, report suspicious activity to law enforcement, support businesses that are committed to ethical practices.

      We can also support survivors by listening to their stories, providing them with resources and oppor­tunities and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

      Today, let us come together in solidarity to recognize the gravity of human trafficking and renew our commitment to combating this scourge.

      Thank you.

Members' Statements

Amy Tung

Hon. Obby Khan (Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage): Madam Speaker, I am very happy to stand in the House today and recognize another amazing resident of Fort Whyte. Today, I am recognizing Amy Tung. Amy is the CEO and founder of the I AM LOVE Project.

      Amy started her business in 2018 making bracelets out of consciously sourced materials with a portion of proceeds going towards non-profit organiz­ations. Since then, the business has grown to so much more.

      The I AM LOVE Project now supports women through training and community support. To accom­plish this, 60 per cent of earnings of earrings, brace­lets and necklaces are handmade by those in Manitoba facing employment barriers and 40 per cent are imported for assembly.

The project focuses on women who make less than $30,000 annually, experience mental health addiction challenges, are on the Employment and Income Assistance Program but need supplemental income, have a disability, are incarcerated or are exposed to sexual abuse or domestic violence or women who need a sense of community and purpose.

      You may recognize Amy and I AM LOVE Project from the hundreds of billboards around Manitoba and across Canada, as she was recently one of the three winners of the Canada Post Tales of Triumph Contest, in which she won the Doing Good category.

      Amy has many outstanding accom­plish­ments, including being a recipient of the Manitoba Honour 150 medal, named a Winnipeg Blue Bombers com­munity hero, made a finalist of Future Leaders of Manitoba 2019, and she has raised over $45,000 for our community in the first 18 months since launching her business.

      Most recently, Amy was chosen as a delegate for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Amy just returned from New York last week, and I'm happy to announce that this trip was supported by our Minister of Families, the Honourable Rochelle Squires–oh, can't say a name; sorry, apologize–that this trip was supported by our Minister of Families through the community grant program.

      Thank you, Amy, for everything you have done and continue to do for our community.

      I'd like to ask all members to rise and recognize every­thing Amy has done, who is joining us here in the gallery.

Madam Speaker: Just a reminder to gov­ern­ment members that when speaking in–making members' statements, that–[interjection]–yes, when ministers are making private members' statements or members' statements, they are not to be referencing a gov­ern­ment policy, just make reference to com­mu­nity. So, in this case, referring to gov­ern­ment spending would be some­thing that is not to be used by ministers.

Mr. Khan: Madam Speaker, I apologize for that sincere mistake. I was unaware of that, being a new minister, so I do sincerely apologize to everyone here.

Madam Speaker: Thank the member for the apology.

Gov­ern­ment Record on Climate Change

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): Madam Speaker, under this PC government, health care is broken, the educa­tion system is underfunded, families are struggling financially and, on top of that, they are worried about the PC government's lack of action to address the climate crisis.

      During my time as the Environment and Climate critic, the government shuffled through four ministers and most recently moved responsibility for provincial parks out of the Environment file altogether. This is four failed Environment ministers who refused to take any meaningful action on reducing carbon emissions.

      This government's failure to act comes at a time when the stakes are higher than they've ever been. The effects of climate change in our province have never been more apparent, with exceptional droughts and floods and record‑breaking temperatures, but most of the commitments made in the PC Climate and Green Plan are nothing more than broken promises.

      Instead of working with and for Manitobans to fight climate change by setting aggressive emis­sions targets and taking action to meet them, the PC government spent millions of Manitobans' money on a failed lawsuit to try and strike down the federal carbon levy.

      It's not just climate change; this government's record on all environmental issues is terrible. They rolled back cosmetic pesticide restrictions with bill 22, meaning pesticides are now permitted near schools, child‑care centres and in city parks. Increas­ing the amount of toxic chemicals that children in Manitoba are exposed to can only be seen as a step backwards by this government.

      Manitoba has one of the worst waste management programs in the country, the least investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and few incentives for citizens to get off of fossil fuels and utilize more of Manitobans' clean hydro energy.

      The PCs have broken so many promises and failed to act for so many years that Manitobans just don't trust them to be good stewards of our land and water. Manitobans care about protecting the environ­ment–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Collège Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister of Families): I am pleased to rise today to highlight the accomplishments of the Collège Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens female hockey team from Collège Jeanne-Sauvé that is in my con­stit­uency of Riel.

      Over the past two hockey seasons, the CJS female hockey team has dominated the top division in the Manitoba Women's High School Hockey League. Last season, they completed a near-perfect season, with 21 wins and one loss, bringing home the league championship and multiple individual awards.

      This season, with big shoes to fill and only four new players on the team, they set out with another championship in mind. These girls fought hard all season and were ranked No. 1 throughout, with a record of 19 wins and three losses. The team also had the opportunity to bring their talent to another province. They travelled to Montréal to play in the top division of the high school tournament and utilize their French in an out-of-context manner.

      These young women competed amongst prep hockey programs and high schools from Vermont and Hamilton. They also had the opportunity to tour the city, using their second language, attend a Montréal Canadiens game and create so many great memories with their teammates.

      This great season ended too soon with a heartbreaking game 3 loss in the semi-finals best-of-three series. Although not the finish that they were hoping for this season, the CJS Olympiens female hockey team has solidified the foundation for future female high school hockey success at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé.

      Through­out it all, these young athletes were exemplary role models for others. I ask all my colleagues to help me congratulate the Collège Jeanne-Sauvé female hockey team on their accom­plishments in this outstanding '22-23 season.

* (13:50)

      Madam Speaker, I would also ask that all the names be entered in Hansard.

Players: Reegan Aitken, Stéphanie Beaudet, Avery DeJaegher, Annika Devine, Jordan Dick, Payton Durand, Tylie Fraser, Linnae Johnson, Cademce Kibbins, Jeri-Ann Lafleche, Laura Melizza, Mika Morand, Addilyn Nohlgren, Catia Prefontaine, Olivia Price, Alexis Van Den Driessche and Brooklyn Warnick; assist­ant coaches: Dominic Courcelles, Dominique Beaudet, Lexie Siwak; head coach and manager: Melissa Blaine

Madam Speaker: Just for the infor­ma­tion of the minister, the names do not–the minister does not need to ask permission. They–she can just forward the names and they will be included. The minister could just indicate that she would like the names included in Hansard.

An Honourable Member: Leave?

Madam Speaker: Leave is granted–[interjection]–no, doesn't need leave. It has been indicated that the minister would like the names in Hansard, and that will occur.

Introduction of Guests

Madam Speaker: Prior to some students in the gallery leaving the gallery, I would like to intro­duce them to you. We have seated in the public gallery, from École Howden, 41 grade 4 students under the direction of Jenelle Gagné, and this group is located in the con­stit­uency of the hon­our­able member for Southdale (Ms. Gordon).

      On behalf of all members here, we welcome all of you to the Manitoba Legislature.

Seven Oaks School Division

Mr. Mintu Sandhu (The Maples): Seven Oaks School Division has faced some impossible decisions. Rising costs and inadequate funding from the PC government have forced Seven Oaks School Division to considering cuts to programs or staff.

      While the government boasts about additional funding for Seven Oaks, the reality is that this funding falls short of inflation and increased enrolment and means that Seven Oaks will have to make cuts once again.

      Faced with eliminating up to 50 teaching pos­itions and ending after-school programs, cutting the Learn to Swim program and, due to the continued Pallister and Stefanson cuts, Seven Oaks School Division has resolved to raise property taxes by 4.9 per cent in order to–maintaining staffing and programing levels.

      Manitoba needs an education funding model that funds programming to keep students engaged and learn across the province. We need an education system which can help students grow and remain out of poverty. And we need to provide adequate and stable funding so we can expand programming like the new Punjabi bilingual program, Learn to Swim and Learn to Skate.

      The Manitoba NDP is working hard as official opposition to make sure that the government is held accountable for its education cuts and provide a better path Manitoban students.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Ang Bahay Connection

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): We currently have record numbers of immigrants coming to Canada, and it is so important that there be formal opportunities to better understand the financing and commitments behind purchasing big items such as homes and vehicles, because, if not done properly, it can make things very difficult to manage and, unfortunately, oftentimes new immigrants are taken advantage of.

      This is why public- and even private-sponsored workshops that amplify the importance of consumer awareness are so important.

      I have a good example of how the private sector can contribute to broader educational principles, such as finances.

      Today, in the gallery, we have joining us four individuals: Jan Reyes, Marilyn Magtoto, Vien Javier and Jennifer Auxtero, and they have an event coming up that is open to the public.

      This event is called Ang Bahay Connection and the goal of it is to highlight Filipino-owned small businesses that provide services to homeowners in the community, while also educating the public on what they need to know when it comes to finance questions around buying, selling, refinancing and investing.

      Ang Bahay Connection is a free event that is happening on April 1st, from 12 to 5 p.m. at PCCM–that's the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba on Keewatin Street–also happens to be in Tyndall Park, Madam Speaker–and is open for all to attend.

      I want to thank our many organizations and groups here in Manitoba that help answer difficult questions and share important infor­ma­tion. Again, the point of events such as these are to not only have questions answered by professionals and experts in a public manner, but they are to provide confidence and security to often new immigrants here in Manitoba.

      Madam Speaker, we are lucky to have groups made up of individuals like those who have joined us today in the gallery, who are working hard to provide these free services.

I want to ask my colleagues to join me in thanking them for the work that they are doing.

      Thank you.

Oral Questions

City of Winnipeg Real Estate Dealings
Request for Public Inquiry

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): Winnipeggers and all Manitobans deserve to know what happened with the construction of the police headquarters and other real estate deals in our city. Now that the City has reached a settlement, there aren't any more excuses for the Premier to avoid calling a public inquiry.

      What we know so far is very con­cern­ing. Con­struction costs went over by $100 million past the budget. A judge ruled that the former Winnipeg chief admin­is­tra­tive officer took a bribe and that he breached his duty.

      These and many other important questions are ones that Manitobans deserve to have answered.

      Will the Premier call an inquiry today into the Winnipeg police headquarters and other real estate deals?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): Well, Madam Speaker, this is exactly why we allow the process to take place, so that they can look at these kind of settlement arrangements and so on.

      What I will say is that there's parts of this that do remain before the courts now, and we will continue to allow that process to take place.

Madam Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a supplementary question.

Mr. Kinew: City of Winnipeg councillors have called on this gov­ern­ment–well, most of them, except for the member for Kirkfield Park (MLA Klein), called on this gov­ern­ment to call a public inquiry.

      Now, we think when the former CAO of the–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –City of Winnipeg takes a bribe of more than $320,000, the people of Manitoba deserve to have answers. When there are cost overruns of more than $100 million on a City of Winnipeg-funded, taxpayer-funded project, there should be answers.

      This gov­ern­ment has con­sistently stood in the way of account­ability and trans­par­ency when it comes to this topic. We know that they've proffered excuses to date, but now those excuses have been removed.

      The only question remaining for the Premier is: Will she call a public inquiry now into the police headquarters construction and into other real estate deals?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Madam Speaker, I know the Leader of the Op­posi­tion likes to inter­fere in the judicial process. We don't agree with that.

      We want to ensure that justice is served for Manitobans. That's why we will continue to allow this to go through the court system.

Madam Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a final supplementary.

Mr. Kinew: We know that Brian Pallister opposed an inquiry into one of the biggest scandals that the City has ever seen. But we don't understand why this Premier continues to mimic Brian Pallister's position in avoiding public account­ability and trans­par­ency into what went wrong.

      There are im­por­tant questions about the current processes in place. There are im­por­tant account­ability answers which should be delivered to the people of Manitoba. We're talking about public officials taking bribes. We're talking about massive cost overruns that Manitobans and Winnipeggers are paying for.

      There are so many unanswered questions here. The–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –City of Winnipeg is on record calling for an inquiry. We think Manitobans deserve one, too.

      What does the Premier say: Will she call a public inquiry now?

Mrs. Stefanson: Madam Speaker, we recognize that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has no respect for the law or the judicial process. We on this side of the House do, and that's why we will let the ap­pro­priate process take place with respect to this.

* (14:00)

      We've certainly learned a number of things already by allowing it to go through the process. The Leader of the Op­posi­tion is saying that justice should have been denied in those cases, Madam Speaker. We think that that's wrong.

      We will continue to allow the process to take place.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion, on a new question.

Safe Con­sump­tion Site
Request for Facility

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): Here's a fact, Madam Speaker: supervised con­sump­tion sites save lives. That's the basis for our support for this form of medical inter­ven­tion. It's an im­por­tant fact that this gov­ern­ment and this Premier refuse to acknowl­edge.

      People with addictions need help today. They deserve a chance to access medical attention. They deserve a chance to stay alive.

      Will the Premier acknowl­edge the value that supervised con­sump­tion sites play, and will she support one today?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): It's been proven where we focus on recovery–that is, ensuring that individuals get off of their substances, making sure that they get the care that they need to get them off their addictions, Madam Speaker–that will be the focus of where we're at. That is where we have been.

      That's why we've also looked at harm reduction, as well–so, the intro­duction of RAAM clinics, Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinics. In fact, we've intro­duced yet another one that–with an Indigenous focus.

      So, we'll continue to provide those naloxone kits out there into the com­mu­nity, and that is our harm reduction strategy, while still focusing our main focus on making sure that we get people off of their addictions, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able Leader of the Official Opposition, on a supplementary question.

Mr. Kinew: The ethical question at the heart of a supervised con­sump­tion site is, do you help people when they need help or do you wait until they pass your judgment?

      The people of Manitoba have spoken very clearly. They want people in our province to get help now, not after some bill passes, not after organi­zations are buried in red tape and certainly not after we wait for folks with addictions to be judged by the PCs of being morally deserving.

      On this side of the House, we're in favour of helping people now.

      Will the Premier tell this House why she disagrees?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, in fact, Madam Speaker, we do agree–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: –with getting those individuals–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: –the help that they need now. That is why we intro­duced the Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinics. In fact, just one more clinic is out there now that we have just intro­duced, so we're expanding those areas to ensure that we help those individuals who need it now.

      That's why we have increased the number of naloxone kits that we're offering out there in the com­mu­nity. That is taking action now.

      But we'll also take action now to help those individuals, but we're also going to help them after this to make sure that they get the help that they need to get them off of their addictions.

Madam Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, on a final supplementary.

Mr. Kinew: We know that the PCs' arguments on this topic are very weak. The Premier herself cited a supervised con­sump­tion site in California as evidence that they didn't work. The problem is that site does not exist.

      Then her former minister of Mental Health claimed to have visited a site in BC, and, of course, BC officials clarified that that minister had never been there for a visit.

      This is clear misinformation. I would encourage the member for Kirkfield Park (MLA Klein) to write about this blatant misinformation being put on the record.

      We also know that Brian Pallister forced the VIRGO report–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –to erase a recom­men­dation for super­vised con­sump­tion sites from within its very pages.

      All of this bending over backwards to avoid a simple proposition. Let's help people in Manitoba with addictions right now.

      Will this gov­ern­ment finally admit that her misinformation and her policy has been an abysmal failure and that she will support the creation of a supervised–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mrs. Stefanson: Madam Speaker, there is no panacea when it comes to ensuring that we get people off of their addictions and giving them the help that they need now and into the future.

      Now, I know members opposite talk about getting them just the help now that they need, Madam Speaker. We are giving them the help that they need now, and we've also esta­blished 1,000 new beds to ensure that they get those–the help that they need to get them off of their addictions into the future.

      We know that the recovery process and the recovery approach to this, Madam Speaker, really has very positive results for Manitobans who are suffering from addictions, for Canadians, for people around the world who are suffering from addictions. So, we will take both an approach now as well as an approach into the future: a recovery approach.

Safe Con­sump­tion Site
Request for facility

MLA Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station): Madam Speaker, supervised con­sump­tion sites have been proven around the world to save lives.

      Now, on the eve of an election, this minister is gaslighting those organi­zations and volunteers who are trying to help Manitobans directly in the areas that this gov­ern­ment has refused to. Their legis­lation is not designed to support those who need help right now, today, in Manitoba, but instead to throw up barriers to those who are already provi­ding care.

      If the minister actually believes in the value of their live-saving work, why won't she commit to opening a safe con­sump­tion site today?

Hon. Janice Morley-Lecomte (Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness): Our gov­ern­ment is listening to individuals who are seeking support for loved ones and families. Our recovery-oriented system of care–continuum of care–supports individ­uals and it provides safety, consistency and account­ability for family members who are seeking these services through the addiction service provider.

      The stake­holders have spoken; they've asked for account­ability, and the standards have been put in place. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order. Order.

      The honourable member for Union Station, on a supplementary question.

MLA Asagwara: Madam Speaker, the com­mu­nity organi­zations that I've spoken to since this bill was intro­duced, and that none of which were consulted by this gov­ern­ment before it was brought forward, are dismayed. They're dismayed with this PC gov­ern­ment's response to the addictions crisis after years of inaction.

      These same advocates have pulled together to try to help vul­ner­able Manitobans with addiction, while this gov­ern­ment has failed to step up. Now they know definitively that they can't trust this gov­ern­ment. They need a partner that will work with them, not shut them down.

      Why won't this minister do the right thing and support this life-saving health care?

Ms. Morley-Lecomte: I'm not quite sure if individ­uals with lived ex­per­ience, individuals who work through addiction service organi­zations, clinical experts, Shared Health, regional health are not considered experts, but they were all part of the panel who helped make the standards.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Union Station, on a final supplementary.

MLA Asagwara: Madam Speaker, we know that this gov­ern­ment doesn't listen to Manitobans, and they certainly have not been listening to the front-line health-care providers who have looked at, studied and imple­mented medical evidence in this area.

      The PC gov­ern­ment's devastating cuts have failed Manitoba's most vul­ner­able and at-risk citizens for the past seven years.

      Will this minister reverse course, cancel the red tape and work with–not against–com­mu­nity groups who are provi­ding these supports and health-care services today?

Ms. Morley-Lecomte: Com­mu­nity addiction service 'priders' have come to us. They have had concerns; they wanted us to put standards in place. Safety of Manitobans–most vul­ner­able Manitobans–is of ultim­ate concern.

      Then they receive services not in isolation, but services that then go back, and the prov­incial health system is aware of the services that are provided.

      Then we also have individuals that are saying that they want to ensure that their family members get long‑term treatment, a pathway to continue for the–for their recovery.

      And that's what these standards will provide.

* (14:10)

Women's Health Clinic
Budget 2023 Funding

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): The Women's Health Clinic is dealing with huge pandemic backlogs and increased demands for their services, including abortions, contraceptives, birthing and much, much more, Madam Speaker.

      These services are invaluable to women and gender-diverse folks here in Manitoba, and instead of recog­nizing this and increasing funding for the Women's Health Clinic, Budget 2023 actually cuts their funding. That's absolutely shameful, Madam Speaker.

      Will the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) do the right thing and commit to adequately funding the Women's Health Clinic today?

Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health): The member for St. Johns continues to rise in the House and put false infor­ma­tion on the record, believing that, if she says it a number of times, it will become true. But that is not the case, Madam Speaker.

      Our gov­ern­ment sees women's health as being a priority. That is why, as early as just February 6, we announced $300,000 in continuing annual funding to support the Prov­incial Eating Disorder Pre­ven­tion and Recovery Program at the Women's Health Clinic.

      That is just one example of how we support the Women's Health Clinic, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for St. Johns, on a supplementary question.

MLA Fontaine: The PCs have re­peat­edly cut funding to com­mu­nity health clinics like the Women's Health Clinic. These cuts hurts Manitobans and our ability to access services that we need, like abortions and contraceptives.

      Budget 2023 funding for the Women's Health Clinic does not keep pace with inflation and doesn't help the clinic expand its services to clear the pandemic backlog and addressed increased demand. The Premier should know that this is wrong.

      Will the Premier explain why she's cutting funding from the Women's Health Clinic?

Ms. Gordon: This is com­muni­cation directly from the WRHA, which are the facts. We have reached out again to our com­mu­nity sector to 'depotermine' if any com­muni­cation has recently occurred with the Women's Health Clinic regarding reduction of funding, but this is not the case, Madam Speaker.

      So, again, the member for St. Johns continues to put inaccurate infor­ma­tion on the record, but I also–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Ms. Gordon: –want to note some increases to women's health funding: $257 million was spent on  the Women's Hospital redevelopment project, Madam Speaker, since our gov­ern­ment took office; another $15 million for digital mammography, with $2.3 million in ongoing operating funding occurring–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

      The honourable member for St. Johns, on a final supplementary.

MLA Fontaine: Budget 2023 doubles down on the PCs' failed approach to women's health by cutting funding to the Women's Health Clinic.

      To make matters worse, the PCs are also clawing back COVID-relief dollars that are needed after years of underfunding. These cuts will negatively impact the services that the clinic can offer, like abortions and contraceptives.

      That is the wrong approach, Madam Speaker. These services are needed now more than ever.

      Will the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) apologize for her gov­ern­ment's incompetence and commit to fully funding the Women's Health Clinic today?

Ms. Gordon: Madam Speaker, again, I just want to place on the record that women's health is a priority for this gov­ern­ment.

      Here is the question that I asked of the WRHA: There were allegations made by the member for St. Johns in the House that the women's clinic had their funding reduced. This was the answer: There is nothing in Manitoba Health's budget about reductions in funding for the Women's Health Clinic.

      So I'm not sure how that infor­ma­tion is being attributed to us and to the budget, Madam Speaker. Those are the facts.

Orange Shirt Day Statutory Holiday Act
Request to Pass Bill 203 Before June 1

Mr. Ian Bushie (Keewatinook): Bill 203, The Orange Shirt Day Statutory Holiday Act, would give all Manitobans the op­por­tun­ity to learn about the history of resi­den­tial schools and bring us closer to true recon­ciliation.

      I'm happy to say that we finally took a step in the right direction this morning. However, there's still some work to do. This bill still needs to go to com­mit­tee and pass third reading. It's up to the PCs to make sure this happens.

      Will the Premier commit to fully passing and proclaiming Bill 203 before we rise on June the 1st?

Hon. Eileen Clarke (Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations): I don't think it's any surprise that this gov­ern­ment totally supports the recog­nition and the importance of September 30th in honouring and commemorating the children who lost their lives, also the survivors and the families, com­mu­nities who are affected by this and the legacy of the resi­den­tial schools.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able member for Keewatinook, on a sup­ple­mentary question.

Mr. Bushie: If it were up to us, Orange Shirt Day would already be a statutory holiday.

      Orange Shirt Day is a day to reflect on the history of resi­den­tial schools, honour survivors and work towards recon­ciliation. Bill 203 would give all Manitobans the op­por­tun­ity to do so.

      Now it's up to the gov­ern­ment to call this bill to com­mit­tee and give it royal assent.

      Will the Premier commit to doing so before we rise on June the 1st?

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I understand the bill passed second reading this morning. Second reading, of course, is about the principle of the bill.

      This government has demon­strated it signifi­cantly supports the principle of recog­nition when it comes to Orange Shirt Day, truth and recon­ciliation day. It's a gov­ern­ment that's put in sig­ni­fi­cant programs, both in the schools and recog­nition on that day in parti­cular.

      So, of course, we accept and we recog­nize the principle to support and to demon­strate that this is an im­por­tant, sig­ni­fi­cant day for all Canadians.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able member for Keewatinook, on a final sup­ple­mentary.

Mr. Bushie: The PCs voted against making Orange Shirt Day a statutory holiday just last fall. Many Manitobans are understandably upset and angry.

      Thankfully, Bill 203 passed this morning. Now it's up to the PCs to do the right thing and call this bill to com­mit­tee.

      It's im­por­tant that all Manitobans have the op­por­tun­ity to learn about the history of resi­den­tial schools and work towards recon­ciliation. Madam Speaker, all Manitobans want to have the op­por­tun­ity to reflect, discuss and educate them­selves and their families on the importance of Orange Shirt Day.

      Will the Premier commit to giving royal assent to Bill 203 before we rise on June the 1st?

Mr. Goertzen: This Premier, this minister of Indigenous relations and recon­ciliation and the previous minister have done sig­ni­fi­cant work when it comes to ensuring that there's edu­ca­tion, that there's recog­nition when it comes to Orange Shirt Day and the national day of truth and recon­ciliation.

      There are also sig­ni­fi­cant things in the budget that deal with recon­ciliation, a budget that the op­posi­tion stalled yesterday and that we expect that they might stall again today.

      We need to ensure that those issues that are in the budget that deal with recon­ciliation funding, support for Indigenous com­mu­nities, actually pass.

      Will they commit to moving forward on the budget imple­men­ta­tion bill?

Silica Sand Mine Extraction Project

Auditor General's Water Safety Recommendations

Mr. Mark Wasyliw (Fort Garry): On Tuesday, the Manitoba's Auditor General said that this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) had failed to implement 90 per cent of their recom­men­dations from the past several years.

      We also know that this latest Environ­ment Minister recently was going door to door in Kirkfield Park, telling those con­stit­uents that they were going to stand up to this Premier. Not only is that a broken promise–not only has this minister not stood up to the Premier, he seem to have lost his voice in this Chamber.

      So, I'll ask the minister: Can he tell the good people of Kirkfield Park what message he sent to the Premier after his election and spe­cific­ally about how poor this Premier has done in the last seven years?

* (14:20)

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): I'll just remind this House that facts do matter.

      I ap­pre­ciate the voice of the member for Kirkfield Park (MLA Klein) in reminding all Manitobans that facts matter, and infor­ma­tion–real infor­ma­tion–the truth matters.

      That's what we have in this House. I mentioned yesterday when asked about the–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Teitsma: –Auditor General's report that we are committed to continuing the work to fulfill the recom­men­dations. I looked, for example, at the Vital Statistics branch, which I was asked about yesterday. In the Vital Statistics branch, some of the items were completed in the report, many were under way. It turns out that many more of those items have actually 'subsebuncly' been completed.

      They–the report was issued as of September 30th. It's been six months, and we've continued to work. We're a gov­ern­ment that listens and–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

      The hon­our­able member for Fort Garry, on a sup­ple­mentary question.

Mr. Wasyliw: Madam Speaker, it appears that the Environ­ment Minister is the first to enter the Stefanson gov­ern­ment witness pro­tec­tion program; but, hopefully, he can answer this question.

      Earlier this week, the minister failed to commit to protecting safety of drinking water–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Wasyliw: –from the proposed Sio Silica mine near Vivian, Manitoba. And now, the Auditor General's report says that the PC gov­ern­ment has only imple­mented one third of those recom­men­dations on drinking water safety. PC budget cuts have depleted the ranks of the civil service; they can't be blamed for this.

      When will this gov­ern­ment stop making excuses, and does this minister have a voice? [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Hon. Kevin E. Klein (Minister of Environment and Climate): Obviously, when you put the facts out, people get hurt by that, because they don't like giving a–they don't like being called out on misinformation. So, let's talk about the facts in this case.

      First and foremost, 32 per cent of the recom­men­dations for Environ­ment and Climate have been met. And, in fact, we are on track to achieve all 18 recom­men­dations before 2024.

      We are basing our infor­ma­tion on facts. We are not simply ignoring the Clean Environ­ment Com­mis­sion. We are also simply not saying that we're going to provide you with details. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired. [interjection] Order.

      A little respect in this place would go a long way. Trying to heckle down a minister and thinking that they've achieved some­thing great is pretty disre­spectful.

      I'm going to ask for everybody's co‑operation, please. I know that people get hot on both sides of the House when sometimes you don't like the answer–or the question–but, please, let's have some civility in this House and show some respect so that people can properly hear what is being said, especially if I need to rule on some­thing. So I'd like to see some co‑operation, please.

      The hon­our­able member for Fort Garry, on a final sup­ple­mentary.

Mr. Wasyliw: Well, this minister likes to remind this Chamber that he's an expert on fake news, and we certainly saw that just then. But, you know, let's talk about facts.

      Because the fact is, eastern Manitobans deserve to know that their water supply is safe. They deserve to know that their prov­incial gov­ern­ment will protect their water supply. And the fact is, this minister has not committed to those eastern Manitobans. That's just wrong.

      Now, the auditor made very im­por­tant recom­men­dations for drinking water safety–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Wasyliw: –including more thorough inspections and follow-up on required actions and timelines for compliance. The Auditor General's–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Wasyliw: –assessment of this minister is disappointment.

      How can we trust this gov­ern­ment when the minister won't commit to drinking water safety and won't implement the Auditor General's report?

MLA Klein: Let's talk about the facts.

      Fact No. 1: on the night of the election for Kirkfield Park, the member opposite's leader said I was a star candidate.

      Let's also look at some–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

MLA Klein: –let's also look at some other facts. In 2003, the NDP ignored the recom­men­dation of the–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

MLA Klein: –clean environ­ment com­mit­tee to build the North End treatment plant and simply continued to give extension after extension, harming Lake Winnipeg under their watch.

      Another fact to make: the NDP, back in 2009, said they would not achieve–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired. [interjection] The member's time has expired. [interjection] Whoa. Whoa.

Cross Lake First Nation Community Health Centre
Provincial Funding Responsibility for Services

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Cross Lake First Nation has over 8,000 residents and they have a new health centre opening in June. They have over 120 births a year, 25 to 30 people who need dialysis, which is why they're asking the Province to fulfill its side of the bargain to fund at–a dialysis machine, diagnostics and a birthing centre.

      Care in the com­mu­nity would mean that people would save on ambulances, charter planes and more, and a dialysis centre–it would pay for itself with savings in the first year.

      This prov­incial gov­ern­ment gets money from the federal gov­ern­ment for patient trans­por­tation, equalization, health and social transfers based on every single First Nations person.

      Is the Province going to step up for Cross Lake and ensure those services are in place, or are they going to say it's someone else's job?

Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health): Our government has been very sup­port­ive of northern health programs, holding a summit–a sustainability summit with over 30 stake­holders, Madam Speaker, signing the declaration to eliminate all forms of Indigenous-specific racism in health care.

      And then our record invest­ment in diabetes in the 2023 budget for those living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes–we've expanded coverage for advanced glucose monitors as well as for insulin pumps, Madam Speaker. These invest­ments will go a long way to supporting individuals living in the North.

      We're leading in the country for a change, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for St. Boniface, on a supplementary question.

Repre­sen­tatives from Cross Lake First Nation
Request for Meeting with Premier and Minister

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): The Manitoba gov­ern­ment has an obligation to serve all its residents, including First Nations, and it gets the money to do it. Federal transfers, including billions in equalization, are calculated by counting every Manitoba resident. That includes every Indigenous Manitoban.

      For 50 years, PC and NDP gov­ern­ments have granted licence for Hydro and other cor­por­ations to go onto First Nations territory, build dams, dig mines without any cleanup or compensation. So, the Manitoba gov­ern­ment will take from First Nations, but they won't provide the services to First Nations they're getting the money to provide. They can't even get a meeting.

      Now, Ivan Monias and Donald McKay from Cross Lake are both in the gallery today.

      Will the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) and Health Minister finally meet with them today to hear their case?

Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, again, we as a gov­ern­ment are always open and willing to meet with Indigenous and northern stake­holders.

      That is why we hosted–we were proactive in hosting the northern health-care sus­tain­ability summit, where 30 Indigenous stake­holders came around the table to discuss challenges that are being faced in the North.

      And, Madam Speaker, in addition to that summit, we as a gov­ern­ment have invested $812 million into northern and rural health care. A sig­ni­fi­cant portion of these funds will be used in the creation of a new intermediate health-care hub in northern Manitoba.

      We are so excited to be working with our northern partners to reduce the need to travel to southern regions and allow for better care, closer to home.

Cross Lake First Nation Com­mu­nity Health Centre
Prov­incial Funding Respon­si­bility for Services

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, Vice Chief Ivan Monias and Donnie McKay, councillor and health director for Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, have worked for many years to get a health centre.

* (14:30)

      It's now happening, but it needs the Province to contribute a dialysis unit, a renal team, a birthing unit and to pave the last 13 kilometres of the road to Cross Lake.

      Madam Speaker, 18 per cent of Manitoban's popu­la­tion is Indigenous; 18 per cent of the federal transfers is 1 billion, 313 million.

      Will the Province be respon­si­ble for all Manitobans and ensure the people of Cross Lake can have a dialysis centre, a birthing unit and a paved highway for the more than 8,000–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Hon. Doyle Piwniuk (Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure): I just wanted to let the member know that, when it comes to infra­structure, Madam Speaker, we are investing over $4.2 billion when it comes to investing for the next five years.

      In a lot of those cases, it's actually going to be in the North, Madam Speaker, especially First Nations com­mu­nities. We're going to be working with them as part of our truth and recon­ciliation.

      And we're not just going to be talking about it, we're going to have action, Madam Speaker. Just wait for more an­nounce­ments.

Operating Funding for Velma's House
Supports for Sexually Exploited Women

Mr. Bob Lagassé (Dawson Trail): The need for a 24‑7 space–safe space for gender-based violence and sexual exploited adult women is being filled through the inspiring work of Velma's House.

      Opening in March of 2021, they quickly realized they needed a larger space and announced a new location last fall. The Minister respon­si­ble for the Status of Women recently announced support for Velma's House.

      Can she explain what form this takes?

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister responsible for the Status of Women): This morning, the Manitoba gov­ern­ment hosted an anti-sexual ex­ploit­ation and human trafficking summit, where we talked about ways to prevent sexual ex­ploit­ation and human trafficking.

      But we also recog­nize the need for a safe space for those who are afflicted, and that is why it was with great pleasure that we announced $1.54 million to support Velma's House this morning at Ka Ni Kanichihk. And this is new annual funding for Velma's House, which is an essential, low-barrier safe space for women to access resources and cultural ways of healing.

      This new funding will ensure that they can operate 24-7 hours a day to ensure that women get the supports and the safety that they need when they most need it.

      Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

Expansion of Broadband Services
Rural and Northern Communities

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): November 2021, the PCs promised to connect 125,000 Manitobans in 350 different rural and northern com­mu­nities to broad­band services. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, and to no one's surprise, the PCs have failed to deliver.

      Not only have they failed to make progress, but they've actually stopped com­mu­nities from accessing broadband services altogether. These services are not a luxury, they are a necessity.

      Can the minister explain why the PC gov­ern­ment has broken their promise to 125,000 Manitobans?

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): I really appre­ciate the op­por­tun­ity to update the House on the progress that we have been making in connecting rural com­mu­nities, northern com­mu­nities, to high-speed Internet.

      It has been tremendous, with tens of thousands of households in hundreds of com­mu­nities now connected to high-speed Internet that, honestly, the previous NDP gov­ern­ment had an op­por­tun­ity to do some­thing about, and did nothing.

      Our gov­ern­ment has taken action. We have ensured that tens of thousands–hundreds of thousands of Manitobans are going to be able to get access to high-speed Internet and that hundreds of com­mu­nities are already connected.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for St. James, on a supplementary question.

Mr. Sala: As part of their broken promise to expand broadband services, the PC gov­ern­ment handed over Manitoba Hydro Telecom's fibre optic cables to Xplornet. They claim that this private company would do a better job than Manitoba Hydro Telecom, yet a year and a half later, we've seen little to no progress in expanding broadband services.

      It's clear the PC approach has failed, and Manitoba's com­mu­nities are suffering as a result.

      Will this minister admit that his gov­ern­ment's approach has failed and apologize to the Manitobans they've left behind?

Mr. Teitsma: I will remind that member, and I'll just say to all Manitobans, that here on this side of the House, we have a gov­ern­ment that listens. We have a gov­ern­ment that takes action and a gov­ern­ment that gets things done.

      And that's, in fact, exactly what is happening with what is going on in the North, what is going on in rural Manitoba, in terms of connecting com­mu­nities, con­necting households to high-speed Internet. Not only do we have the excellent work being done for the dark fibre and Xplore, but we also have Starlink available to rural households across this province and com­mu­nities across this province.

      It's excellent to have choice and consumer choice. There is options for Manitobans across this province to have access and for com­mu­nities to have access to high-speed Internet.

      We are getting the job done.

Madam Speaker: The honourable member for St. James, on a final supplementary.

Mr. Sala: Madam Speaker, this gov­ern­ment hasn't made progress in expanding broadband, and the minister's just reminding Manitobans as to why they cannot trust this PC gov­ern­ment. In November 2021, the PCs promised to expand high-speed broadband services to 125,000 Manitobans across the province.

      Failed premier Pallister said at the time, quote, being connected and living virtually are no longer choices, they're necessities. This hasn't changed. Access to broadband services are more im­por­tant than ever. Unfor­tunately, the PCs are failing to deliver on that promise, and hundreds of com­mu­nities are suffering as a result.

      Will this minister apologize for his gov­ern­ment's failure to expand broadband access to Manitobans?

Hon. Cliff Cullen (Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro): Well, Madam Speaker, let's talk about what we've done for Manitoba Hydro. We know, under the NDP reign, they jacked up water rental rates, they jacked up the guarantee rate to Manitoba Hydro. This gov­ern­ment–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Cullen: –has reduced those rates in half. We're saving Manitoba ratepayers $190 million this year alone.

      Will the NDP pass this budget so we can continue to give Manitobans the breaks they need?

Madam Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.


South Perimeter Highway Noise Barrier

Mr. Nello Altomare (Transcona): Madam Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.

      To the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba, the background to this petition is as follows:

      (1) Residents in River Park South community in Winnipeg are disturbed by the increasing noise levels caused by traffic on the South Perimeter Highway.

      (2) The South Perimeter Highway functions as a transport route for semi-trucks travelling across Canada, making this stretch of the Perimeter especially loud.

      (3) According to the South Perimeter Noise Study conducted in 2019, the traffic levels are expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years and backyard noise levels have already surpassed 65 decibels.


Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Altomare: (4) Seniuk Road, which runs alongside the South Perimeter, contributes additional truck traffic causing increased noise and air pollution.

      (5) Residents face a decade of construction on the South Perimeter, making this an appropriate time to add noise mitigation for the South Perimeter to these projects.

      (6) The current barriers between the South Perimeter Highway and the homes of River Park South residents are a berm and a wooden fence, neither of which are effective at reducing the traffic noise.

      We therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      (1) To urge the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to consult with noise specialists and other experts to help determine the most effective way to reduce the traffic noise and to commit to meaningful action to address resident concern.

      (2) To urge the Minister of Transportation to help address this issue with a noise barrier wall along residential portions of the South Perimeter from St. Anne's Road to St. Mary's Road and for River Park South residents.

      This petition, Madam Speaker, is signed by many Manitobans.

* (14:40)

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: In accordance with our rule 133(6), when petitions are read they are deemed to be received by the House.

 Prov­incial Road 224

Ms. Amanda Lathlin (The Pas-Kameesak): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      The back­ground to this petition:

      (1) Road 224 serves Peguis First Nation, Fisher River Cree Nation and surrounding com­mu­nities. The road is in need of sub­stan­tial repairs.

      (2) The road has been in poor con­di­tion for years and has numer­ous potholes, uneven driving surfaces and extremely narrow shoulders.

      (3) Due to recent popu­la­tion growth in the area, there has been increased vehicle and pedestrian use of Prov­incial Road 224.

      (4) Without repair, Prov­incial Road 224 will continue to pose a driving hazard to many Manitobans who use it on a regular basis.

      (5) Concerned Manitobans are requesting that Prov­incial Road 224 be assessed and repaired urgently to improve safety to–for its users.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the Minister of Infra­structure to complete an assessment of Prov­incial Road 224 and implement the ap­pro­priate repairs using public funds as quickly as possible.

      This petition has been signed by many, many Manitobans.

Right to Repair

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.

      The background for this petition is as follows:

      (1) Manitoba consumers believe products should last longer, be repaired when broken and that planned obsolescence has environmental consequences that threaten a sustainable future.

      (2) In 2021, the European Union set minimum design requirements for many electronic devices with new right to repair legislation.

      (3) The Biden administration in the United States has formally backed the right to repair movement in January 2022, following the European Union's lead.

      (4) Right to repair enables consumers access to the resources needed to fix and modify their products, appliances, including cellphones, washing machines and refrigerators.

      (5) Right to repair also allows consumers and electronic repair businesses access to the most recent versions of repair manuals, replacement parts, software and other tools that the manufacturer uses for diagnosing, maintaining or repairing its branded electronic products.

      (6) Right to repair further allows consumers to reset an electronic security function of its branded electronic products if the function is disabled during diagnosis, maintenance or repair.

      (7) In addition, the right to repair ensures manufacturers replace electronic products at no cost or refund the amount paid by the consumer to purchase the electronic product where they refuse or are unable to provide manuals or replacement parts.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the provincial government to adopt right to repair legislation, requiring manufacturers of electronic devices and appliances, including washing machines and fridges and farm machinery, to make information, parts and tools necessary for repairs available to consumers and independent repair shops.

      And this petition is signed by many, many Manitobans.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able member for Tyndall Park (Ms. Lamoureux)–sorry, Notre Dame.

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

MLA Malaya Marcelino (Notre Dame): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      To the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba, the back­ground to this petition is as follows:

      (1) According to census 2021, Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada and there are 33,315 people in Manitoba whose native language is Punjabi.

      (2) Thousands of Punjabi new­comers are coming to Manitoba as students and as immigrants, looking to call this province home. People of Punjabi origin contribute a great deal to the social and economic dev­elop­ment of Canada and Manitoba in fields such as edu­ca­tion, science, health, busi­ness and politics.

Mr. Andrew Micklefield, Deputy Speaker, in the Chair

      (3) In coming to Manitoba, Punjabi new­comers make sacrifices, including distance from their cultural roots and language. Many Punjabi parents and families want their children to retain their language and keep a continued cultural ap­pre­cia­tion.

      (4) Manitoba has many good bilingual programs in public schools for children and teens available in other languages, including French, Ukrainian, Ojibwe, Filipino, Cree, Hebrew and Spanish. Punjabi bilingual programs for children and teens as well as Punjabi language instruction at a college and uni­ver­sity level could similarly teach and maintain Punjabi language and culture.

      (5) Punjabi bilingual instruction will help cross-cultural friendships, relationships and marriages and prepare young people to be multilingual pro­fes­sionals.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to take steps to implement Punjabi bilingual programs in public schools similar to existing bilingual programs and take steps to implement Punjabi language instruction in other levels of edu­ca­tion in Manitoba.

      This has been signed by Mandeep Chahal, Sukhdeep Brar, Jaspreet Brar and many other Manitobans.

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

      (1) According to census 2021, Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada and there are 33,315 people in Manitoba whose native language is Punjabi.

      (2) Thousands of Punjabi new­comers are coming to Manitoba as students and as immigrants, looking to call this province home. People of Punjabi origin contribute a great deal to the social and economic develop­ment of Canada and Manitoba in fields such as edu­ca­tion, science, health, busi­ness and politics.

      (3) In coming to Manitoba, Punjabi new­comers make sacrifices, including distance from their cultural roots and language. Many Punjabi parents and families want their children to retain their language and keep a continued cultural ap­pre­cia­tion.

      (4) Manitoba has many good bilingual programs in public schools for children and teens available in other languages, including French, Ukrainian, Ojibwe, Filipino, Cree, Hebrew and Spanish. Punjabi bilingual programs for children and teens as well as Punjabi language instruction at a college and uni­ver­sity level could similarly teach and maintain Punjabi language and culture.

      (5) Punjabi bilingual instruction will help cross-cultural friendships, relationships and marriages and prepare young people to be multilingual pro­fes­sionals.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to take steps to implement Punjabi bilingual programs in public schools similar to existing bilingual programs and take steps to implement Punjabi language instruction in other levels of edu­ca­tion in Manitoba.

      This petition has been signed by Sukhjeet Kaur, Narinder Singh and Royalpreet Kaur.

      Thank you.

Com­mu­nity Living disABILITY Services

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

      Currently, adults with specific or non-specific dis­abil­ities, or a combination of dis­abil­ities, such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory or lan­guage processing disorders and/or non-verbal learn­ing dis­abil­ities, will be denied access to services under the Province of Manitoba's com­mu­nity living and disability services, if their IQ is above 80.

      (2) People with these or other borderline cogni­tive functioning issues also have extremely low adaptive skills, are not able to live in­de­pen­dently without supports.

      (3) Recently, it has become widely recog­nized that access to CLDS should not be based solely on IQ, which is only a measure of a person's ability to answer questions verbally or in writing in relation to math­ematics, science or material which is read.

      (4) Very often, persons with specific or non‑specific dis­abil­ities or a combination of those dis­abil­ities have specific needs related to their executive function for support when they are adults or are transitioning to adulthood, which is not necessarily connected to their IQ.

* (14:50)

      (5) Executive function is the learned ability to do the normal activities of life, including being organized, being able to plan and to carry out plans and to adapt changing con­di­tions.

      (6) Those who have major defects in executive function have a learning dis­abil­ity requiring assist­ance under CLDS to be able to make a con­tri­bu­tion to society and be self‑sustaining.

      (7) Provisions of CLDS services to individuals with specific or non‑specific dis­abil­ities or a combination of those dis­abil­ities or executive function dis­abil­ity, would free them from being dependent on Em­ploy­ment and Income Assist­ance and have the potential to make an im­por­tant change in the person's life.

      (8) Newfoundland and Labrador have now recog­nized that access services should be based on the nature of the dis­abil­ity and the person's need, rather than IQ.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to change the require­ments for accessing com­mu­nity living and dis­abil­ity services so that these require­ments are based on the needs of individuals with specific or non-specific dis­abil­ities, including executive function or a combination of dis­abil­ities, rather than solely on the basis of their IQ.

      This petition has been signed by many Manitobans.

      Thank you.

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

Mr. Mintu Sandhu (The Maples): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba.

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

      (1) According to census 2021, Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada and there are 33,315 people in Manitoba whose native language is Punjabi.

      (2) Thousands of Punjabi new­comers are coming to Manitoba as students and as immigrants, looking to call this province home. People of Punjabi origin contribute a great deal to the social and economic dev­elop­ment of Canada and Manitoba in fields such as edu­ca­tion, science, health, busi­ness and politics.

      (3) In according–in coming to Manitoba, Punjabi new­comers make sacrifices, including distance from their cultural roots and language. Many Punjabi parents and families want their children to retain their language and keep a continued cultural ap­pre­cia­tion.

      (4) Manitoba has many good bilingual programs in Punjabi schools for children and teens available in other languages, including French, Ukrainian, Ojibwe, Filipino, Cree, Hebrew and Spanish. Punjabi bilingual programs for children and teens as well as Punjabi language instruction at a college and uni­ver­sity level could similarly teach and maintain Punjabi language and culture.

      (5) Punjabi bilingual instruction will help cross-cultural friendships, relationships and marriages and prepare young people to be multilingual pro­fes­sionals.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to take steps to implement Punjabi bilingual programs in public schools similar to existing bilingual programs and take steps to implement Punjabi language instruction in other levels of edu­ca­tion in Manitoba.

      This has been signed by Kirandeep Sangha, Gagandeep Brar and Amandeep Kaur Brar.

      Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are there any other petitions? Grievances?

      Gov­ern­ment–orders of the day, gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

      The hon­our­able acting House leader–also known as the hon­our­able Minister of Advanced Edu­ca­tion and Training.




Hon. Sarah Guillemard (Acting Government House Leader): Could you please call for second reading debate Bill 14, The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2023. If it passes, or if it passes at second reading, please then call Bill 14 for Com­mit­tee of the Whole. If Com­mit­tee of the Whole is complete, would you please call Bill 14 for a third reading.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Just for clarity: orders of the day, gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

      It has been announced by the hon­our­able acting House leader, the hon­our­able Minister of Advanced Edu­ca­tion and Training, that the House will consider debate on second reading of Bill 14, to be followed by the Com­mit­tee of the Whole and–if it passes, to be followed by the Com­mit­tee of the Whole and concurrence and third reading of Bill 14.

Debate on Second Readings

Bill 14–The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2023

Mr. Deputy Speaker: So, we will begin with debate and–resuming debate and second reading of Bill 14, and the hon­our­able member for Flin Flon has 25 minutes remaining.

MLA Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon): I started off yesterday, so I'll try and remember where I left off. Oh, yes, now I remember: the PC gov­ern­ment is not to be trusted.

      That's a good place where I left off. It's a good place to start again today because it's as true today as it was yesterday, that while they make big an­nounce­ments, they fail to live up to them. They don't implement the things that they say that they're going to do. They underfund, budgets come and go and the money doesn't get spent.

      We heard the Minister of Health (Ms. Gordon) stand up earlier today and pat herself on the back for what a wonderful job she's doing on health care in the North. And I can tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that every resident in the North knows that's simply not the case. They know, from every hospital, every health centre, every seniors' centre that this gov­ern­ment is not spending the money that they need to spend in order to provide care anywhere close to home.

      So many health facilities in the North have been gutted of any services that it's shameful. Families have been ripped apart. Husbands and wives that have been together for 50 years are now hundreds of miles apart, thanks to this gov­ern­ment.

      Even though now we know that there's a full complement of nurses at the Lynn Lake health centre, this gov­ern­ment, this Minister of Health and this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) refuse to reinstate health services for Lynn Lake hospital. They absolutely refuse to recog­nize the people of Lynn Lake as being im­por­tant–and they are, most assuredly, im­por­tant.

      People have lived in those com­mu­nities like Lynn Lake for so many years–40, 50, 60 years–they deserve the respect of this gov­ern­ment and they don't get it.

      We heard some questions earlier today about some roads in northern Manitoba, in parti­cular the last few kilometres going into Cross Lake, and I've raised this issue in the House any number of times. I've written to ministers–various ministers, as they come and go–about a commit­ment to pay for that last few kilometres, and not once has any minister of this gov­ern­ment responded in the seven years that they've been in this gov­ern­ment. Not once have they responded that that piece of road is in any way, shape or form a priority for this gov­ern­ment.

      We heard the Minister of Infra­structure today stand up and say, well, stay tuned for more an­nounce­ments. Well, we're tired of just an­nounce­ments. We want to see actual action. We want to see roads like that get the pavement on them; make them safe for people in the North.

      We know that this gov­ern­ment has failed–constantly failed–to ensure that there's enough people working for the highways de­part­ment to actually maintain roads. We heard the Minister of Infra­structure stand up the other day and say, well, they'd hired some people.

      To start with, they haven't hired nearly enough people to fill all the vacancies, and the people that they have hired are recent retirees. That's not a long-term solution because those folks are going to retire again.

      So, what's the problem? Well, the problem is whatever this gov­ern­ment says is not quite reality. So while they may have hired some people, they're temporary employees at best and they have no long-term plan to actually hire and retain people to work in those positions.

* (15:00)

      And part of the reason for that is that the wage rates for those heavy equip­ment operators, in northern Manitoba in parti­cular, have fallen so far behind that people cannot afford to go and live in those com­mu­nities and sustain them­selves on those wages; which is why they've hired back retirees, because they're the only ones that can afford to work at these low‑paid-now gov­ern­ment jobs.

      Let's talk about ambulance services in the North. This gov­ern­ment has once again failed constantly to deliver–they've failed to deliver ambulances that are safe to operate. We've heard from people that operate the ambulances in the North that they don't get winter tires put on anymore. Imagine an ambulance that doesn't have proper winter tires trying to navigate hundreds of kilometres of roads that haven't been properly plowed because of this gov­ern­ment.

      When I was up in Lynn Lake, I heard about the ambulance station that they built that had to be evacuated because of the fumes from the gas that was leaking out of the ambulance that was parked there. That's the kind of equip­ment that people in the North are expected to work with.

      Imagine–it's bad enough for the people operating the ambulances, the EMTs and whatnot–imagine how bad it is for the patients, because patients are on the road constantly in these ambulances because they don't have services in their home com­mu­nities anymore.

      How many trips a day does an ambulance make from Flin Flon to The Pas so that people can get some basic test work done that you can't have done in Flin Flon anymore? And yet, these ambulances are literally run until the wheels fall off, which happened to an ambulance that was slated for some repairs. They made a list of every­thing that was wrong, sent it to another com­mu­nity to pick up their spare ambulance, but before it got there, the actual wheel fell off, leaving those folks stranded on the side of the road.

      There's no longer a vehicle maintenance shop in Thompson to service any of that equip­ment, so whenever it does need to have service done, for the most part, they have to get shipped to Winnipeg, which takes them out of service for that much longer.

      People don't trust this gov­ern­ment because of things that Brian Pallister did, things that the current Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) supported, sat beside him and clapped her hands and said, well done, and that she still carries on with the same mentality.

      And I see the Minister of Justice (Mr. Goertzen) starting to pay attention, because he knew I was going to get to him sooner or later. Because who was the first failed minister of Health in this PC gov­ern­ment? Well, it was the member from Steinbach, the current Justice Minister. He's the one that designed the disastrous health-care system that we are left with now. He's the one that sat behind the curtain and pulled all the strings, destroyed health care and then handed it off to the next minister and the next minister and the next minister, and the list goes on and on. And yet, they've failed to fix any of the problems that they created. They're the ones that destroyed health care. They're the ones that continually fail to address the issues.

      We know that the northern patient trans­por­tation system has been starved for resources. We know that this gov­ern­ment fails to provide sufficient financial resources for people to actually get the medical care from the North that they need. Certainly, during the pandemic, there was people that just stayed home and missed their critical medical ap­point­ments, because they could not afford to spend a week in Winnipeg, because this gov­ern­ment would not step up to the plate and support people in the North.

      We know that there's a couple com­mu­nities in northern Manitoba that are some of the fastest growing com­mu­nities in Manitoba: Cross Lake, Pimicikamak and Norway House. And they're both in the process of getting new health facilities, hospitals open. Has this gov­ern­ment stepped up and offered one cent of funding to help those facilities? And the answer is no, because they wash their hands of people in the North, parti­cularly Indigenous folks. They say, well, that's federal gov­ern­ment's respon­si­bility.

      What they fail to acknowl­edge is both of those com­mu­nities also have large contingents in the northern affairs com­mu­nity that access those services as well, that quite clearly–quite clearly–this gov­ern­ment cannot wash their hands of. They have a respon­si­bility for those people; they can't say that's up to the feds. That is this gov­ern­ment's respon­si­bility, and yet again they have failed miserably, to say the least.

      Let's talk about some of these tax cuts for a while. Certainly, there's a number of people that will be quite happy to see some of those tax cuts, but–I just want to access a note that I made here that talked about the unequal dis­tri­bu­tion of some of those tax cuts. So, tax cuts in the 2023 budget help the rich folks out a whole lot more than they help the poor folks out.

      Now, we heard the gov­ern­ment talk about, well, percentage‑wise, the rich folks get 14 per cent; the poor folks get 20 per cent. But let's talk about real numbers. Let's talk about dollars rather than percentages.

      So, we know that the top per cent, the top number of people–those making over $100,000–will get somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1,322. We know that the bottom 20 per cent or those earning the least amount of money–how much money will they save thanks to this gov­ern­ment? Thirty‑seven dollars. Isn't that something to be proud of, that we're giving the people that least afford it the biggest advantage, the biggest amount of money, the biggest break, while poor people will continue to get poorer, less well off, less able to afford–less able to feed their families?

      We heard in this budget–or, one of the an­nounce­ments after the budget–that they're going to fund some upgrades to one–one–northern airport. And yet, we know that there's any number of those airports that this gov­ern­ment is in fact respon­si­ble for that are in serious need of repair. And yet, once again, they ignore people in the North. They're only going to fix one airport. Imagine what kind of bad shape it must be in, if the gov­ern­ment has actually agreed to spend some money.

      Now, we need to be cognizant of the fact that just because they've said they're going to spend some money in the budget doesn't actually mean that it's going to get spent. Because right now, they're running around like drunken sailors, with big an­nounce­ments of all the money that they're going to spend, hoping that they can trick Manitobans into believing that they're not the same people–they're not the same gov­ern­ment that spent the last seven years starving every de­part­ment for resources.

      I was speaking to someone in charge at Shared Health one day about ambulances, and why we don't have enough ambulance attendants–EMTs. And that person said, well, because every time we train them, they leave the province. So I asked, well, why is that? Well, because they can make exponentially more money working in a different juris­dic­tion. So I asked the person who I was speaking to, well, who would have respon­si­bility to fix that issue? Oh, he said, I can see where you're going with this. Because, of course, Shared Health would be the ones that should be negotiating proper rates of pay for those people, but they have not had a raise for–they have not had a collective agree­ment in place for six, seven years, whatever the number is now.

* (15:10)

      So, this gov­ern­ment knows what the problem is because they created it. They know what the solution is, but they won't implement it.

      We hear ministers talk about–well, parti­cularly the Health Minister, talk about a table of solutions. The solution is to pay people ap­pro­priately so that you can retain them in this juris­dic­tion rather than seeing them pack up and leave–or, when they offer a training course that nobody signs up for because nobody believes that they can actually afford to live under the wage rates that are sitting there.

      This gov­ern­ment is quite proud of the fact that they've created some 74,000 more poor people. That's the number of people that have fallen off the tax rolls because their income is so low that they no longer qualify to pay taxes. They say that like that's some­thing to be proud of.

      Instead of trying to ensure that there's economic growth in this province, instead of trying to ensure that there's good‑paying jobs for people in Manitoba to go to, they herald the fact that we have more poor people than we did five years ago. Their whole mentality is confused and mixed up. But then, what do we expect?

      Let me see, where should I talk about next? Well, we know that we just had some questions earlier in the week about con­ser­va­tion officers because there's a definite shortage of con­ser­va­tion officers. And the minister respon­si­ble has now added more respon­si­bilities onto those con­ser­va­tion officers, more duties that they have to under­take.

      And yet, he fully admits that, well, they haven't really hired any; that they're planning to hire some. Well, they're the ones that got rid of them. They're the ones that allowed the numbers to go down so low so that those con­ser­va­tion officers cannot possibly do the job that's expected now, never mind adding on more respon­si­bility.

      Last fire season, there was a number of com­mu­nities that were concerned because, once upon a time, they used to have initial attack crews in their com­mu­nity that could rush to a fire and get the initial attack under way to control it before it threatened the com­mu­nity. But we know that this gov­ern­ment has reduced the number of attack crews, the number of com­mu­nities that have that resource available. They have committed to training some more people, but they're not going to train them to be in their com­mu­nity. They're not going to train them to be available to actually be initial attack crews where they need to be.

      Stopped on the side of the road one day when I was headed up to Cross Lake and talked to a fellow who was explaining to us that back in the days when we had gov­ern­ment air services, when they got word or notified that there was potentially a fire somewhere, they'd call up gov­ern­ment air services and have a plane there imme­diately to get crews where they needed to go.

      Well, now, without gov­ern­ment air services being available, they have to phone charter airlines. But if the charters all happen to be booked up, they have to wait in line until one becomes available to get them where they need to go. Meanwhile, the fire isn't waiting. It's burning out of control, getting bigger, threatening com­mu­nities; simply because this gov­ern­ment's ideological approach was to do away with government control of such things, turn it over to the private entities to provide that service. But the private entities cannot and do not provide the service that they need to to get those folks where they need to go.

      We've heard this gov­ern­ment recently, in the budget, talk about–they're going to hire a number of people in the mining permitting office because they see the need to speed up that process. Well, the question is, where did all the people go that worked there up until this gov­ern­ment came into power? Well, they got rid of them, either through attrition or layoffs, so that they became so short staffed that they did not have a chance to do the job that they needed to do.

      Now, all of a sudden, there's all kinds of explor­ation going on in northern Manitoba, no thanks to this gov­ern­ment, but thanks to the fact that critical minerals are required for a lot of things that need to take place, and those critical minerals, we have lots of them in northern Manitoba. Because the permitting regime has been ground to a standstill by this gov­ern­ment, that things have fallen behind. So, now they're coming out with an an­nounce­ment that they're going to hire some people to speed up the process that, once again, they're the ones that destroyed the process.

      But they know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there's an election coming, and they know that, holy smokes, we better do some­thing to convince Manitobans that we're not the same bunch that destroyed every­thing in this province. But we all know that they are the same bunch. They all sat beside Brian Pallister and they all clapped, whether it was bill 64, the edu­ca­tion disaster nightmare, whether it was health care that was being cut, they all clapped like trained seals and said, look at us, we're going to save some money here.

      And now those savings have come home to roost, that people of northern Manitoba in parti­cular know that just them making an­nounce­ments is absolutely totally meaningless, because they don't spend the money that they announce they're going to spend; they spend less than they're going–say they're going to spend, and we see the services continue to get worse.

      So, we know that this gov­ern­ment can't be trusted, certainly, to do anything for northern Manitoba. We  know that health funding for 2018-19 was underspent by $215 million. Budget 2019-20 cut funding for health care by $120 million, and yet constantly, this gov­ern­ment, this minister, stands up and says there's been no cuts to health care.

      Well, certainly, we in the North know that that's not true. Thompson hospital waited months just to get somebody to come and fix the hot water–months, not days, not hours, not weeks–but months to get hot water in a hospital because of this gov­ern­ment's incompetence, because of this gov­ern­ment's lack of will to actually provide services to northern Manitobans.

      So, we know that during the pandemic, this gov­ern­ment was woefully ill‑prepared to do anything. We know that Manitobans suffered because of it. And I  really need to recog­nize organi­zations like MKO that stepped up, stepped in and did every­thing in their power to try and protect the people that they're respon­si­ble for, the Indigenous folks in northern Manitoba. Contrary to this gov­ern­ment ignoring them, they stepped in, they made sure that people had vaccines. They made sure that there was rules in place. They made sure that their com­mu­nities were protected. So, I want to really thank them for that.

      So, don't have a whole lot of time here left, but some­thing that's never been talked about by this govern­ment is ophthalmologist service for northern Manitoba. Just from Flin Flon alone, there's some 100 flights a year for people going to get a needle in the eye. We also know that there's hundreds of people forced to drive to Prince Albert because they can't afford the flight and the costs of hotels. So they drive people to Prince Albert to get that shot in the eye once a month. And I know this is a fact because my wife drives her mother and a carload of other seniors to Prince Albert once a month to get those needles.

      Why can't we have that service in northern Manitoba? Well, we can. A hundred thousand dollars worth of equip­ment, and an ophthalmologist can fly in once a month and look after those people. But this gov­ern­ment isn't interested in provi­ding that service.

* (15:20)

      We know that if people in northern Manitoba need an MRI, they have to fly to Winnipeg to get it, and yet we have a hospital in Flin Flon that has room for one. We can get the Saskatchewan gov­ern­ment–Manitoba gov­ern­ment to help pay for it; it just makes sense to turn that hospital into a regional care centre. This gov­ern­ment needs to quit ignoring Manitoba, parti­cularly northern Manitobans, and people up there know that this gov­ern­ment cannot be trusted.

Mr. Mark Wasyliw (Fort Garry): How can you tell a gov­ern­ment's in their death roll? Well, I think this piece of legis­lation, this budget is a big, flashing neon sign to Manitobans. I mean, they can't outrun their past. They can't unrun what they've done to Manitoba.

      We're talking about seven years of cuts; seven years of underperforming with an economy; seven years of devastation to our health‑care system; seven years of actively–and in bad faith–defunding our edu­ca­tion system; seven years of increasing the infra­structure deficit where our roads and bridges are unsafe and crumbling; seven years of absolutely devastating our civil service, losing almost one in five civil servants to the point where Manitoba cannot function, cannot do basic things.

      When this gov­ern­ment took office in 2016, it took two weeks to get a birth certificate. Now it can take anywhere six months to nine months. If you needed a work permit in Manitoba in 2015, you'd apply; you could get it in a month. And, of course, to many working Manitobans, their licence means a job. Now it takes four months to get that very same thing. And just basic day-to-day services, things that Manitobans really took for granted, they can't anymore because they're not there; they're absolutely not there.

      And was this gov­ern­ment hit with hard times? No. They've had record windfalls in revenue; they–you know, literally swimming in money. Did it go to make our health-care system better? No. Did it go to make our edu­ca­tion system better? No. In fact, they continue to defund it. Did it go to repair the $11‑billion infra­structure deficit that Manitoba has? No. They haven't even touched it. And it's actually getting worse.

      So, you know, we've gone from having Brian Pallister, the most unpopular premier in Canada–so much so that his own caucus stabbed him in the back and pushed him out the door, that they lost con­fi­dence in him and got rid of him. And then what do they do? They replaced Brian Pallister with Canada's most unpopular premier now. You know, the entire time this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) has held that position, has led the way in Canada being the most unpopular premier.

      You know, I think Brian Pallister always used to talk about the most improved province. You don't hear that anymore. That also now sounds like a cruel joke if it wasn't Manitobans who were paying the price.

      You know, they had 14 MLAs quit, who basically said they want nothing to do with this gov­ern­ment; they want nothing to do with this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson). They don't see a future here. They don't see a better vision for Manitoba and they're making out for the door.

      We've had two Finance ministers who quit on this gov­ern­ment, who had no con­fi­dence in this gov­ern­ment and said, I would rather be unemployed than work for this gov­ern­ment. Well, now, I mean, the current Finance Minister, I think he's retired; he just hasn't told anybody. You know, and I have a lot of sympathy for him because that man feels like he's suffering. So, I wish somebody would, you know, reach out. So, you know–and so, you have these two Finance ministers who stood up to this Premier, and they're gone.

      So, Manitobans are hurting. I mean, I think all of us in this House can agree. But let's look where we came from. When this gov­ern­ment took office, we had the second fastest growing economy in Canada. It was the first fastest growing non-petrol economy in Canada. We have now fallen to seventh place. You know, that was after COVID. The COVID excuse doesn't wash anymore. We haven't recovered like other provinces have.

      We have the lowest weekly wages in western Canada. That means our citizens are poorer than all of our neighbours; they make less money per week than every single one of our neighbours. This gov­ern­ment talks about being competitive, except when it comes to wages. That's when we're not competitive; that's when they're okay with us being not competitive.

      What we–they want to be competitive about is rich-people tax rates. That's what they want to be competitive about. And that's what this BITSA and this budget is all about.

      We have the lowest social mobility in Canada. Shameful. If you are born poor in Manitoba, you will die poor in Manitoba. And that–you do not have a prospect of pulling your family out of poverty, and that is sad. A gov­ern­ment needs to give its citizens hope. A gov­ern­ment needs to provide a pathway for success, so that when you come to this province, you have a way forward.

      You know, my grandparents came as refugees from World War II, from Ukraine, from the fighting–they were in a concentration camp. They were required to do forced labour for the Nazis. And the camp got liberated, and they were able to make it to Manitoba. They had nothing with them. They had a–basically what would've been a shack on the outskirts of Winnipeg at the time, the Brooklands neighbour­hood–didn't even have running water.

      But we had programs in place where that–new­comers with no assets, no anything–my grandfather was able to start a busi­ness. And he had a suc­cess­ful busi­ness on Selkirk Avenue that catered to the eastern European com­mu­nity. And my mother was able to afford and go to uni­ver­sity and become a teacher. And that took our family out of the working class, and gave my brother and me some in­cred­ible op­por­tun­ities.

      And I wonder, now, if you were a new­comer coming to Manitoba under this gov­ern­ment, you don't have that path. You don't have that same op­por­tun­ity. You're not going to be able to succeed in Manitoba and you don't have any hope. And that's really sad, that we've come here, and this gov­ern­ment has been completely uninterested in all that.

      And, of course, the other shameful badge that Brian Pallister never talked about, you know, most improved province–we are not the most improved province when it comes to child poverty. In fact, we are the least improved province. We have the highest child poverty of any province in Canada. And it's getting worse.

      What does it say that we're seeing trench foot show up in people in downtown Winnipeg in 2023? These medieval diseases are showing up on our streets, and what does that say about the values of this gov­ern­ment and whether or not they support the dignity of all Manitobans? I don't want to live in a province where we write people off, where it's okay and normal for people to have these medieval diseases because of poverty. There's some­thing completely avoidable. But that's the vision in this budget; that's the vision in BITSA.

      We have the lowest number of small busi­nesses in western Canada. We have, what, two, three hundred thousand more people than Saskatchewan; Saskatchewan has more small busi­nesses than we do. And we saw in this budget that this gov­ern­ment has neglected small busi­ness. There was absolutely nothing in there for the–it wasn't even mentioned. They didn't even do a sort of drive-by, it wasn't even–there's nothing.

      And, of course, they're hurting. And you can walk 100 metres from this building and see all the closed storefronts in downtown Winnipeg. You can go to Brandon and go to their downtown and see all the closed storefronts.

      Is there any urgency? Is there any concern? Is there any action from this gov­ern­ment? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And that's where we've come.

      This gov­ern­ment has raised tuition 18 per cent in the last few years–18 per cent. And again, for many, especially new­comer families, that's the path out of poverty, that's the path into middle class, that's the path to a good life, and this gov­ern­ment ideologically opposed to creating barrier‑free edu­ca­tion for all Manitoba.

* (15:30)

      I've even heard members opposite say, well, if your family can't help you pay for uni­ver­sity, well, it's too bad for you. That kind of mean‑spiritedness, that type of callousness, that type of we're going to write people off because they don't go to our country club, that type of mentality belongs in another century. That is not Manitobans, that's not our values, that's not what we believe in.

      And that 18 per cent raise in tuition is a tax on students. This gov­ern­ment loves to raise taxes, just not  on their friends and political donors. But every­body else–they're very okay with that. So, you know, this gov­ern­ment is, you know, patting itself on the back, saying, oh, we lowered taxes–for, like, super-rich Manitobans, but, yes, well, don't look at the 18 per cent raise in tuition.

      That's a tax. You raised it year over year, and you keep doing it and you're not even embarrassed. What's up with that?

      This is the only province that has bungled $10-a-day child care. Everybody else seems to be able to get this right and we can't. That's a tax on families. That holds back people who want to work who can't. Child care is a driver of the economy. The better and more uni­ver­sal child care that you have, the more people that can enter into the work­place, the more people who are paying taxes. It actually pays for itself.

      Some­thing that pays for itself, yet this gov­ern­ment is ideologically opposed and was ragging the puck and slow-moving it, and then, in a chaotic fashion, slapped some­thing together that hasn't worked. And we look across the country; we're the only juris­dic­tion that seems to have fumble with this. And this was an easy win. This wasn't even prov­incial money; this is federal money.

      You know, one of the other by-products that we don't talk about is that when this gov­ern­ment defunds public edu­ca­tion. It's not like things just stop. It's not like the schools just say, okay, we're not going to have buses. They raise money. But now, instead of it coming from the gov­ern­ment, it comes from the parents, and you see an explosion of student fees.

      Things that parents used to take for granted, like field trips and busing and all that, all of a sudden they have to pay out of pocket. Well, you know, if you're a wealthy family, that may not be such a big deal, and everybody's going to do what they can for their children. But if you don't have a lot already, this is another tax increase for you and this is another way that this gov­ern­ment is increasing taxes on working and middle-class families here.

      And, of course, hydro bill–this gov­ern­ment loves to raise your hydro. Month after month, year after year, they keep raising hydro rates. And it was un­neces­sary. Hydro has been making record amounts of money, and this gov­ern­ment had to be shamed into acting. And if they had their way, they'd keep raising hydro.

      You know, and we're hearing stories–I think the federal gov­ern­ment just penalized Manitoba for privatized health care, that they assessed a huge three-hundred-and-fifty–sixty-thousand-dollar fine because this gov­ern­ment is allowing privatized health care to happen in Manitoba.

      So, we're losing money that way. And, of course, what's even more tragic is simple things like diag­nos­tic tests. People are now having to show up with their credit card. You know, how far we've fallen in seven years.

      And this gov­ern­ment says, well, you know–they really don't respect Manitobans. They don't respect that Manitobans can see this, and they think that, oh, we're going to give you a tax break and all will be forgiven, right?

      Well, this gov­ern­ment had an op­por­tun­ity. They had a $2-billion windfall–huge–found money, pot of gold. Instead of paying off the deficit, they racked it up; it's another 330-odd million dollars that didn't have to come. That resulted this year in $260 million in extra interest payments. That could hire a lot of teachers. That could hire a lot of nurses. That could reduce uni­ver­sity tuition. So much could be done with that $260 million. But this gov­ern­ment made the ideological choice that they would rather send $260 million of Manitobans' hard-earned money to bond holders in London, England than keep it here in Manitoba. And it's going to take gen­era­tions for Manitobans to pay this off. Their grandchildren are going to be paying off because of their reckless and irresponsible financial decisions.

      So, this gov­ern­ment has cut $2 billion in taxes to the point where we are going to have trouble paying for our health system. We are going to have trouble paying for an edu­ca­tion system as reduced and as cut as it was.

      And what this really means to parents–and I hear it in my Pembina Trails schools–there are routine classrooms where there's 32 kids. Can you imagine? As a former school trustee, that's unheard of. You're starting to talk Calgary numbers, where they're packing 50 kids in a classroom–another Conservative gov­ern­ment that doesn't value edu­ca­tion.

      So, we're at 32. We weren't at 32 seven years ago. We had small class sizes. Families deserve their children to have special attention, to have one-on-one time with the teacher, not just be some extra kid stuffed into a room. But that's where we come.

      Winnipeg School Division cut 130 teachers. Steinbach cut 27 teachers. Loss of full-day kinder­garten programs–programs that help vul­ner­able and marginalized students catch up and succeed. That's what's going.

      We have all the cuts to the munici­pality, seven years of them. They don't have any money. And what's interesting, you see how this sort of rolls downhill: city doesn't have any money, they don't pay lifeguards properly, all the sudden we don't have any lifeguards, all the sudden parents can't get swimming lessons for kids. Then what happens? Well, private entrepreneurs see an opening, so then they open up a private pool with private lessons that are three times what the families could actually pay if the gov­ern­ment actually had money to provide the public service.

      That's a huge tax increase on Manitobans. That's a huge tax increase on families and children and parents. These things are all connected. This gov­ern­ment ask–acts like they aren't.

      So, talking about fiscal mis­manage­ment, this gov­ern­ment received a windfall due to inflation, record highs in PST, income and cor­por­ate tax, received one-time money from child care or new federal money on health care and equalization payments, an extra billion dollars. The problem with all this stuff is that it's not going to be here next year. And they're treating it like we're going to get this extra billion dollars every year; we're not.

      The equalization payments, why they're so high is Alberta oil, because of the war, is through the roof. So, Alberta is flush with money, and in the equalization formula that means Manitoba gets a portion of that. Oil is going to drop next year and the year after that, and that means our equalization payments will drop and then all the sudden–and having an extra billion to give to rich PC donors, we will now have to scramble to find that money.

      And who's going to pay the price for that, who's going to pick up the tab? It's going to be working Manitobans. And that's not right. So, the tax changes this year alone is a loss of $1 billion. It's going to make it harder to fund public edu­ca­tion, make it harder to fund health care.

      So, after six years, this gov­ern­ment has made life unaffordable. Election's coming, they're–uh-oh, we're very unpopular, we got to do some­thing; Manitobans are disillusioned and angry and disappointed with them. And so, they're des­per­ate, so they turn to this budget and this BITSA bill.

      But every single budget has winners and losers. Every single budget tells you in very stark terms who the gov­ern­ment values and what they value, so let's look at this one.

      Big busi­ness are the winners in this budget. They're getting a reduction of the health and post-secondary tax levy. That's millions of dollars and, you know. I think when I started in 2019, it applied to companies with a payroll of $1.5 million or more. This gov­ern­ment's now expanded it year over year to $2,250,000. That's not small busi­ness. Those are large busi­nesses if you have a $2.25‑million payroll.

* (15:40)

      And the whole point of the levy is that you cannot run a busi­ness if your employees aren't healthy, you cannot run a busi­ness if your employees are not educated, that those invest­ments made by gov­ern­ment makes you money. In fairness, because of those invest­ments and because it's like a road or electricity and every­thing, you have to pay your fair share. It's part of the busi­ness cost, part of being in busi­ness and it allows more growth and more invest­ment in busi­nesses. It's a virtuous circle.

      This gov­ern­ment doesn't believe that. It actually wants to cut this con­tri­bu­tion to health and edu­ca­tion from our largest, most profitable cor­por­ations. And this doesn't do anything for small busi­nesses.

      It was interesting, when I was going to all the budget meetings and the busi­ness com­mu­nity in Steinbach and elsewhere would come out, they weren't saying, yes, we need tax cuts. None of them said that. In fact, never heard that once. What I did hear from all these big cor­por­ations was that we needed more invest­ments in health care and edu­ca­tion, right. You had these massive cor­por­ations that came to these budget meetings, talking like socialists, because they know that without those invest­ments, their busi­ness can't succeed.

      So, does this gov­ern­ment listen to big busi­ness? No. They don't listen to anybody. And so, this is a huge subsidy to big busi­ness that they didn't ask for, that they don't need, that won't have any beneficial effect on our economy, and it will be very detrimental to our ability to fund and run properly health care and our edu­ca­tion system.

      The second big winner here was people who have large inheritances and have trust funds. Now, who could that be? Who could, over there, have a trust fund that they live off of? Hmm, maybe $31 million in a trust fund? I mean, who could that be?

      So, one of the main changes in BITSA was to include trust funds to be allowed in this hall of tax reductions, and if it's not included in BITSA, the sort of trust fund babies of Manitoba would not get to share in a reduction in tax.

      These are the wealthiest families in Manitoba. How they even enter into this discussion, why this gov­ern­ment even thinks that they remotely need to have any sort of tax reduction. This is the same–we don't have an inheritance tax in Manitoba. We had a probate tax. It was absolutely hated by Brian Pallister. He got rid of it. That was the only thing for Manitoba that had any sort of control over inherited wealth.

      You know, Manitobans are fair-minded people. They believe that you should work for your pay­cheque and that it shouldn't just be handed to you. But this gov­ern­ment doesn't believe that. This gov­ern­ment supports inherited wealth with crazy tax changes like this trust fund. That's what this BITSA's about. It's about rewarding your friends; it's not about helping Manitobans.

      So then, let's talk about who the major winners are of these tax changes under BITSA. It's obviously high‑income Manitobans. Manitoba now, given these  tax changes, will have the lowest tax on high‑income earners compared to BC, compared to Quebec, compared to New Brunswick, compared to Nova Scotia, compared to Newfoundland. What a shameful list to be part of; that each and every one of those popu­la­tions have a fairer tax system in place than this gov­ern­ment.

      For a tax system to be fair, everybody has to contribute, and you have to contribute based on your ability to pay. If you are doing well by the rules of this economy and you are suc­cess­ful, you need to feed it back into the economy. But this gov­ern­ment doesn't believe that. This gov­ern­ment doesn't support tax fairness and is trying to rig our tax system, trying to rig our economy in favour of their wealthy friends and a handful of PC Party donors.

      This is an aggressive move. It's $500 million in lost revenue we'll never get back. And poor Manitobans are going to pay the price for several reasons. When you break down this tax, 50 per cent of Manitobans–500,000 tax filers, the lowest 50 per cent of tax filers, incomes between $7,900 and $43,000–that's 500,000 Manitobans–they're going to receive 24 per cent of this tax money.

      So, keep in mind, they're 50 per cent of the popu­la­tion, they're only getting 24 per cent of the money back. That amounts to about $120 million. So, there are–the poorest 50 per cent of our popu­la­tion is getting a quarter of the tax money back.

      Well, where does the tax money go? Well, the richest 10 per cent–those 100,000 Manitobans that make a $100,000 or more a year–they're going to get $132 million–just 10 per cent, just 100,000. So, 500,000 get $120 million split amongst them, 100,000 get $132 million split among them, and they get 26 per cent of the money. So, 10 per cent of the popu­la­tion gets 26 per cent of the money.

An Honourable Member: That's PC math.

Mr. Wasyliw: It is.

      So, let's look at your average person because the problem with average is, it means that half the people get less than the average and half get more than the average. It's $502 is the average. That's $40 a month. That $40 a month is how Manitobans are going to benefit from this. Richest people are going to get well over $100 month.

      Again, either way, like–you know what? People are struggling. Any money is good, any money is helpful. I respect that and I want to honour that, but let's put this into some context: $40 a month is not a game changer for Manitobans. And if you look at all the cuts that this gov­ern­ment has made, they're paying way more than $40 a month because of policy decisions this gov­ern­ment has made.

      I'll just use one. This gov­ern­ment used to fund Winnipeg Transit 50-50. Since they cut that seven years ago, transit fees have skyrocketed. It now costs a Winnipegger $107 a month for a monthly bus pass. So, you just gave them $40 in a tax benefit, they're still out $67 a month. How are they better off? If this gov­ern­ment took that same money and brought back the 50-50 transit split, you could lower their monthly transit pass so they would save way more than $40 a month.

      You know, the problem is, when you cut taxes for the wealthy and you give nothing to working people, it's working people that dis­propor­tion­ately use social services, dis­propor­tion­ately use edu­ca­tion and health-care system. And if you take away all the money that means you have to cut those things, so they lose twice. They don't get any money from this gov­ern­ment, and the social services they need to live gets cut.

      Then look at the carbon tax credit. Now this one, it's pegged for wealthy people to benefit–$175,000 a year, you qualify for this cheque. The average family income in Winnipeg is $98,000–it's almost double. And yes, everybody's affected by inflation, for sure, even wealthy people. But that $250 cheque is going to go a lot further to that single parent who makes $32,000 a year than it is going to make to one of my lawyer friends who makes $175,000-plus.

      You know, we certainly could target this money better to help people who actually need it. And the key about all this is borrowed money. We don't even have the money; we're borrowing it and we're going to have to pay it back in interest, and that $250, believe me, you're going to pay it back in interest from this gov­ern­ment. There is no such thing as free money. So you end up paying more.

      They've also made the rules really restrictive. In order to qualify for a cheque, you had to be 18 in 2022 and 2023. If you haven't, too bad for you. So, young people are not going to get a cheque. You have to file an income tax return in 2021 by January 2023.

      And this is critical. Many low-income people don't pay tax, so they have no incentive to file a tax return or they may be struggling and have other issues that makes it very hard for them to file a tax return. So, in fact, many low-income people will not get a cheque because they haven't got their taxes filed up to date.

      So, this is dis­propor­tion­ately going to affect the people that actually need the help the most. And if you're a renter and you move or if you don't have stable living con­di­tions, when you don't have a fixed address that they can actually find you to send a cheque, you won't get your cheque. And if you don't pick up your cheque by May 1st, 2023, you'll lose it. So, that means, you know, working people who are renters are going to dis­propor­tion­ately lose their cheque.

* (15:50)

      We saw that with the seniors' tax rebate, that there was tens of millions of dollars of people who didn't get their cheque and this gov­ern­ment could care less, because it wasn't about that; it was about public relations. It was about PR, it was not about a sincere effort to help Manitobans.

      I certainly could go on. I would love to. But what the issue is in Manitoba is we cannot trust this gov­ern­ment. This is a gov­ern­ment that is not in solidarity with the Manitoba people. And what this tax change–do, it makes our Manitoba system less fair; it makes it divisive and it upsets the fabric of Manitoba.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): I'm happy for the op­por­tun­ity to rise today to put some words on the record. Certainly, probably, to reiterate a lot of the im­por­tant points that have been made by my colleagues on this side of the House. Certainly, that–you know, as we talked about sub­stan­tially, and as I was able to discuss when I debated on the budget, I think it was earlier this week–that all of this is a pre-election budget. It's a budget by a gov­ern­ment des­per­ate to try and save them­selves in a province where the residents simply have no trust in the leadership and no trust in what this gov­ern­ment's doing.

      All Manitobans remember the cuts–the seven years of cuts–that they've ex­per­ienced, both under Brian Pallister and that have continued under this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson). And everybody gets it: it's an election year, so there's lots of money being thrown around. Doesn't necessarily mean it's going to the right places at the right time. You know, while there may be some good invest­ments, some things that we wish had been happening over the last seven years, we also know that a lot of the money is going just to help some of the most wealthy Manitobans get wealthier.

      And so, I guess what I want to focus on a bit today is the failure in health care. That seems to be the top of mind for most con­stit­uents that I speak to. You know, there's so many stories. I heard my colleague from Flin Flon talk, you know, quite compellingly about the issues with ambulance services and air-ambulance services and the, you know, wheels falling off the trans­por­tation and all the really kind of criminal things that have happened to people in the North under this gov­ern­ment. But you know, some of those things are happening here in this city as well.

      You know, one Wolseley con­stit­uent who travelled between the Grace Hospital and St. Boniface Hospital last February, she was sent from the Grace Hospital to St. Boniface Hospital because she–there was a suspected heart attack and they wanted to do some ad­di­tional tests. And when it was confirmed that, you know, and–oh, I should explain, when you make that trip in an ambulance–it's a pretty short trip, it's about 10 minutes in an ambulance–and when someone with heart con­di­tion makes that trip, they send along a respiratory therapist. In fact, there were two ad­di­tional medical pro­fes­sionals on–in the ambulance with the paramedics between Grace Hospital and St. Boniface Hospital.

      But after all the tests were done, after it was confirmed that, yes, not only was it a heart attack, it was quite a rare kind of heart attack that people aren't as familiar with, and that patient needed to be sent back to Grace Hospital–I'm not quite sure why that decision was made, but that was where the care had started–and an ambulance was called. But, because of the demand, because of this gov­ern­ment cutting and cutting and cutting, the availability simply wasn't there.

      And so, what happened–and unbeknownst to this patient–she couldn't have known that this was going to, you know, she didn't–she does–she's not a medical pro­fes­sional. But what happened is that she was loaded into a stretcher service and taken back. Instead of a 10-, 12-minute ride, it was about 35 minutes getting back to Grace Hospital. And she felt a little concerned because she had been being monitored so carefully through­out the day by the very attentive health-care pro­fes­sionals at both the Grace and the St. Boniface Hospital.

      But, you know, despite having had two specialists travelling with her on the one route, she was sent back on a route that took three times as long because, of course, they're stretcher service; they're not travelling with the siren going.

      They get back to Grace Hospital, and at that point, she knows some­thing's wrong because the nurse in charge was absolutely livid and horrified that she would've been transported on a stretcher service with no medical care. She was yelling at the drivers that this patient could have had another heart attack, could have died en route, that this–that it was a very serious breach of their respon­si­bilities and duties to have accepted the ride.

      The patient told me how bad she actually felt for the drivers. One of the young women on that transport, it was her first day of work; she was about 20 years old, and the other person had been there longer. But, you know, they just showed up at work and did what they were asked to do. And maybe they should've known better–I don't know because I'm not a medical pro­fes­sional, but I know the medical pro­fes­sional who was on site that day, the nurse who was in charge, was absolutely horrified that this happened.

      Now, fortunately, nothing happened. Fortunately, that Wolseley con­stit­uent did not die on that transport, because that would've been yet another death on the hands–more blood of the hands of this gov­ern­ment for bad, bad financial decisions.

      So, you know, that's just one example. There's so many. There's so many people waiting for their surgeries, waiting for knee re­place­ment, hip re­place­ment. And I know some people, you know, there's–we're paying tons and tons of money; this government is sending, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars to other countries, other provinces in order to provide some of the service. But it's simply not some­thing everyone can access; not everyone has the financial capacity or the health, even the–their overall health capacity to be able to go spend, you know, travel somewhere else and to have to go through a surgery and recover in a context without any family around or the other kinds of supports that they would need.

      So, you know, that's just a couple of examples that come to mind, things that have weighed on me sub­stan­tially as the MLA in Wolseley, you know, listening to people's stories. The nurse that I talked to last summer, who was a nurse at St. Boniface Hospital, she was pregnant, and she was about to go off on a maternity leave. So she wasn't as concerned for herself, but she was so concerned for her colleagues that somebody was going to make a mistake; somebody was going to have–lose their licence or somebody was going to die in the maternity ward where she worked because the care, the staffing was so poorly–like, they weren't able to staff up.

      She was giving me examples. You know, when women are in labour, there's supposed to be one-on-one care for the people giving birth, and she was giving me examples of where, you know, one nurse was having to run between two people in labour simply because the–they could not staff up the de­part­ment because of all the forced mandatory overtime, all the cuts that have been made within the health-care system.

      So, whenever I listen to the gov­ern­ment talk about their budget, whenever I listen to them talk about the money they're pouring into the health-care system now with this budget, all I can think about are these stories. All I can think about is the pain and the trauma and the losses of life–loss of life and potential loss of life on the hands of this gov­ern­ment and all the terrible, terrible decisions that they made with the health-care system over the past seven years.

* (16:00)

      I also want to say a little bit about, you know, rural EMS, diag­nos­tic and lab technicians, and social workers and respiratory therapists, and many of the other specialized pro­fes­sionals who've had their wages frozen for five years. You know, now we see this gov­ern­ment acting like they care about nurses and they care about doctors, even though they actually primarily ignored them. But, you know, they like to claim that they're doing some things for those pro­fes­sional groups, but they're also–they're ignoring a huge swath of medical pro­fes­sionals in this province. Five years.

      And, as I said last week, there's a handful of labour groups within those health pro­fes­sionals that have actually gone seven years, and that's entirely on this gov­ern­ment because of the forced health care–the changes to which union folks belonged to. So, some of those labour groups that were forced to amalgamate and change unions have actually been waiting since 2017 for a contract.

      You know, we've had a lot of talk in this House the last few days about cuts to services at Women's Health Clinic, but I want to remind this gov­ern­ment, there is a number of the health-care pro­fes­sionals at Women's Health Clinic who actually are a part of this, who haven't had a contract since 2017. Some of the health pro­fes­sionals working there have, but many others have not.

      So, this gov­ern­ment has failed Manitobans miserably and–you know, both those working in the health-care system and those needing health-care services. And I think–you know, I think we all know that Manitobans long ago stopped believing anything that this Health Minister has said or the previous failed Health minister. But, you know, I think that we need to look at the fact that, despite the sort of windfall of transfers and health dollars from the federal gov­ern­ment, that despite all of that, the PC gov­ern­ment cannot make up for seven years of cuts and the high cost of inflation. The current and former PC gov­ern­ments are the source of massive, damaging cuts to health care, and Manitobans just don't believe in the gov­ern­ment's ability or in­ten­tion to fix what they have broken.

      You know, I did have the chance to talk quite a bit about the health-care system during my previous debate, so I'm going to take a few moments to just raise my concerns about how much funding has been slashed in the edu­ca­tion system since 2016.

      We already know that this PC gov­ern­ment can't be trusted with our children's edu­ca­tion. You know, bill 64 was set on pretty much destroying the edu­ca­tion system as we know it. And we know that the gov­ern­ment did cave to pressure, because even a lot of their own family members and com­mu­nity just simply could not go down that path with the Conservative gov­ern­ment. They could not sit back and watch–even their, you know, people who might have been supporters of your party and funders just couldn't watch the public health–public edu­ca­tion system being destroyed by this gov­ern­ment. So, you know, we're all glad that the gov­ern­ment kind of caved under that pressure, but it doesn't mean we trust this gov­ern­ment with children's edu­ca­tion.

      The gov­ern­ment attempted to push disastrous policy after disastrous policy on Manitoba's edu­ca­tion system, and they were just cutting edu­ca­tion funding last year. We know that the Winnipeg School Division and Pembina Trails were forced to cut programs such as all-day kindergarten. Seven Oaks–as we keep reminding folks, they recently had to cut 28 educators, and Brandon has announced cutting 11. And the result continues to be fewer and fewer supports for children. We need a different approach focused on what kids need in the classroom.

      And the gov­ern­ment's own recent report on the connection between poverty and edu­ca­tion also shows the need for uni­ver­sal 'nutritial' program–nutrition program for children, but the gov­ern­ment has failed to deliver on this need its entire term in office, and Manitobans no longer trust them to get it done.

      You know, we have heard members on the other side of the House, over the last few years, talk about how it's parents' respon­si­bility to feed their children, you know, genuinely confused and wondering how children eat during the summer or on spring break. I've heard that in the House, but I also heard those kinds of things in con­ver­sa­tions with ministers outside of the House, not under­standing that there's a real deficit for kids when they come back after spring break. There's a learning deficit, a nutrition deficit for many kids when they return to school in the fall.

      And for all these criticisms we've heard from the other side of the House about, you know, not wanting gov­ern­ment to take any respon­si­bility for feeding children in schools, I was interested to see the Edu­ca­tion Minister, of all people, like, eating a bowl of soup, showing off on social media eating a bowl of soup, so that $1 from the bowl of soup he purchased could go to support school meal programs.

      So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am so grateful to com­mu­nity organi­zations that take on the work that the gov­ern­ment refuses to take on them­selves. I'm so grateful, so grateful for the volunteers and the individuals who step up and do this im­por­tant work. But it's unbelievable to me that an Edu­ca­tion Minister–actually has the power to make sure children are fed in schools–would go out of his way to post a picture of himself slurping a bowl of soup to donate his $1 towards these efforts.

      This respon­si­bility lies with the gov­ern­ment to feed the children and to ensure that kids are ready and able to learn, ready and able to go to school. And Canada is the only G7 nation that does not have a national school food program, and food insecurity is a critical issue in Manitoba. And that's especially true in the North, but it's also very true in many parts of the city and many parts of my con­stit­uency, as well as others.

      I know that–I'm sure that my colleague, who's ready to speak next, will have lots more to say about edu­ca­tion, but I'm just going to add another little part about the Poverty and Edu­ca­tion Task Force, which this gov­ern­ment esta­blished in 2021 and released their final report in February 2023. Their first recom­men­dation was to enhance food security and increase access to nutritious food for students living in poverty.

      They recom­mended reviewing in-school meal programs and part­ner­ships to improve access and ensure equitable dis­tri­bu­tion of funding and resources.

      Students identified free and healthy food at schools as the top way to support students living in poverty, and food insecurity was identified as the No. 1 barrier preventing students who live in poverty from attending and doing well in school.

      Students noted that breakfast and lunch programs help them feel safe, stable, cared for and incentivised to go to school, and that they must have no costs attached, as well as being equity-based and culturally relevant.

      Students shared ideas about food-related solutions for youth in poverty, and the top recom­men­dations included more free food programs at school, healthy food options at school, and learning more about nutrition at school and the need for more funding and gov­ern­ment support.

      Students made the following sug­ges­tions for free food pro­gram­ming in schools: to increase the awareness of availability, and be available for after school hours and during holidays, and have fewer rules around access, for the food to be healthy and to teach about food sovereignty.  

      So, with those words, I just want to remind this gov­ern­ment there's some things that are missing; very serious things missing from their budget, very serious things missing from BITSA that could make a genuine difference in the lives of Manitobans.

      That $37 reduction in people's taxes isn't the difference that Manitobans are looking for; not the majority of Manitobans, not the Manitobans–the working people of Manitoba, the people who get up every day and just try to, you know, make life work. Those people are looking for some­thing more from this gov­ern­ment, and not just being thrown a bunch of promises after seven years of failures and seven years of unfulfilled promises.

Mr. Dennis Smook, Acting Speaker, in the Chair

      So, I'm grateful to be a Manitoban and to work to represent so many Manitobans, so many folks from Wolseley who see through this ruse and are really ready for a sig­ni­fi­cant change in this province.

      So, with those words, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I will take my seat and I give some of my colleagues the chance to put their words on the record.

* (16:10)

Mr. Nello Altomare (Transcona): It's always an honour to get up and–in the House–to put a few words on the record regarding BITSA and regarding how it's going to impact the people in my 'constit.'

      But first, before I get into debate, I just want to thank the members for St. James (Mr. Sala), for St. Vital (Mr. Moses), for Flin Flon (MLA Lindsey), the member for Fort Garry (Mr. Wasyliw), the member for Wolseley (Ms. Naylor) for putting on im­por­tant words that really reflect, Deputy Speaker, the feelings and the impacts and the real-life experiences of their con­stit­uents. Because it's im­por­tant that, when we do come into this House, that we do reflect what's being told to us, what's being forwarded to us by the people that we represent.

      It's some­thing that's very im­por­tant and it's some­thing that–you know, I learned early on in my life, Deputy Speaker. I remember being–as a seven-year-old in 1970–and I know that's going to age me, but–especially with one of the pages here who's smiling right now–but that's the first time I was able to walk into this place and really ex­per­ience the grandeur of the Manitoba Legislature.

      What does that grandeur tell you? Well, it tells you, Deputy Speaker, that really im­por­tant things happen in this place. And that has never left me. It's never left me because we do–when we arrive here, debate really im­por­tant topics, not the least of which is a budget imple­men­ta­tion and tax statutes act, some­thing that allows gov­ern­ment to move forward with its agenda.

      And we've seen clearly what this government's agenda is. It's certainly not one that is reflective of many of the con­stit­uents that we represent here on this side of the House. I will tell you that we've been–many of our con­stit­uents have been dis­propor­tion­ately affected by a lot of the decisions that have been made by this gov­ern­ment this past seven years.

      And what's really interesting right now, Deputy Speaker, is that, as we debate this bill, we have a gov­ern­ment that has received record reve­nues from the three things they despise the most: Manitoba Hydro, the federal gov­ern­ment and income taxes, the feds, through increased equalization and transfer payments.

      Now, when we look at that, what is the purpose of the equalization payment? Manitoba, Deputy Speaker, has the–you know, the title of being a have-not province. Canada, being the country that it is, takes its income tax dollars and redistributes it to areas that require equalization so that citizens in this province are able to have the same services available to them that other Canadian citizens ex­per­ience and have at their disposal in their provinces.

      When we're debating a BITSA bill, what we're debating is how we're going to use those equalization dollars. It's a really im­por­tant respon­si­bility. And earlier today, when we were debating the private member's reso­lu­tion this morning, we talked about–or, I talked about some­thing–the notion of steward­ship–the notion of stewardship over the dollars that are transferred to Manitoba for use in equalization and for use in provi­ding necessary gov­ern­ment services to Manitobans so that they can ex­per­ience what another Canadian in another province experiences when they go to access things like public schools, public health care, public infra­structure, public roads, public buildings, things that are funded for–as the member for Flin Flon stated–the public good.

      Those dollars, Deputy Speaker, are meant to ensure that our citizens, our con­stit­uents, are receiving services that are com­men­sur­ate with other Canadians' reception of those same services. And that's a respon­si­bility, and that talks about stewardship. And that's some­thing that I personally learned, also, in my 'constit,' working for and volunteering my time for my local church, Transcona Memorial United Church, being part of the stewardship com­mit­tee.

      And in that, I learned that stewardship is an im­por­tant respon­si­bility. BITSA represents that. So what do we have? We have now, Deputy Speaker, a prov­incial gov­ern­ment with record reve­nues received from things that they don't 'particurlarly' like, and are now being redistributed in ways that are dis­propor­tion­ately uneven. Well, let's talk about some of those.

      We talk about affordability in this province. Deputy Speaker, if it was all about making it–life more affordable here, we would focus on people in this province that need to be lifted out of poverty and shown a path. I remember growing up–my parents aren't from this country, but they came here because of the op­por­tun­ity, because of the path that they saw for their children, and I can say that my parents–and many of the parents, like, on all sides of this House–wanted that path for their children so that they can be suc­cess­ful in life, have a stable income and be able to contribute to their com­mu­nities.

      If it were really about affordability, Deputy Speaker, we would've focused most of these dollars on those that need it the most. I can tell you, a $37  transfer to the lowest income is insulting. It certainly won't meet the needs of that family. Instead, what we needed to do is say that we're going to transfer our–a larger amount of these equalization payments to the families that really needed it.

      So, we had some leadership in the past in this province regarding programs that supported afford­ability. We also have, in our past in Manitoba, a gov­ern­ment that was truly visionary–or, many gov­ern­ments that were truly visionary, Deputy Speaker. Because at different points in the history of this province, we had some very serious inflection points. Points that demanded that we needed to act on issues that were impacting Manitobans. Historians in this Chamber will know that in the '50s and '60s, Manitoba was ex­per­iencing un­pre­cedented flooding–Winnipeggers spe­cific­ally, and people in southern Manitoba. So, what was built?

      A Progressive Conservative gov­ern­ment, actually, had the vision to understand that some­thing needed to be done. So, what was happening is that a PC premier by the name of Duff Roblin, along with all members in this House, built the Winnipeg floodway. Why? That was an inflection point, Deputy Speaker. Because citizens in this province, Winnipeggers spe­cific­ally–even people in Transcona–were ex­per­iencing floods. So, what they did is they took the dollars that were transferred, and through their BITSA bill at the time, devoted sig­ni­fi­cant amounts of funds that came from the feds to this very im­por­tant infra­structure project.

* (16:20)

      Truly visionary, Deputy Speaker. I'll tell you another way, in the 1970s, under an NDP gov­ern­ment, under a Schreyer NDP gov­ern­ment, there was an experiment–a program called Mincome Manitoba. I've spoken about Mincome Manitoba before in this House. I recall that program because I was sitting at the kitchen table with my dad, my dad who asked me to fill out the forms. I filled them out as a kid in–as a 10-year-old. But truly visionary because what was really visionary about that program–[interjection] Well, it did happen in Dauphin, also in Transcona, also there because there was an experiment there, that's for sure.

      But I'll tell you what was visionary about that, is that it gave my family–because my dad was the only one that worked; my mom was at home, three kids–it made it more affordable and it created a path for him to provide for his family, again, at an inflection point in the 1970s. And I think the member from Dauphin and I are probably pretty close in age, but understands that at that time inflation was really hammering Canadians.

      Now, I don't have much of a memory–we were still kind of young–when it comes to that point. But a visionary gov­ern­ment that took these dollars, and through their BITSA bill, transferred the wealth to the people that really needed it the most. That's what BITSA demands of us, Deputy Speaker. It demands that we do things with our dollars that impact people the most, where they need it the most.

      But what do we have? We have, in this gov­ern­ment, right now, doubling down on a property tax rebate, the education property tax rebate, without a plan for how to pay for public edu­ca­tion. And who does that benefit the most, Deputy Speaker? Doesn't benefit the person that owns that home down on Spence Street that might get a rebate of a hundred bucks. But it certainly does benefit that person that lives in suburbia and gets hundreds of dollars in rebate when we really don't need it.

      If it was truly about redistributing and fairness, what this gov­ern­ment would've done is would've said this–and here is just a sample, Deputy Speaker, of what could've been done through BITSA. They would have said that a rebate can just go to resi­den­tial homeowners, cap it at a certain amount; anyone that's $300,000 or less in assessed value isn't going to pay tax at all on their edu­ca­tion. Talk about maybe being visionary and maybe showing some leadership. No, didn't even think about that.

      Rural Manitoba, properties at $200,000 or less wouldn't pay edu­ca­tion tax. But those that live in homes that have an assessed value of 350 or more, they'll continue to pay their share because that, to me, for most Manitobans, we feel that that's fair; that would make sense, because what do we need, is fully funded public services. Instead, what we're witnessing here with BITSA is such an inefficient use of tax dollars that it almost insults the intelligence of many fair-minded Manitobans. Almost; it does, Deputy Speaker, not almost; this is–and it does insult the intelligence, because Manitobans know that public services need to be funded and need to be funded adequately, predictably, so that the service is there when Manitobans need it.

      I can tell–I mean, many of my colleagues have talked about their ex­per­ience and their families and their con­stit­uents' ex­per­ience with the health-care system. Again, when I started, I talked about us being at an inflection point, coming out of a pandemic. This inflection point required some true leadership.

      Instead, what do we have? We have people leaving the health-care system because nobody wants to work for this gov­ern­ment anymore. They've been disrespected for so long that their willingness to work for them is gone. So, what do they do? Because, through sheer exhaustion, Deputy Speaker–exhaus­tion with how they've been treated–they're trying to look after their own mental health and life-work balance that with–through this BITSA bill, they're not seeing a pathway, like I described earlier. And people need to see a path.

      People here in this province are fair-minded and understand that these dis­propor­tion­ate tax breaks that are going to people that don't really require them are harming our public services, so that when that child, that grandchild, goes to school, that they have a school ex­per­ience that is indicative of their need, so that child with ad­di­tional needs gets the support they need from the moment they step into that school, into that classroom, with that teacher.

      And so here we are, like I said earlier, at an inflection point where, with this BITSA bill, was a real op­por­tun­ity for this gov­ern­ment to show that they had changed their stripes. But no; that's not what we got, Deputy Speaker. We get many of the same policies and programs that benefit dis­propor­tion­ately people that don't require the assist­ance. It's as simple as that–at the expense of cherished public services.

      Now, I talked about earlier about stewardship, and I will say that, when I talk about stewardship, we're given the respon­si­bility, as MLAs in this House, to ensure that we properly manage the public services that we've been told our con­stit­uents need to have consistently available. That's a serious, serious respon­si­bility, and right now, we see a Conservative gov­ern­ment's inter­pre­ta­tion of that.

      So, what do we see? We see seven years of austerity that have created real deficits in our health-care system that we're going to need years to come out of, Deputy Speaker. When I talked about earlier about an inflection point. Well, if there ever was one for the health-care system, it's right now.

      But, unfortunately, Deputy Speaker, we're at a point now where our cherished health-care workers are leaving the province because other provinces are provi­ding thousands of dollars in bonus money so that they leave–young people that were trained right here in this province. I was talking to a phlebotomist yesterday that immigrated from the Philippines, told me they're leaving in a month because they have a better offer to work in Regina.

      So, how do we get to a point where we keep people here in Manitoba? We have to create an ex­per­ience here that will ensure that Manitobans receive the public services that they need and are actually deserving of. So, Deputy Speaker, when we talk about that–or, when I–when we talk about these sacred trusts that we're given as MLAs, it's one that requires a lot of thought, one that requires a lot of research, con­sul­ta­tion, et cetera.

      But when we talk about con­sul­ta­tion, we also have to consult with people that are out of our own universes, that aren't necessarily ex­per­iencing life the way we do. As MLAs, we have a privileged existence, and we have to actually do the work of outreach–real outreach, Deputy Speaker–as members, so that we can put together a BITSA bill that really reflects the needs of all Manitobans.

* (16:30)

      This is some­thing that, when I began debate, that is very im­por­tant that we do, because I viewed–I've used two im­por­tant terms here this afternoon in debate: inflection–[interjection]–oh, at the mic, sorry. [interjection] Yes, I–sorry. Inflection and steward­ship, two very im­por­tant terms.

      Inflection, meaning we are at a point in history, Deputy Speaker, that other gov­ern­ments were at in different decades. And right now, in 2023, this inflection point demanded a BITSA bill that was truly visionary. One that didn't insult the intelligence of Manitobans. One that was reflective of the needs of people that require assist­ance.

      We have to finally deal with the scourge of child poverty, Deputy Speaker. We had many, many reports created–we've just had the Poverty and Edu­ca­tion Task Force release its report. Unfor­tunately, released on a Friday afternoon. You know, what a missed op­por­tun­ity there.

      There are a–really caring people on that task force that put in a lot of work. And the minister knows this, I know he knows–that talked about and made the recom­men­dations for nutrition programs in schools, increased access to mental health supports, the op­por­tun­ity to talk to somebody when they needed to.

      This would've been a perfect op­por­tun­ity to do a press conference on a Tuesday morning saying that in BITSA, we're going to take care of that, because that's what the edu­ca­tion task force came through with its recom­men­dations. Instead, no. We have it released on a Friday afternoon, diminishing its impact, instead of seeing a gov­ern­ment that took that seriously and brought that forward on a day when we could've had some real debate in the House on how to get those recom­men­dations brought through and included in a BITSA bill.

      So, when we say that this is a missed op­por­tun­ity, it truly is a missed op­por­tun­ity, Deputy Speaker. Because right now–and I recall this visit that we had at the Lakeshore School Division. Happened about three weeks ago; we were invited by the leadership team there–Donald Nikkel, Darlene Willets, Board Chair Donny Thorkelson–really proud of their school division. Proud because they're doing their best to provide services that their children and com­mu­nities require.

      And all they need is a real partner in the Province, a real partner that would've come to the table at this im­por­tant inflection time. Because these are the facts when it comes to the diminishing percentage of prov­incial support for public ed: the fact is, it's been diminishing and it's been more and more difficult for school divisions like Lakeshore to provide the supports that their students and com­mu­nities need.

      Deputy Speaker, do you know that in Lakeshore School Division, they don't have any clinical support, that they have to outsource it? Do you know that in Lakeshore School Division, the principal gets there, at Ashern central high–Ashern Central School–at 6:30 in the morning to bake banana bread and make muffins for her kids when they arrive after an hour on the bus?

An Honourable Member: What a hero.

Mr. Altomare: Absolutely. Absolutely.

      You know, when I sat down with the board–myself and my leader–we were there listening to what their needs were. And what they really needed, Deputy Speaker, is that–what they said to us is that they needed a real partner in the Province, one that would provide the necessary support so that their com­mu­nities can thrive, so that they can remain viable.

      I'll tell you, going through Ashern, going through Eriksdale–for a city kid–like, I'm from the northeast of Winnipeg, considered hicksville by many in the city here, right? I certainly had a connection to those people up in the Interlake, because I–we know what it's like in Transcona to be, you know, kind of left out.

      But I'll tell you, the pride that they had in their schools and their com­mu­nities was like nothing before because right now, what's provi­ding–what's–what are they really proud of? They're proud of their school. They're proud of the people that work in that school. And they know that they're doing their very best to–the–of–with the diminishing human resources that they have to provide for their kids and com­mu­nities.

      And as I wrap up my comments this afternoon, Deputy Speaker, I just want to talk about how BITSA missed an op­por­tun­ity to really have a positive impact on the people of northeast Winnipeg. I will include, you know, the con­stit­uents of Concordia, the con­stit­uents of Elmwood, the con­stit­uents of Radisson, Rossmere, Kildonan-River East that redid the–that needed a truly visionary docu­ment.

      You know, there was a time, Deputy Speaker, as little as three years ago, you can go visit a doctor in Transcona at Transcona Medical on the corner of Regent and Brewster, get your blood requisition, go right downstairs and get your blood work done lickety-split. Can't do that anymore. Instead, that senior or that mom or that single parent now has to make their way down to Regent and Lag. If you're older and have mobility issues, you can't get there unless you phone your son or daughter.

      And then they have to get them­selves down there after they book an ap­point­ment, just like the member from Radisson said, on a computer. Oh, look at this, I  can do it easily. It's not that easy for a person that doesn't have access to tech­no­lo­gy, that has to then find another way. So what do they do? They go sit there at Dynacare for an hour, hour and a half, before they can get their blood drawn.

      Here was an op­por­tun­ity through BITSA where you can get those things reinstated so that people don't have to wait anymore. And it's not people like me–I  can get myself there–not people like everybody in this Chamber; it's the everyday working folks that needed support from this gov­ern­ment. Instead, they get this bill here that dis­propor­tion­ately favours those that are in upper-income brackets. Like, I can't understand that, Deputy Speaker.

      And when I began my comments, I began my comments by saying that we as members here in this House have a respon­si­bility for stewardship over these dollars that we receive from the federal gov­ern­ment, from income tax, from record revenue for Manitoba Hydro, so you ensure that everybody in this province has an op­por­tun­ity and sees a pathway.

      I was lucky enough, like many of us in here, we saw a path to a good life. We need, Deputy Speaker, to provide that path for each and every Manitoban so that when that child is sitting in that class like I was as a seven-year-old, I saw a path. Our job is to ensure that every kid, every Manitoban, sees that they have a path.

      This BITSA bill doesn't show any pathway for that child that's living in poverty to get out of poverty. It doesn't have anything for that single mom that wants to go back to school through an adult ed program that doesn't have a wait-list that's 50 deep. Again, missed op­por­tun­ities, Deputy Speaker.

      These are im­por­tant points that we have to make when we're here, and we have to remember that we are the creators of these pathways because we're given the awesome respon­si­bility to ensure that we take these hard-earned tax dollars and distribute them in a way, Deputy Speaker, that allows people to lift them­selves up, to be part of some­thing and contribute to some­thing that's larger than them­selves.

      So, as I wrap up my remarks, I remain dis­appointed with the contents of this BITSA bill. My con­stit­uents remain disappointed with the contents of this BITSA bill. And hopefully, this is the last time that we're sitting here debating a PC BITSA bill.

      Thank you, Deputy Speaker.

* (16:40)

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, I  want to say a few words about this bill. This bill, which is part of the budget imple­men­ta­tion. It is a bill which shows a little bit about what the PC gov­ern­ment is really about.

      One of the interesting things about this budget is that the increase in the net debt of the Province is rather large; $1.642‑billion increase in the debt of the Province as a result of this budget. That compares to most years when it's significantly lower, except when you have a pandemic. Well, we had a lot of extra expenses in the 2020‑21 year and we had a big increase in the net debt. Except when there was a major flood, as there was in 2011 and 2014, there were big increases in the net debt.

      But there's no parti­cular reason to have an increase in the net debt this year unless, of course, the gov­ern­ment wants to go out and borrow money to try to buy votes to try to convince this–people of Manitoba that in–on the eve of an election, they will spend money.

      But not so many people realize that a lot of what is being spent is actually borrowed money–$1.642‑billion increase in the net debt. That's not some­thing that one normally associates with the PC gov­ern­ment, but it's what's in this budget. It's right in there in the budget docu­ments. And the historic nature of this increase in the net debt will not go unnoticed, will not go unremarked. And I bring it up again, Mr. Speaker, today.

      Second thing I want to mention is the gov­ern­ment is increasing the basic personal exemption and they're sort of like the little boy who said, what a good boy am I, for increasing the basic personal exemption. What is forgotten in this is that the–there are 30 to 40 per cent of people who don't earn enough money in Manitoba to actually reach the existing basic personal exemption.

      Now, increasing the basic personal exemption in some ways may be a good thing. But in other ways, it should have been in–it should have been matched by measures which would have helped those who are too low in their income to benefit from this. This gov­ern­ment has forgotten about the 30 to 40 per cent of people whose income was too low to pay taxes before this change. They will have no benefit.

      I asked the Finance Minister how many people would, in Manitoba, not currently pay income tax because their income is low. And, sadly, the Finance Minister couldn't answer the question, which is too bad and it really shows that he is not focusing at all on those who have low incomes and who didn't even meet the base income that would have meant that they would be paying taxes last year.

      So, there is a problem here. There is a problem here, in that this benefits 70 per cent of Manitobans, but it has no benefit for 30 per cent, maybe as high as 40 per cent, because the minister wouldn't give me an answer to the question I asked.

      So, the gov­ern­ment has had a very tiny increase in Em­ploy­ment and Income Assist­ance, but it doesn't match in any way at all the increase that's been given to people who have property and who have high incomes as a result of the changes to the property tax and the rebates and as a result of the changes to the personal basic income tax exemption.

      So, I don't argue with the benefits from having an increase in the personal tax exemption, but I argue against the fact that this gov­ern­ment has very deliberately omitted giving any parallel help to those who were not paying taxes because their income was so low. I have been meeting and talking with and helping people who are on low incomes, and I can tell you that they are feeling this in a major way, that they are the ones who are most affected by the increase in inflation and the increase in food prices. They're saying, I don't have enough money for food.

      They are being affected by the fact that the housing costs are increasing and they don't have enough money to pay the housing because there was no parallel help for them.

      And so, the sad part about this budget is the fact that it didn't help those who are most in need, those who weren't paying income tax last year because their income was so low. They will have no benefit at all from the increase in the personal income tax exemption, and they should have been remembered. They should have been helped because they are, in fact, the most needy people in the whole province.

      It is interesting–as the gov­ern­ment talks about its poverty strategy; and its poverty strategy, which is based, really, on talking about people who are not on the very low incomes, but people who are often on medium incomes. The school tax rebate, the change in the personal–basic personal exemption amount, won't help those who are on the lowest 30 to 40 per cent of income. So they are not helping those who need it the most.

      The gov­ern­ment has talked, in its poverty strategy, about the need to end homelessness. But we've looked at the gov­ern­ment's strategy, and right in the headline on the press release is the fact that this is targeted for those who are chronically homeless.

      When the gov­ern­ment waits for–'til somebody has been homeless for six months, then you lose an op­por­tun­ity to help people right away; and we know that the longer somebody is homeless, the more difficult it is to help them end their space–their time being homeless.

* (16:50)

      So, we should be, as the Liberal homeless plan that does that, looking at housing people right away. That's being done in juris­dic­tions like Medicine Hat. But ending homelessness among people who are chronically homeless, you know, may be good, but it neglects the fact that there's a lot of people who are homeless for shorter periods than six months and this gov­ern­ment is not really concerned about them.

      I want to talk a little bit about this gov­ern­ment's general approach. We can see it in spades in this budget. That is an approach which is not to plan ahead, but to wait until there's a crisis and then see what they can do. It would be far better if this gov­ern­ment had had the wisdom to plan ahead, if they had, in 2016, had a real plan for addressing many of the major issues we have today.

      If, for example, they had realized, in 2016, that there was a coming shortage of nurses, of health pro­fes­sionals of many different varieties, then measures could have been taken then much more easily and with less overall cost than waiting 'til we have a crisis with more than 400 doctors short, with many nurses short, with emergency rooms not functioning adequately and people overstressed and overworked, because this gov­ern­ment had not thought ahead.

      Now, the gov­ern­ment's excuse, of course, is that there was a COVID pandemic and, oh, of course, they couldn't do anything during a pandemic. Well, you only have to look at what's happening right now in Ukraine, which has had a crisis, a war, an invasion. It didn't take them very long in that crisis to work very hard to be training people. They didn't wait for the crisis to be over, as this gov­ern­ment is doing, to start training personnel.

      There was–during the COVID pandemic, in fact–quite a number of people who were at home because they weren't able to work and didn't have provisions that they would be working online. And there were many of those, I suggest, if the gov­ern­ment had been thinking ahead, who would have been very keen to be in training programs for health pro­fes­sionals, as an example.

      We're short of clerks to make sure that people can get an ap­point­ment in a number of areas in the health-care system. We could have been training clerks during the pandemic. There was an in­cred­ible op­por­tun­ity because there was a lot of people who were sitting and waiting and not being able to partici­pate because the busi­ness–retail busi­ness or whatever–had been closed down temporarily.

      It was an in­cred­ible op­por­tun­ity to launch training programs and to get people ready and to be prepared for where we are now. But instead, that kind of pre­par­ation, that kind of planning ahead, was certainly not part of what this gov­ern­ment was about.

      They had an op­por­tun­ity. They've had many op­por­tun­ities, but they have squandered those op­por­tun­ities time and time and time again. And so we are where we are now, with a major crisis in health care, with a shortage of pro­fes­sionals, with people burned out and fed up with what's happening here and leaving to go elsewhere because they just don't feel that this is a good place to be. It's not a comfortable situation to be in. It is a crisis.

      We've been talking a number of days now about the situation at Grace Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. Oh, the stories that I get day by day from people who have tried to get health care, who have waited a long time, who have not been able to get the health care that they need. And it's a big problem.

      And it's a big problem because this gov­ern­ment wasn't thinking and planning ahead. This gov­ern­ment was just letting things go, and all of a sudden there's a crisis. And, oh, then we're going to put some money out and we're going to start training people, but it's going to take a number of years, in some instances, to have people ready.

      If we'd started this in a good way, in 2016, if we had pushed this hard when we had the COVID pandemic–instead of just focusing so much on the pandemic and forgetting that we need to have a whole system which is operating, that you're likely to be short of personnel if you don't start training programs as soon as a crisis like the pandemic hits–there could've been so much more done. It's really sad that those op­por­tun­ities were missed.

      Now, the gov­ern­ment, also in the area of home care–and we know that there is a big need for home care–we have known this for many years. We have known for many years that having home care operating well can save dollars with fewer people going to emergency rooms, fewer people needing to go to hospital and more people being more com­fortable being looked after for their health care at home.

      There are even people in other juris­dic­tions looking at what they call Hospital at Home, where you're able to do more and more health procedures at home. These are the sorts of things that we should've been engaged in.

      In fact, the federal gov­ern­ment provided a very sub­stan­tial amount of money for this gov­ern­ment to invest in home care so that the gov­ern­ment would be prepared for things like the COVID pandemic. And, instead, from what we can see in terms of the budget, there wasn't that increase in the home care budget that you would expected if those monies from the federal gov­ern­ment has actually been used. And, furthermore, that instead of pushing and enhancing home care during the pandemic, as was really needed so we could keep people at home, so we didn't have to have people going into personal-care homes where they were very high–at risk of major health problems, as we know now.

      And so, what the gov­ern­ment did, what–they scavenged workers from home care. They seconded workers from home care so that they would be working in other areas during the COVID pandemic. Instead of beefing up home care, as was needed, this gov­ern­ment balkanized home care. They destroyed much of what was home care.

      I have a friend whose father was having home care before the pandemic. And within a very short time of the pandemic, his home care was withdrawn and he had to end up in a personal-care home. Well, fortunately, he was not one who succumbed from COVID, but he was definitely put at higher risk and his care was at higher cost.

      And, certainly, if we had had gov­ern­ment which was thinking ahead about the importance of investing in home care, had been prepared to work quickly when it got into office to say, yes, home care is im­por­tant, we better do some­thing about it because the NDP haven't left it in as good shape as we want. But instead of doing that, they said, oh, we're not really not paying much attention to home care, so it deteriorated even further.

      So, this was the sort of thing which we've seen day after day and week after week and month after month and year after–

The Acting Speaker (Dennis Smook): When this matter is again before the House, the hon­our­able member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard) will have 10 minutes remaining in his speech.

      The hour being 5 p.m., the House is adjourned and stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. on Monday.





Thursday, March 16, 2023


Vol. 30b


Introduction of Bills

Bill 229–The Farmers' Markets Week Act (Commemoration of Days, Weeks and Months Act Amended)

Wishart 869

Bill 230–The Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Amendment Act

Isleifson  869

Bill 219–The Consumer Protection Amendment and Farm Machinery and Equipment Amendment Act (Right to Repair– Vehicles and Other Equipment)

Maloway  869

Tabling of Reports

Klein  869

Ministerial Statements

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Squires 870

Fontaine  870

Lamont 871

Members' Statements

Amy Tung

Khan  871

Government Record on Climate Change

Naylor 872

Collège Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens

Squires 872

Seven Oaks School Division

Sandhu  873

Ang Bahay Connection

Lamoureux  873

Oral Questions

City of Winnipeg Real Estate Dealings

Kinew   874

Stefanson  874

Safe Consumption Site

Kinew   875

Stefanson  875

Safe Consumption Site

Asagwara  876

Morley-Lecomte  876

Women's Health Clinic

Fontaine  877

Gordon  877

Orange Shirt Day Statutory Holiday Act

Bushie  878

Clarke  878

Goertzen  878

Silica Sand Mine Extraction Project

Wasyliw   879

Teitsma  879

Klein  879

Cross Lake First Nation Community Health Centre

Lamont 880

Gordon  880

Representatives from Cross Lake First Nation

Lamont 880

Gordon  881

Cross Lake First Nation Community Health Centre

Gerrard  881

Piwniuk  881

Operating Funding for Velma's House

Lagassé  881

Squires 881

Expansion of Broadband Services

Sala  882

Teitsma  882

Cullen  882


South Perimeter Highway Noise Barrier

Altomare  883

Provincial Road 224

Lathlin  883

Right to Repair

Maloway  883

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

Marcelino  884

Sala  884

Community Living disABILITY Services

Lamoureux  885

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

Sandhu  885




Debate on Second Readings

Bill 14–The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2023

Lindsey  886

Wasyliw   890

Naylor 895

Altomare  899

Gerrard  903