Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

Madam Speaker: Good afternoon, everybody. Please be seated.


Madam Speaker: Intro­duction of bills? Com­mit­tee reports?

Tabling of Reports

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Government House Leader): I am just tabling for the infor­ma­tion of the House the revised Estimates order.

Madam Speaker: And the hon­our­able Minister of Justice.

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Also tabling for the House the Manitoba Court of Appeal Annual Report for the year ending 2020‑2021.

Madam Speaker: And I am pleased to table the Annual Report of the Legis­lative Assembly Manage­ment Com­mis­sion for the year ending March 31st, 2023. Copies of the report have been placed on members' desks.

Ministerial Statements

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

      Would the honourable minister please proceed with his statement.

Sikh Heritage Month

Hon. Obby Khan (Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage): Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize and celebrate Sikh history month in Manitoba, which is observed annually in the month of April.

      Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh. [The Khalsa belongs to God, Victory belongs to God.]

      Throughout our province's rich history, the Sikh community has continually demonstrated leadership across every sector, whether it be in science, business, trade or the arts. Their efforts have, in return, enriched Manitoba's diversity, innovation and growth, shaping our provincial identity along the way.

      The deep roots of the Sikh community in our province date back over a century. Among some of the  intrepid Sikh pioneers from Manitoba were John Baboo and John Singh. During world war when–one, they were two of 10 Sikh men that were permitted to join the Canadian Army. They did so, despite the fact that Sikhs were denied the possibility of Canadian citizenship and the right to vote until 1947.

Their commitment to the Sikh principles of justice and equality for all people inspired them to enlist, and Manitobans are grateful for their contributions every single day.

      For these–from these humble roots, generations of Sikhs have lived in Manitoba and contributed to our communities in many ways. With over 35,000 Manitoba residents that identify as Sikh, the community continues to grow and enrich Manitoba every day.

      Stewardship and guidance are the core principles of Sikhism. Through long‑standing organizations such as the Sikh Society of Manitoba, home to our province's first gurdwara and newer organizations such as the Sikh Heritage Manitoba, the community has worked hard to provide a welcoming place for Sikh newcomers while sharing Sikh culture with all Manitoba residents.

      A great example of this was the Ardaas prayer that is held in the Legislature at the start of April for the last five years, an incentive brought forward by Sikh Heritage Manitoba, which occurred this past Saturday.

      Whether you are in a small town or a big city, the impact of Manitoba's Sikh community is evident through their social, economic and civic achieve­ments. These contributions reflect the core values of selflessness–service, known as seva. This dedication to com­mu­nity building aligns with the core value that unites all Manitobans.

      Madam Speaker, as we celebrate Sikh history month, Manitobans will have the opportunity to learn about Sikh community and honour their important place in our provincial identity. I extend my warmest regards to the Sikh community here today and throughout Manitoba, and encourage all Manitobans to take part in the many activities planned for this month, Sikh Heritage Month.

      Madam Speaker, I ask that we all now stand and recog­nize the great showing of support for the Sikh com­mu­nity here today.

Mr. Diljeet Brar (Burrows): Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh. [The Khalsa belongs to God, Victory belongs to God.] I welcome my Sikh com­mu­nity members in the gallery today.

      Sikh Heritage Month is a time when Sikhs cele­brate values such as humanity, tolerance and equity. Manitoba is home to over 35,000 Sikh people and has the fourth largest Sikh population in Canada.

      The celebration of Sikh Heritage Month not only recognizes the vital role Manitoba's Sikh population plays in our communities across the province but also highlights Sikh reputation of bravery and service. Sikhism has Punjabi roots and Punjab constitutes just 2.3 per cent of the popu­la­tion in India. However, Punjab has the highest number of deceased veterans in India, which goes to show just how devoted Sikhs are to living a life of sacrifice and patriotism.

      I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Sikh Heritage Manitoba in creating dynamic and accessible spaces for community engagement, champ­ion­ing awareness for the multifaceted experiences of Sikhs in Manitoba and celebrating the legacy of Sikhs across the province.

      The Sikh community in Manitoba is passionate about providing selfless service to their communities and they continue to show it year after year through different programs.

      For Sikh Heritage Month this year, Sikh Heritage Manitoba is working towards helping people in need through their second Fill the Truck Challenge to gather donations for Harvest Manitoba. This chal­lenge aims to fill up a five‑ton truck with non-perishable items to stock up our food banks.

      The need for such donations amidst the current hike in food prices cannot be overestimated. I en­courage everyone in the House today and those connected online to visit sikhheritagemanitoba.ca to find out how they can donate towards the Fill the Truck Challenge.

      While we celebrate the Sikh Heritage Month in Canada, Manitobans of Punjabi origin are concerned about the situation in Punjab, where people are fighting for their human rights and freedom of speech. I share these concerns and ask all Punjabis worldwide to stay united and observe peace.

      Happy Sikh Heritage Month to all Sikhs in our pro­vince. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh [The Khalsa belongs to God, Victory belongs to God].

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): I ask for leave to respond to the minister's statement.

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

Ms. Lamoureux: April is Sikh Heritage Month, not only here in Manitoba, but from coast to coast to coast all over Canada.

      In every single aspect of our society, the Indo-Canadian community is there. They steer our econ­omic development, our international students and Manitoba would not be where we are today without the community.

      Madam Speaker, I was actually in India–mainly in the Punjab–just five weeks ago, where I was able to have a couple of new first-time experiences that I want to share with the House.

      So, I flew into Delhi, then hopped onto a plane to Amritsar, and our first stop was the Golden Temple. Now, I've been here before, but what made this time different was the fact that we went at 1 a.m. in the morning, and the temple, the water, the stillness, the peaceful atmosphere, it just–it glistens, and it just–it resonates with you.

      I also had the opportunity to visit Anandpur Sahib. And, Madam Speaker, this is the place where the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa in front of thousands of people in 1699.

      And whether it's the Golden Temple and its beauty, the incredible hours of volunteerism and giving back to the community and making everyone feel equal and  welcome through langar, or the birthplace of the Khalsa–these are all-consuming experiences. And I am so grateful because my father, over the years, has taught me that you do not have to be of Sikh faith to appreciate the spiritual presence of these places.

      It is truly an honour to be able to rise in these Chambers in recognition of Sikh heritage, and I'd like to thank all of those who have joined us here today in the galleries, as well as the minister for bringing forward the statement.

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: Further min­is­terial statements?

      The hon­our­able minister of com­mu­nity wellness and mental health–and I would indicate that the required 90 minutes' notice prior to routine proceedings was provided in accordance with rule 27(2).

      Would the hon­our­able minister please proceed with her statement.

Caregiver Recog­nition Day

Hon. Janice Morley-Lecomte (Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness): Today, the first Tuesday in April, marks Caregiver Recognition Day.

      I'm proud to share that Manitoba was the first jurisdiction to pass a recognition act for caregivers in 2011. The Caregiver Recognition Act acknowledges the vital role of caregivers and sets out general principles for government and agencies to promote caring in Manitoba.

* (13:40)

      We all know someone who has needed or provided essential personal care, support or assistance to a loved one. I personally want to thank the caregivers, support workers and front-line workers who do this very important work every day, supporting our loved ones, communities and our province.

      I ask everyone to take the time to recognize and celebrate the selfless contributions caregivers are making today and every day. This work is vital to keeping our communities safe, healthy and connected.

      Thank you.

MLA Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station): I am pleased to have the opportunity to express gratitude to all of Manitoba's dedicated caregivers today for National Caregiver Day.

      This year, Carers Canada and associated organ­izations are recognizing the many caregivers who are providing care for someone with a life-limiting illness.

      Caregivers sometimes seemingly face impossible tasks, only to take on any challenge thrown at them and meet it with resilience and commitment. Through the years of the challenging pandemic health care and long term–or ongoing health-care and long-term-care crisis, the constant emotional struggles that come with them, caregivers have shown up on every occasion, provi­ding the best care possible to those across Manitoba.

      Caregivers have rarely received the recognition and thanks they deserve for their contributions to our health-care system. This is certainly the case in Manitoba, as unfortunately we have seen mis­treatment, underfunding and high turnover rates through­out the province, leaving many caregivers chronically burnt out and under-supported.

      The work that our caregivers do is essential, and it should be treated accordingly. Caregiving does not need to be a thankless task, and we will continue to fight for caregivers to be provided proper support and resources.

      Today, we thank all caregivers across Manitoba. We will continue to advocate for you.

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

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

Mr. Lamont: Today, I'd like to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the caregivers who work so tirelessly in the province of Manitoba. Whether you are a paid professional or an unpaid family member, your unwavering dedication to families, to patients, seniors and people with disabilities has been an inspiration to us all.

      As we navigate through these challenging times, caregivers have truly been the backbone of our community. You've been on the front lines, providing essential care and support to those who need it most. You've worked long hours, sacrificed time with your own families and put the needs of others before your own.

      I want to acknowledge this kind of work can often lead to burnout and emotional exhaustion. It takes a special kind of person to do what you do, and we all recognize the tremendous sacrifice that you make every day. That's why we want to remind you that it's essential to take care of yourselves as well. Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it, because you are not alone.

      As we move forward and begin to recover from the pandemic, it's im­por­tant to acknowledge the need for healing. We need to provide you with the support you need to heal–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

An Honourable Member: Leave.

Madam Speaker: Is there leave to allow the member to conclude his statement? [Agreed]

Mr. Lamont: So, today, I want to say thank you for your tireless dedi­cation and your unwavering commit­ment for all you do and know that your hard work and sacrifice do not go unnoticed. We celebrate you today and every day.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Members' Statements

RCMP Retroactive Salary Cost to Municipalities

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): Last week, the Association of Manitoba Munici­palities released a statement ex­pressing their disappointment in the federal govern­ment's recent budget for its failure to include a com­mit­ment to absorb the retroactive salary costs from the RCMP collective bargaining agreement. This decision will put the burden of costs onto municipalities instead of on the federal government.

      Municipalities in Manitoba are already dealing with the crises of inflation and affordability in their communities. And they were left for years without help from the provincial PC government when it froze municipal funding for seven years, including during the pandemic.

      And now that they are being forced to pay retro­active salary costs to the RCMP, municipalities are faced with the prospect of having to increase property taxes, delay infrastructure projects and find other ways to cut costs. This will harm local communities when they are already in a fragile state.

      To make matters worse, the federal Liberal govern­ment failed to meaningfully consult with municipalities during negotiations on this issue, even though municipalities are paying contract partners.

      This is the wrong approach. Healthy munici­palities are the backbone of a healthy province and country, and it is the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments to consult with municipalities and give them the support they need.

      Unfortunately, municipalities have been struggling for a long time, and the current provincial and federal governments are only making it worse.

      We have seen them freeze funding, pass costs down, and now they fail to meaningfully consult with municipalities when making decisions about issues that affect them.

      As the NDP critic for Municipal Relations, I join the AMM and munici­palities across Canada in calling on the federal government to commit to absorbing the RCMP retroactive salary costs immediately.

      Thank you.

Lakeside Com­mu­nity Initiatives

Mr. Ralph Eichler (Lakeside): It gives me great pleasure to stand before you today and speak about some great local initiatives in Lakeside.

      As part of our government's plan to strengthen communities, we're investing nearly $50 million through the arts, culture and sport community fund. This fund­ing will support the delivery of quality programs and facilities in communities throughout Manitoba, with Lakeside receiving $2.1 million of this community funding.

      The local organizations receiving support in Lakeside are Ducks Unlimited wetland discovery centre; Stonewall Quarry Park kiln restoration; Green Acres Art  Centre; Settlers, Rails & Trails; St. Eustache Minor Hockey Association; Warren Curling Club and Woodlands museum.

      The kiln restoration initiative will restore a key element in the town's history and restore tourism. As the kilns were built over a century ago, they are much need of repair, have they degraded drastically. These kilns have now become the DNA of Stonewall and will continue to serve as the park's centrepiece and a reminder of the once booming sector.

      With people making new connections between wetlands and–being conservation and the importance of natural areas have once again come into focus. The re-envisioning of the wetland discovery centre provides a unique destination welcoming wildlife and people year-round. A renewed experience will take visitors through a journey that connects, transforms and inspires action. Visitors will gain strong under­standing of wetlands, why they are relevant and what they can do to protect them.

      All these 'invative' projects contribute to a thriving, sustainable community while improving the quality and accessibility and availability of facilities for Manitobans.

      Madam Speaker, I'm so thrilled to see these funds go to these local initiatives. These projects will create a greater quality of life in Lakeside and communities now and for generations to come.

Penner International

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): In 1923, Peter K. Penner, with his lone Model T Ford truck, began hauling freight between Steinbach and Winnipeg. His business was known as Penners Transfer.

      Over the first few decades of the company, many goods were transported, from milk cans to pulpwood. And briefly, when tires and gasoline were rationed during wartime, a passenger service was included for local residents who did not have gasoline for their vehicles.

      During the 1940s, additional drivers were hired, and in the 1950s a major change happened as Penners Transfer became a contract carrier of parts for the Ford Motor Company from Windsor, Ontario, making Penners a long-distance trucking company.

      As the Ford Motor Company grew, so did Penners Transfer, now shipping parts from Ontario to British Columbia. During this time, Peter's son Milton became involved with the company, eventually becoming an owner.

      In the 1970s, Penners began to focus on trans­porting goods to the United States. During this time, my father worked for the company and I enjoyed joining with him on a few trips, although I think it might have been illegal under the insurance rates at the time, but we won't dwell on that issue.

      The 1980s saw Penners open terminals in the United States, becoming Penner Inter­national, and by the 1990s, it employed about 500 people.

      During this decade, Allan Penner, Milton's son, became president and CEO and soon after would become the sole owner.

      All three generations of Penners are well known for their generosity to Manitoba and Manitoba charities.

      This year, Penners, which is now owned by the C.A.T. group, is celebrating 100 years in business. Long recognized as a leader in the trucking industry in Manitoba, it's won many awards and employed thousands–including my father, step-father and many other relatives–and contributed millions to the Manitoba economy.

      Congratulations to Penner International on 100 years of success, and thank you for all your contributions to Manitoba, Canada and North America.

* (13:50)

P3 Schools

Mr. Nello Altomare (Transcona): This PC govern­ment recently announced they will use a P3 model for school construction, and like so many things this govern­ment does, P3 schools are bad news for Manitobans.

      Let's look at the experience of other provinces.

      Nova Scotia built P3 schools. In 2016, they had to spend millions of dollars buying them back when the leases expired.

      New Brunswick built P3 schools, claiming it would cost less than the traditional method. But now we know that the traditional method, Madam Speaker, would have saved the province millions.

      Alberta built P3 schools and, just a few years after committing to the P3 model, they're walking back that decision.

      Saskatchewan did the same thing. The result? Teachers not being able to open their windows for a whole year and strict limits on what could be placed on their walls.

      There are many examples of how P3 schools don't allow educators flexibility in their space because of the control the private company has over the building. In some P3 schools in Edmonton, school staff can't even control their thermostats.

      On top of this, Madam Speaker, we've known for years that P3s don't save money. A report from the Ontario Auditor General from 10 years ago found that P3 projects had cost the province billions more than if they were entirely public sector. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Altomare: And, Madam Speaker, the minster responsible yesterday got up and compared school construction to road construction, a comparison that is entirely meaningless given how different the building of roads is to the construction of schools.

      Manitobans, Madam Speaker, need complete details and a full accounting of how this government plans to build these schools. Question is, will they get one?

Garden Grove School

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): I am excited to rise this afternoon and share some thoughts and some questions that the grade 4s and 5s from Garden Grove School, who are up in the gallery here, have worked on and they want to share with this government.

      So, first and foremost, Madam Speaker, there are some things this government needs to know.

      There are not enough sewers in our neighbor­hood. The streets flood too much, especially when there is heavy rain and the snow is melting. And on this note, the roads need to be cleared better, more frequently and more salt should be used. There also needs to be more bicycle paths so people don't get hit by vehicles.

      A couple of positive thoughts that the students have for this government include how Manitoba has great parks and, in their words, we like Manitoba because there are a lot of supports for immigrants and refugees.

      Now, Madam Speaker, the students also have a few questions that I am going to read: Why doesn't Winnipeg have enough schools near big residential communities? Why do our streets have so many potholes? Why does construction last so long? And why don't we have more trash cans everywhere?

      I'm tabling these questions because the students who have joined us today here are not able to stay for question period. However, I am hopeful the govern­ment will briefly address each question when I ask about it in QP so that the students can still receive their answers.

      Madam Speaker, a lot goes on behind the scenes when schools visit, so I want to thank our education and outreach services, our planning and program co‑ordinator 'Ana‑lyst,' and the Speaker's office for their work in helping co-ordinate opportunities such as these.

      I also want to wish Mehtab a very happy 10th birthday–if you want to give a wave–and ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing the grade 4s and 5s and their teachers for their great questions.

      Thank you.

Introduction of Guests

Madam Speaker: I would indicate in the public gallery, just to let you know how many students we have here, we have from Garden Grove School 40 grade 7 students under the direction of Kelly Livingstone, and this group is located in the con­stit­uency of the hon­our­able member for Tyndall Park (Ms. Lamoureux).

      And we do all welcome you to the Manitoba Legislature.

      Also in the public gallery, we have Chuck Lawrenson, who is the guest of the hon­our­able member for Midland (Mr. Pedersen), with children Phoebe, Takis, Sonnet and Bronte.

      And also, we have munici­pal guests in the gallery–and we have a number of them–from the town of Neepawa: Murray Parrott, deputy mayor; Yvonne Sisley, councillor; Lisa Pottinger, councillor; Colleen Synchyshyn, CAO; Jodi Baker, assist­ant CAO.

      From the munici­pality of Norfolk Treherne: Gilles Guertin, reeve; Jacee Frizzley, councillor; Aaron Knibbs, councillor; Shawn Jackson, councillor.

      From the munici­pality of Glenella‑Lansdowne: Damian Dempsy, councillor; Kevin Paramor, reeve; and wife Pat Paramor.

      And from the munici­pality of North Norfolk, we have: Chris Leckie, councillor; Sadie Tait, councillor; Ed Sattler, councillor.

      And these are all guests of the MLA from l'Agassiz.

      We welcome all of you to the Manitoba Legislature.

Some Honourable Members: Agassiz.

Madam Speaker: Under­standing I was saying the MLA for Agassiz.

* * *

Madam Speaker: And now on to oral questions.

Oral Questions

Death of Linda Mary Beardy
Con­dol­ences to Family

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): I wanted to begin on a somber note and offer some words of com­memo­ra­tion in the memory of Linda Mary Beardy.

      Just shortly before the session began this after­noon, the Winnipeg Police Service shared some very troubling details about this woman, who was origi­nally from Lake St. Martin First Nation and also called Winnipeg home.

      I'm sure Manitobans, Canadians, are going to be very concerned about the details of this incident, but I just wanted to take this time to acknowl­edge a dearly departed mother from our province and from our country, to support the work of our colleagues from St. Johns, Point Douglas, The Pas‑Kameesak, as well as stand­ing with everybody here in the Chamber to say, no more stolen sisters.

      I do have a question on health care, but wanted to put those words on the record first.

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): I want to thank the Leader of the Op­posi­tion. Of course, this is an absolute tragedy that has happened to this individual, and our deepest con­dol­ences go out to the family and friends of Linda Mary Beardy.

      We understand she was 33 years old and from Lake St. Martin. I know that all of those individuals in Lake makes–Lake St. Martin com­mu­nity will be mourn­ing her loss today, as are all of us. We know and understand that this continues to be under police in­vesti­gation; we will let that process take place, Madam Speaker.

      But again, our thoughts and con­dol­ences go out to the family, the friends and the com­mu­nity of Linda Mary Beardy.

Madam Speaker: And with a Speaker's latitude, I am going to say we'll start oral questions now, after those comments are made.

Allied Health Professionals
Timeline for Contract Settlement

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): Thank you kindly for your con­sid­era­tion, Madam Speaker.

      There are 6,500 health‑care workers in Manitoba who are being forced to consider taking a strike at this time. We're talking about the paramedics who serve in rural Manitoba. We're talking about the lab techs, the X‑ray techs, the respiratory therapists who help care for Manitobans when they're sick or when they need an urgent diagnosis.

      These are the front‑line health‑care pro­fes­sionals, and they've been without a contract for five years now under Brian Pallister and under this Premier.

      Will the Premier tell the House why her gov­ern­ment has refused to bargain with these thousands of health‑care workers for the last five years?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): It just gives me an op­por­tun­ity to thank all of the paramedics out there, and all of our front-line health-care workers: doctors, nurses, all of our other health-care pro­fes­sionals who do in­cred­ible work to help with the health care of individuals in the province of Manitoba.

      Spe­cific­ally when it comes to paramedics, I know that we're in the process of negotiations when it comes to that, Madam Speaker, and we'll allow those–that process to take its course.

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

* (14:00)

Mr. Kinew: Five years, Madam Speaker. Five years in which the PC gov­ern­ment should have worked to ensure that we're going to keep paramedics in the province, that we're going to keep the lab techs and X‑ray techs working in our local hospitals right across Manitoba.

      For five years, people in rural Manitoba have been talking about wait times for EMS. For five years, people across Manitoba have been asking when we're going to get more diag­nos­tic services delivered to them. And now the answer, apparently, is to just wait longer.

      Well, that's not good enough, Madam Speaker. We need action today. The PC gov­ern­ment must imme­diately enter into a contract with these workers so that we can keep them working on the front lines.

      Will the Premier explain why she has failed to get this done for the people of Manitoba?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Madam Speaker, each and every day, our gov­ern­ment is committed to recruiting, retaining and attracting more health-care pro­fes­sionals to Manitoba. That's why we have invested more than $200 million to recruit more than 2,000 health-care pro­fes­sionals to the province of Manitoba. I know the paramedics are a very im­por­tant part of that.

      Of course, we're in the middle of a–collective bar­gaining negotiations right now, Madam Speaker. It would be inappropriate to interject into the process there. I'm–surely the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is not suggesting that we would do that, because that would be inappropriate. We need to let that process unfold.

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

Mr. Kinew: Madam Speaker, what I'm suggesting is that this Premier should have gotten a deal done five years ago so that we could keep these health pro­fes­sionals working at the bedside here in Manitoba.

      Again, Madam Speaker, we're not even at a posi­tion where this gov­ern­ment can be taken seriously on the topic of health-care recruitment because we're not even taking care of the job of health-care retention. These are paramedics, these are lab techs, these are respiratory therapists who, in some cases, are leaving the province because what they're being offered is no longer competitive when we look at Saskatchewan or when we look at Ontario.

      We know that the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals in Steinbach are voting with their feet. They're leaving the province because of the failures of this gov­ern­ment to respect those who care for us on the front lines of our health-care system.

      Will the Premier simply explain why she's failed for five years to deliver a contract for allied health-care pro­fes­sionals?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion seems to be saying that we should be interfering in the collective bargaining process when it comes to paramedics in the province of Manitoba.

      We disagree with that. We don't believe that that's ap­pro­priate. We need to ensure that that process takes place and unfolds as it will. And we thank all of those who are involved right now in those negotiations, and we look forward to coming to a solution, but we will not inter­fere in the process, Madam Speaker–we have too much respect for our paramedics out there, for the in­cred­ible work that they do. [interjection]

      Well, I guess members opposite think that's funny because they don't know what the word respect means, Madam Speaker. They have no respect for Manitobans.

      Madam Speaker, I will tell you that we have respect for paramedics and for all Manitobans, unlike members opposite.

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

Manitoba Public Insurance
Rate Increase Concerns

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): If they respected paramedics and other allied health‑care pro­fes­sionals, they wouldn't have frozen their wages for the last five years.

      We know that there's a growing mess happening at Manitoba Public Insurance under this gov­ern­ment's watch. Tech modernization projects are now hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, but no one is being held to account. What that–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –means is that rates are going up for you, the average person out there in Manitoba.

      This mis­manage­ment is costing Manitobans money, and it's happened under the PC watch.

      How did the Premier fail to take any action to address the mis­manage­ment at MPI?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): Well, Madam Speaker, there is a theme, certainly, that came out of a debate that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and the Leader of the Liberal Party and I were at, at AMM this morning.

      And I want to thank all the reeves and welcome–and mayors who are here and councillors who are here with us today, because what they saw earlier is what we were presenting was the facts and that the NDP presented fiction.

      And this continues along that theme, Madam Speaker. Nothing that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion said has any bearing on the facts what­so­ever when it comes to MPI, when it comes to paramedics. All of the issues that the NDP brought up and that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion brought up–it's nothing but factually incorrect.

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

Mr. Kinew: You know, Madam Speaker, here's a fact: MPI rates were supposed to decline by 10 per cent this year, but instead, we saw a rate hike this April 1st because–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –of the mis­manage­ment of this gov­ern­ment. That is a fact.

      Here is another fact: We raised the issue of cost–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –overruns with MPI's Project Nova, this tech modernization project, some six months ago. We brought this issue to the attention of the Premier and she refused to take action. Now it's costing you money–costing you money at a cost‑of‑living crisis moment in our province's history, I would add.

      Insurance rates are going up for regular people in Carberry, in Steinbach, even right here in the city of Winnipeg, and the Premier has taken no steps to address this issue.

      Will the Premier tell the House why her gov­ern­ment ignored warnings on MPI and has overseen a rate hike on Manitoba Public Insurance customers instead? [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: I don't even know where to begin with the litany of false accusations that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion just put on the floor of this Chamber, Mister–or, Madam Deputy Speaker–or Madam Speaker–sorry.

      So, just–let's get back to the facts, though. The fact of the matter is, when it came to Project Nova, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and the NDP, the reason that that work had to take place in the first place is many, many decades of neglect by the previous NDP gov­ern­ment, Madam Speaker. That's why we had to move forward on that front.

      But I will say, also, Madam Speaker, that rates are not set by us or them. They are set by the Public Utilities Board. It's an in­de­pen­dent body that sets the rates in the province of Manitoba and that there have been no raise rates for MPI.

      Once again, fiction put on the floor of the Manitoba Legislature by the Leader of the Op­posi­tion.

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

Mr. Kinew: You know, it's remark­able that the Premier doesn't know that Autopac rates went up this April 1st. That happened this past week, Madam Speaker.

      It's also remark­able that this government has overseen the transfer of funds from MPI to fund operations.

      It's also glaringly obvious that this gov­ern­ment is respon­si­ble for its failure to address cost overruns related to Project Nova, the tech modernization plan at MPI.

      And now it looks like they're trying to hide more rate increases until after the next election. That's due to an edict that the Attorney General put out yester­day. We just had one rate increase and now it looks like they're trying to kick another one down the road 'til after Manitobans vote this year.

      The Premier needs to be clear with Manitobans: Will she tell the House if her gov­ern­ment will see increases to MPI if they're elected again later this year?

Mrs. Stefanson: Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion knows that it's the Public Utilities Board that sets the rates when it comes to Manitoba Public Insurance.

      But if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion wants to talk about what rate increases went up on April 1st, well, let's talk about those rate increases that went on April 1st. It's called the carbon tax, Madam Speaker–the carbon tax. That was set out by the NDP-Liberal coalition federally, some­thing that members opposite, each and every one of them, support. That doesn't put more money in the pockets of Manitobans.

* (14:10)

      We're against it; they're for it. Those are the facts, Madam Speaker.

Organizational Review of MPI
Request for Crown Cor­por­ations Committee

Mr. Matt Wiebe (Concordia): Madam Speaker, we've been sounding the alarm for months now regarding this PC gov­ern­ment's failures in overseeing the ongoing massive cost overruns for Project 'noba'–Nova at MPI.

      Yet–now yesterday, there's a 'conspicious' urgen­cy from the minister for–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Wiebe: –an external review, by way of yet another external contract.

Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.

Madam Speaker: Order.


Mr. Wiebe: This urgency, now, from this minister is with regards to an external review that won't be com­plete until, of course, after the next election.

      Will the minister commit to calling an imme­diate meeting of the com­mit­tee on Crown cor­por­ations so that Manitobans can start getting answers about the boondoggle over at MPI?

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister responsible for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation): I don't know what 'conspishuous' is, Madam Speaker. I do know the fact of the issue is that for 13 years, the member opposite–well, 16 years–the member oppo­site sat in a gov­ern­ment that refused to actually upgrade the MPI computer system. For 16 years, they just let it deteriorate. They didn't want to do anything. They kicked the can down the road in terms of upgrading that system.

      So yes, MPI needed to upgrade the system so not every­thing would crash, not every­thing would be paper‑based, not every­thing wouldn't be able to be transmitted around the province. Now, the member opposite now is upset that there is a new system going in place.

      If he wants to have a com­mit­tee to talk about a new system that's going in place, he should've called it when he sat on the gov­ern­ment benches and did nothing, Madam Speaker.

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

Mr. Wiebe: Clearly, the minister has more infor­ma­tion about this boondoggle at MPI that he's not sharing with Manitobans. What we're hearing is that the hun­dreds of millions of dollars that has already been overspent with Project Nova is really just the tip of the iceberg.

      We also know that the gov­ern­ment is the one that appoints the board at MPI whose role it is to provide manage­ment oversight, which has been clearly missing. And yet, last year they reappointed members of the board, including the chair, Michael Sullivan, as well as Jim Robson, Carolyn Halbert and Grant Stefanson.

      How can we trust this minister when he has been the one who's been forced to call this external review because of his own hand-picked board hasn't been doing their job at MPI?

Mr. Goertzen: Think when the member opposite next visits McNally Robinson, he might be interested to discover there's more than just a fiction section at that bookstore. There's all sorts of other things, like facts.

      One of the facts is that when that member sat on the gov­ern­ment benches–he sat just over that direction–on the gov­ern­ment bench, he sat there for 16 years. I heard him clapping at a–various different things. What I never heard him do was raise the issue of the need to upgrade the computer system at MPI. We found out after we came into government along with the other, sort of, tech­no­lo­gies were left to languish–the munici­palities would know about this, when it came to the emergency system that they had, and that had to be upgraded as well.

      Nothing was done for 16 years. That is the issue that had to be addressed; that is the issue that is being addressed, and we're going to continue to ensure that MPI is there as a publicly owned Crown cor­por­ation serving Manitobans with good service at a quality price.

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

Mr. Wiebe: Let's be clear, Madam Speaker: Hundreds of millions of dollars of Manitobans' money that's been wasted under this gov­ern­ment's watch, and now there's more questions about the leadership at MPI and the role of the board. This minister expects us not to worry; says to Manitobans, don't worry. But now he's showing that maybe even he doesn't trust his own board that he just reappointed.

      The board's lack of oversight turned into–what should have been a rebate this year into another PC tax hike. And there needs to be account­ability for that, Madam Speaker.

      Will the minister, who can't trust his own board, call a Crown cor­por­ations meeting and have some account­ability from this MPI board and with MPI in general?

Mr. Goertzen: What Manitobans may want to worry about is what would ever happen if those individuals over there ever resume gov­ern­ment.

      Because they'd only have to look back at some­thing called FleetNet, when we heard from different emergency respon­ders, when we heard from munici­palities around the province who said we can't use our com­muni­cation systems when it comes to emer­gencies because the former NDP gov­ern­ment never upgraded them. They had to get parts off of eBay. They had to go to garage sales to try to keep these things running.

      Well, the same fate was heading towards MPI because the former gov­ern­ment, where that member sat and said nothing on this issue, didn't upgrade the computer system, wasn't able to ensure that there was modern tech­no­lo­gy for a modern cor­por­ation.

      That's what Manitobans should worry about if they ever get back in the gov­ern­ment, and we're going to stop that from happening, Madam Speaker.

Resig­na­tion of Nurses from SANE Program
Request for Minister of Health's Resignation

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): The Premier's (Mrs. Stefanson) Health Minister is putting the status of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program at risk.

      Survivors, including children, have been turned away from the SANE program due to a lack of available nursing staff. These folks have been told to come back hours later, not to wipe them­selves, not to shower in the meantime.

      That is absolutely devastating and outrageous, Madam Speaker. That's a failure of this PC gov­ern­ment and more spe­cific­ally of the Health Minister.

      Will the Health Minister admit that she's failed sexual assault survivors, and do the right thing today and simply just resign?

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Acting Minister of Health): After consulting with com­mu­nity, our gov­ern­ment was very pleased to make an an­nounce­ment–a $1.3‑million an­nounce­ment on Sunday at Klinic Com­mu­nity Health Centre to esta­blish a com­plementary sexual assault nurse examination program that will be available in the com­mu­nity that will be overseen by a group of knowledge keepers and survivors. We think that survivors really need to have a say in the imple­men­ta­tion of these services.

      And so, this program will be complementary because we know that the demand for these services, unfor­tunately, is in­cred­ibly high in the province of Manitoba.

      And so, we are working to address the demand by having two parallel programs offered either through Shared Health or in the com­mu­nity to meet the needs of all survivors.

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

MLA Fontaine: The Health Minister has completely mismanaged the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program. She's failed to ensure survivors get the supports they needed when they needed and imme­diately.

      She's failed to support SANE nurses; seven have resigned in response to her terrible leadership. It's going to be hard to repair the damage that she's done to the SANE program, and clearly she's not capable of doing it, Madam Speaker.

      Will the Health Minister commit to supporting the SANE program by resigning today?

Ms. Squires: While that member wants to go down the avenue of issuing personal attacks against another person, I'd like to take this op­por­tun­ity to say thank you.

      I want to say thank you to Klinic–[interjection]–to Ayn Wilcox–and if the members opposite could control them­selves while I'm offering these thanks to many people in com­mu­nity who do this very im­por­tant work.

      Klinic has been at the front lines of sexual assault, of responding to the needs of survivors for many, many years. They have been offering third-party reporting for four years, since this gov­ern­ment brought third-party reporting into the province of Manitoba because we know not all survivors want to present at a law-en­force­ment agency.

      Now they're handling the sexual assault nurse examination program because once again, we know survivors want a com­mu­nity method.

      So I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everybody at Klinic for the work they do.

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

MLA Fontaine: I think it's im­por­tant to note that holding a minister accountable who has utterly failed Manitobans and some of the most at-risk, vul­ner­able Manitobans isn't personal attacks, Madam Speaker.

* (14:20)

      It's literally my job to hold members opposite account­able for their failures, and there is nothing more quintessential in a failure of this gov­ern­ment is turning victims of sexual assault, including children, away, telling them to go home, not to wipe them­selves, not to take a shower.

      That is an utter failure on this gov­ern­ment's part, and the Health Minister should do the right thing, say she's sorry and resign today.

Ms. Squires: Well, I would like to also point out that none of these services were available when that mem­ber was an adviser to the NDP gov­ern­ment.

      What our admin­is­tra­tion's done since we took office is we've brought in com­mu­nity supports, we have offered funding to Toba Centre that will be avail­able to have an integrated approach for child abuse and children who are sexual assault survivors.

      We know that these heinous acts of crime happen to children and we want to make sure that there is an trauma-informed, person-centred approach to helping children get on the road to recovery. And that is why our Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) and our gov­ern­ment has been a proud and steadfast supporter of Toba Centre in helping get this integrated initiative up and running.

      And we are going to continue working with survivors–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Expansion of Broadband Services
Rural and Northern Communities

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): We know that access to high-speed, broadband services is not a luxury, it's a necessity. The PCs pretend to agree. In November of 2021, they promised to connect 125,000 Manitobans across the province to broadband services.

      But, a year and a half later, and to no one's sur­prise, they've broken their promise. The PCs' failure means that 350 different rural and northern com­mu­nities are suffering as a result.

      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): It appears that the theme for today is continuing from this morning all the way through question period of facts versus fiction.

      And the fiction that the member is offering is just simply completely un­founded on what is actually happening with Internet in our province.

      Now, I'm very pleased to be part of a gov­ern­ment that did make a commit­ment because I can tell you when the NDP were in power, they did very little to nothing to ensuring that high-speed Internet access would be offered to rural com­mu­nities.

      Under our gov­ern­ment, tens of thousands–tens of thousands–of households have been connected in hundreds of com­mu­nities.

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

Mr. Sala: We notice that the minister and what he just shared was completely absent of fact or details. That side, fiction; this side, we like to talk about facts. [interjection] Thank you.

      In 2021, the PC gov­ern­ment handed over Manitoba Hydro Telecom's fibre optic cables to Xplornet. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Sala: They claimed that this private company would do a better job than Manitoba Hydro Telecom and would connect 125,000 Manitobans to broadband.

      Yet, a year and a half later, we've seen little to no progress in connecting Manitobans to broadband services. This failure means that thousands of Manitobans will be waiting for access to broadband on an ongoing basis.

      Will the minister admit his gov­ern­ment has broken their promise and apologize to the Manitobans they've let down?

Mr. Teitsma: Perhaps another contrast would be in order: We move things forwards; they want to take things backwards.

      The member opposite pretends to be some great defender of Manitoba Hydro when–and maybe that's still his critic–or critic role, I don't know. I thought he was the Finance critic, but today he seems to be willing to talk about Internet.

      I love talking about Internet. I'm an IT pro­fes­sional with 30 years' ex­per­ience. I know how im­por­tant it is for high-speed Internet to be available and to get to these rural com­mu­nities.

      What happens when high-speed Internet gets into these rural com­mu­nities is that people are able to do jobs in–at a time when we have more and more remote workers. The op­por­tun­ities for rural Manitoba are endless.

      I'm proud to be part of a gov­ern­ment that is getting that done and is working hard to get tens of thousands of families connected–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

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

Mr. Sala: The pandemic showed us that access to high-speed broadband services across the province is a necessity. That's why Manitobans are so disappoint­ed that the PCs broke their 2021 promise to connect 125,000 Manitobans to high-speed broadband.

      The PCs have had a year and a half to deliver, yet we've seen little to no progress. Hundreds of com­mu­nities are des­per­ately waiting for those broadband services.

      Can the minister explain why his gov­ern­ment has broken their promise to Manitobans?

Mr. Teitsma: For 17 years, the NDP gov­ern­ment left Manitoba's–Manitoba Hydro's dark fibre dark. We are committed to lighting it up.

      Now, I know that the AMM is in town and there's many, many munici­pal leaders in town. And when I've spoken to them, they tell me that they're happy to see that there is improved high-speed Internet service coming to com­mu­nities across Manitoba. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Teitsma: That's the facts. What the member oppo­site brings is fiction.

Construction Industry Apprentices
Wage Reduction Concerns

MLA Malaya Marcelino (Notre Dame): Madam Speaker, on this side of the House, we respect people who have to work hard every day. We believe that hard work and both the physical and mental demands of work in the trades should be paid properly.

      The cost of groceries keeps going up, but the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) couldn't care less about lower­ing the pay of workers and apprentices who build our province.

      Will the Premier tell the House why her PC govern­ment is looking to cut wages for appren­tices?

Hon. Sarah Guillemard (Minister of Advanced Education and Training): Our gov­ern­ment is proud to support all people who choose the trades as their career.

      In fact, just yesterday, I was honoured to tour MITT and visit with students who have chosen the trades as their career and encouraged them to continue on in their learnings.

      Madam Speaker, the members opposite failed to consult or meet with any stake­holders in 17 years. They don't care about the workers. We do, so we ask for their feedback. Members opposite are scared of feedback because they want to make decisions in isola­tion. Our gov­ern­ment works with partners and stake­holders to find solutions together.

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

MLA Marcelino: Madam Speaker, those young people looking to work in the trades and those taking retraining courses are investing in them­selves and their families so that they can help grow and build our province.

      But, under this PC gov­ern­ment, ap­prentice­ship fund­ing was cut by 43 per cent since 2016, and they weakened safety pro­tec­tions by cutting ap­prentice­ship ratios.

      While the minimum wage is going up, now the PCs are looking to cut the wages of apprentices this year. This will just make retaining skilled workers harder and hurt efforts to tackle our serious labour shortage.

      Will this minister stop her plans to cut ap­prentice­ship wages today?

Mrs. Guillemard: I appreciate the op­por­tun­ity to put some facts on the record. Our gov­ern­ment has not cut any funding towards ap­prentice­ship what­so­ever. And on a personal note, I am super proud of my own son, who is in his third‑year ap­prentice­ship program. And I take offence by the member putting untrue issues or untrue words on the record.

      Madam Speaker, we have never reduced any funding for Ap­prentice­ship Manitoba. We don't plan to reduce any money. I wonder if that's what the hid­den agenda of the members opposite is.

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

MLA Marcelino: Madam Speaker, Manitoba workers know that this PC gov­ern­ment doesn't have their backs.

* (14:30)

      While everyday Manitobans struggle with in­creasing bills, they are trying to cut the scheduled wage increases of apprentices who are trying to enter the trades. It's just like this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) to be so out of touch with working people and with what regular families have to go through in order to get by and to get ahead.

      We need a clear commit­ment. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

MLA Marcelino: Will this PC gov­ern­ment back off on their cuts to cut ap­prentice­ship wages? Yes or no?

Mrs. Guillemard: Madam Speaker, it's very disap­pointing to hear that the members opposite continue to fear monger. That is unfair to Manitobans and, truthfully, that's not going to get them very far in the next election.

      Madam Speaker, our gov­ern­ment is proud to support every ap­prentice­ship seat, and we cover 90 per cent of all costs. We are great partners with industry and post‑secondary institutes to really en­courage the trades. There is no cap on that number of seats.

      The member opposite is trying to fear monger, and I think that that member should apologize to all Manitobans.

Manitoba Hydro CEO
Meeting with MKO Leadership

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Manitoba Hydro's dams in northern Manitoba generate an enormous amount of revenue for our province, but they were often built at tre­men­dous cost to Indigenous com­mu­nities who've never been fully compensated for the damage caused. Com­mu­nities were uprooted, the environ­ment was disrupted and resulted in the collapse of viable fisheries and other economies that people relied on to feed them­selves and earn a good living.

      Now, many of these dams are on MKO territory, and we asked the minister a written question about whether the CEO of Hydro has ever met with MKO leadership. We didn't get a clear answer.

      But given the tre­men­dous importance of dams in this territory, can the Premier explain why the CEO of Manitoba has never met with leadership of MKO?

Hon. Cliff Cullen (Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro): I ap­pre­ciate the question coming from the member opposite.

      Certainly, Manitoba Hydro is our Crown jewel, and we want to make sure that we're doing every­thing to make sure that Manitoba stays–Manitoba Hydro stays as our Crown jewel.

      Clearly, we value the part­ner­ships we have with Manitobans and with Manitoba com­mu­nities, especially those com­mu­nities in northern Manitoba.

      And certainly that–those discussions, those con­sul­ta­tions, they happen on an ongoing basis and we look forward to making sure that Manitoba Hydro–manage­ment at Manitoba Hydro continue to have those important dialogues with our northern com­mu­nities.

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

Hydro's Debt Management
Borrowing and Interest Rates

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Now, that's not the only problem with Hydro.

      I tabled pages from Manitoba's debt manage­ment strategy, dated December 9th, 2022. It says that Hydro's sinking fund, which is used to pay off Hydro's astronomical debt–nearly $25 billion–was completely de­pleted in 2016. I quote, interest rate risk is a top risk for the cor­por­ation. With, on average, $1.1 billion in debt maturities annually potentially requiring refinancing over the next decade, the maturing debt is currently projected to be refinanced at higher interest rates. End quote.

      Can the Premier explain why, under this gov­ern­ment, the plan for Hydro is to borrow billions at a higher interest rate to pay down lower interest debt?

Hon. Cliff Cullen (Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro): I think the member should recog­nize–take a little history lesson here and recog­nize where Manitoba Hydro is.

      We recog­nize $24 billion of debt that Manitoba Hydro carries. We should also recog­nize why we got to that position. And it's members that were sitting across the way here got us into that. They circum­vented the Public Utilities Board in the biggest capital invest­ment in our province's history. That's why we've got a $24-billion debt at Manitoba Hydro.

      We recog­nize that as a challenge. That's why this gov­ern­ment has cut the water rental rates and the debt guarantee rates by 50 per cent to provide cost savings to Manitoba ratepayers of $180 million this year alone.

      This will get Manitoba Hydro back on its feet–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Garden Grove School Students
Questions for Government

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): Earlier today, I tabled four questions on behalf of some deter­mined grade 4s and 5s from Garden Grove School.

      They were: why doesn't Winnipeg have enough schools near big resi­den­tial com­mu­nities, why do our streets have so many potholes, why does construction last so long and why don't we have more trash cans everywhere?

      Can the gov­ern­ment please try their best to address each question?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): I want to thank the member for–[interjection]–Tyndall Park, sorry, for the questions and for the students in the gallery today. I always ap­pre­ciate when you bring these questions forward.

      When it comes to schools near resi­den­tial com­mu­nities, it's im­por­tant to note for these children that we have announced more than 20 schools; 14 are on their way. The rest are on their way, as well, and so there'll be more schools in these resi­den­tial com­mu­nities.

      Why are there so many potholes? I think it has to do with our extreme weather con­di­tions, actually, but we are investing significantly more in potholes. We gave $15 million earlier this year, Madam Speaker, and another $7.5 million.

      Why does construction take so long? I think we need to ask the construction companies that, but it comes with the contracts and those things are negotiated.

      And the last question is, why are there not more trash cans everywhere? I think it's a great question. I'll bring that up with the Mayor Gillingham next time I see him.

Northern Manitoba Economy
Trans­por­tation Infra­structure Investments

Mr. Rick Wowchuk (Swan River): After 17 dark years of the NDP's neglect, we are listening to Manitobans, north, south, east and west by giving equal op­por­tun­ities, unlike the political favours the NDP had demonstrated. Further to this, in the last six years of the NDP gov­ern­ment, they underspent their infra­structure bud­get by over $1 billion.

      The NDP gov­ern­ment did not do it, but we are. Our gov­ern­ment is committed to making record infra­structure invest­ments at every corner of the province. And the Minister of Trans­por­tation did last week in Thompson.

      Can the minister please share more details about the over $420‑million invest­ment that we are making to help northern com­mu­nities and create more op­por­tun­ities for gen­era­tions to come?

Hon. Doyle Piwniuk (Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure): I just want to thank the hon­our­able member for Swan River for the great question.

      I was pleased to be up at Thompson last week with my two colleagues, the Deputy Premier (Mr. Cullen) and the Minister for Natural Resources, who made a $400‑million an­nounce­ment in Thompson.

      And it includes the im­proving of seven First Nation airports of $75 million and building two new airport terminals, Madam Speaker; $15 million to the Thompson Regional Airport Author­ity; $18 million for runway rehabs across the North; $250 million for five existing roadways to improve safety and year-round connectivity between northern com­mu­nities; and one of my favourites–$8.5 million to upgrade PR 620 to connect Nelson House.

      And Chief Angela Levasseur said that that was the first time–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Northern First Nation Communities
State of Emergency Declaration

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able member for Thompson.

An Honourable Member: Stand up for the North.

Mr. Eric Redhead (Thompson): Actually, I will.

      Access to health care in the North is suffering under this gov­ern­ment. Less than two weeks ago, Keewatin Tribal Council declared a regional state of emergency to sound the alarms over death involv­ing suicide, drugs, violence, inadequate health care in its 11 Manitoba com­mu­nities.

      Can this Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) tell this House of any supports or assist­ance that her gov­ern­ment has offered to these com­mu­nities?

Hon. Eileen Clarke (Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations): I'm pleased to respond to the 'mender' opposite. In discussions with chiefs in the North over the last several weeks, several incidents, tragically, have happened in many different com­mu­nities. The minister from mental health and wellness and I spent some con­ver­sa­tions and we responded to that. Just this week, we sent one million-plus to MKO as well as to FC–SCO for their crisis response units.

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.

* (14:40)


Health-Care Coverage

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 for this petition is as follows:

      (1) Health care is a basic human right and a fundamental part of responsible public health. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Altomare: Many people in Manitoba are not covered by provincial health care: migrant workers with work permits of less than one year, international students and those undocumented residents who have lost their status for a variety of reasons.

      (2) Private health insurance is not a substitute for public health insurance. Private insurance plans avail­able to most migrant workers and inter­national students are paid for by the worker or student. They do not provide coverage for all of the potential health needs covered by public health coverage. Individuals are required to pay up front for health expenses without a guarantee that they will be covered and wait weeks for reimbursement.

      (3) Racialized people in communities are dis­proportionately affected by the pandemic, mainly due to the social and economic conditions which leave them vulnerable while performing essential work in a variety of industries in Manitoba.

      (4) Without adequate health-care coverage, if they are ill, many of those without prov­incial health coverage will avoid seeking health care due to fear of being charged for the care, and some will fear possible detention and deportation if their immigration status is reported to the authorities.

      (5) According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, denying essential health care to undocumented irregular migrants is a violation of their rights.

      (6) Jurisdictions across Canada and the world have adopted access-without-fear policies to prevent sharing personal health information or immigration status with immigration authorities and to give uninsured residents the confidence to access health care.

      (7) The pandemic has clearly identified the need for everyone in Manitoba to have access to public health care to protect the health and safety of all who live in our province.

      Therefore, we petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      (1) To urge the provincial government to imme­diately provide comprehensive and free public health-care coverage to all residents of Manitoba, regardless of immigration status, including refugee claimants, migrant workers, international students, dependant children of temporary residents and undocumented residents.

      (2) To urge the minister of health and seniors care to undertake a multilingual communication campaign to provide information on expanded coverage to all affected residents.

      (3) To urge the minister of health and seniors care to inform all health-care institutions and providers of expanded coverage for those without public health insurance and the details on how necessary policy and protocol changes will be imple­mented, and

      (4) To urge the minister of health and seniors care to create and enforce strict confidentiality policies and provide staff with training to protect the safety of residents with precarious immigration status and ensure that they access public health care without jeopardizing their ability to remain in Canada.

      Madam Speaker, this petition is signed by many Manitobans.

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

Right to Repair

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

      The background of this petition is as follows:

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

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

      (3) The Biden administration in the US 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, 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 repair available to consumers and independent repair shops.

      And this petition is signed by many, many Manitobans.

Madam Speaker: Further petitions?

Foot-Care Services

Mr. Eric Redhead (Thompson): Madam Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly–to the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba.

      The background of this petition is as follows:

      (1) The population of those aged 55-plus has grown to approximately 2,500 in the city of Thompson.

      (2) A large percentage of people in this age group require necessary medical foot care and treatment.

      (3) A large percentage of those who are elderly and/or diabetic are living on low incomes.

      (4) The northern regional health author­ity, NRHA, previously provided essential medical foot-care ser­vices to seniors and those living with diabetes until 2019, then subsequently cut the program after the last two nurses filling those positions retired.

      (5) The number of seniors and those with diabetes has only continued to grow in Thompson and sur­rounding areas.

      (6) There is no adequate medical care available in the city and the region, whereas the city of Winnipeg has 14 medical foot-care centres.

      (7) The implications or inadequate or lack of podiatric care can lead to amputations.

      (8) The city of Thompson also serves as a regional health-care service provider, and the need for foot care extends beyond just those served in the capital city of the province.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:

      To urge the provincial government to provide the services of two nurses to restore essential medical foot-care treatment to the city of Thompson effective April 1st, 2022.

      This has been signed by many Manitobans.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: Grievances?




Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, could you please resolve the House into Committee of Supply.

Madam Speaker: It has been announced that the House will consider Estimates this afternoon. The House will now resolve into Com­mit­tee of Supply.

* (14:50)

      Mr. Deputy Speaker, please take the Chair.

Committee of Supply

(Concurrent Sections)

Room 254

Seniors and Long‑Term Care

* (15:00)

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Will the Committee of Supply please come to order.

      This section of the Committee of Supply will now consider the Estimates of the Department of Seniors and Long‑Term Care.

      Does the honourable minister have an opening statement.

Hon. Scott Johnston (Minister of Seniors and Long‑Term Care): I would invite members of my staff–

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Do you have an opening statement first?

Mr. Johnston: Yes, I do.

Mr. Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Okay, Minister, go ahead.

Mr. Johnston: On behalf of the Department of Seniors and Long‑Term Care, I am very pleased to present the financial Estimates for the 2023‑24 fiscal year.

      The De­part­ment of Seniors and Long‑Term Care was esta­blished in January 2022 to provide steward­ship over the imple­men­ta­tion of the Stevenson review recom­men­dations, as well as imple­men­ta­tion of a renewed seniors strategy so that aging Manitobans are able to stay safe in their own homes and com­mu­nities for as long as they choose to do so.

      We are committed to continued imple­men­ta­tion of the 17 recom­men­dations identified in the external gov­ern­ment‑com­mis­sioned review led by Dr. Lynn Stevenson in 2021.

      We are proud to say that 10 out of the 17 recom­men­dations have already been imple­mented. The recom­men­dations include, but are not limited to, ensuring that staffing levels and services provided are ap­pro­priate to the complexity of the current and future residents of personal‑care homes, and reviewing and stream­lining the licensing standards for personal‑care homes to ensure currency and applicability to the changing needs of residents.

      We are also committed to the imple­men­ta­tion of our new seniors strategy, which was released in February 2023, Manitoba, A Great Place to Age: Prov­incial Seniors Strategy.

      This strategy is a guide for the Manitoba gov­ern­ment to address the challenges faced by some older adults, their families and their caregivers. It will sup­port all Manitobans in their aging journeys and will value the sig­ni­fi­cant con­tri­bu­tions older adults have made to continue to make our province great.

      The proposed 2023‑24 core budget for Seniors and  Long‑Term Care reflects an expenditure of $93.3 million   and a 15‑point staff years FTE. This represents a $38.9-million increase from the 'restrated' 2022-2023 budget or a 71.7 per cent increase. The summary budget is set, as I indicated, at $93.3 million.

      This year's budget includes invest­ments in the following: $23 million for the continued imple­men­ta­tion of the recom­men­dations of the Stevenson review in the following key areas–en­hance­ment of infection pre­­ven­­tion and control, including increased house­keeping, staffing, to be better prepared for any disease outbreaks within the long-term care sector; increased allied health staffing within personal-care homes, including ad­di­tional occupational therapists, physio­thera­pists, rehab aides, dietitians, social workers and recreational therapists; increased direct-care staffing within personal-care homes, including health-care aides, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses; enhanced infor­ma­tion and com­muni­cation capa­bilities to better manage human resource staffing issues before they become critical; enhanced Internet access for personal-care homes in rural and northern locations and in­creased emergency manage­ment staffing.

* (15:10)

      This invest­ment results in a total budget of $55.1 million for the initiative stemming from the Stevenson review initiatives, $15.9-million increase to support the imple­men­ta­tion of the seniors strategy, resulting in a total budget of $35.8 million for new and expanded care options for seniors in their com­mu­nities, em­power­ing them to remain in their homes and com­mu­nities longer–excuse me.

      This includes support for the following programs across the province: health-care aides to support seniors in Manitoba with household incomes of under $80,000, Rainbow Resource Centre's Over the Rainbow programs for seniors who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, self- and family-managed care, palliative-care services, sup­port services to seniors, expanding age-friendly com­mu­nities, support for elder abuse services, support to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba's First Link program.

      In closing, I would like to acknowl­edge my appre­cia­tion for the initiatives my colleagues in Health has taken, such as the $200-million invest­ment into health human resources action plan, which will help us achieve the goal of hiring 2,000 health-care staff.

      I would also like to acknowl­edge that the seniors long-term-care de­part­ment will be imple­men­ting a new position serving an advocacy function, which will serve both as an in­vesti­gative function as well as an advocacy function reporting directly to the minister.

      I thank you very much for the op­por­tun­ity to say a few words on this year's Esti­mates, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to acknowl­edge my colleagues in Health for their part­ner­ship and support in this im­por­tant work, as well as the many civil servants involved in this policy, planning and related decision making for the proposed budget.

      I would now be happy to answer any questions that you may have and look forward to calling my staff and intro­ducing them.

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): We thank the minister for those comments.

      Does the critic from the official op­posi­tion have an opening statement?

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood): I'd like to con­gratu­late the new minister, and I know he's got a very tough job in front of him because he–his job is to try to change the channel when the past history of the gov­ern­ment for the last few years has been disastrous, totally disastrous.

      So I can ap­pre­ciate what they are trying to do  here, but I'm just saying to you that it's going to  take quite a long time to do that. For example, back  in 2016, the new PC gov­ern­ment–actually, before they became the gov­ern­ment–promised to build 1,200 new personal-care homes in Manitoba. And today, evident­ly, we have 200 fewer beds than when they took office and so their record is actually negative. It's a negative record from–and that was 2016.

      For example, when the pandemic started, we could see the pandemic spreading from, you know, the cruise ships in the south up through the nursing homes and the seniors homes in the United States, on the border. And it took quite a long time to actually get to Manitoba. Matter of fact, the first wave practically passed us by. We had fewer, I think, than 100 cases in Manitoba.

      But other parts of the country were–New York, for example, had a huge, huge crisis there. And, you know, I kept thinking, watching TV like everybody else, that somebody was in charge of some­thing here, that there at least had to be, like, one person that would do an inventory of the homes and the staffing to make sure that we were in a good place.

      And that, apparently, did not happen. How we had so many people die in Maples is just beyond com­pre­hen­sion, and Parkview.

      So we learned–the gov­ern­ment should learn a lot of lessons out of this whole ex­per­ience, and I think the lessons are that we shouldn't be building any more high-rise centres; that they should be like–that we do in–they're doing in Holland and other parts of the world–building low-profile structures.

      And that's why I'm very interested during these Estimates to find out just where the minister plans to build his next building, because he's alluded to build­ing new buildings, but I haven't heard one an­nounce­ment as to where the first one's going to be. I'm interested in that first one. I'm not really too concerned about how many there are. I just want to see what your next one is going to be; that you're not following the–this failed road of what happened here, and we haven't had a pandemic for, you know, 100 years. And 100 years ago people were living on farms and, you know, they–you didn't have a situation here–like we have here since the 1960s, where we built all these seniors homes and basically served up these seniors to the virus, you know, buffet style.

      We can't do that for the future, and we don't know when the next pandemic is actually going to present itself. So the minister may not have–gov­ern­ment may not have as much time as they might think in this–on this issue.

      So I'm interested in knowing what their path forward is in terms of actual construction, actual build­ings, and what they're going to look like. If you're just going to build them like the old ones that have been here since the '60s, we found that that doesn't–isn't really very smart, and I know of one building in my area where the elevator stopped to work and they had to get parts from Germany, and the seniors were all on the top floor and the families were all on the bottom floors. And the elevators broke down for a few weeks.

      So, you know, looking forward, we wouldn't be looking at it the same way that we were in 1960. We were just happy to have some buildings in 1960, boarding four people in a room, right? But it's different times now, and so the different times call for a better approach to it, and I think it's lower profile buildings and I think it's single–you know, single rooms and stuff, and I haven't really heard the minister talk about this part of it.

      The only thing I've heard so far is we're going to get control of this situation here–yes, an election coming in a few weeks; is it basically just to get past the election or does the minister think he's going to actually be building some­thing, you know? And I hope he, you know, would try to find that out, whether we're actually going to be constructing anything in the near future.

      So I have some–I don't know how much time I have left on the intro­duction–

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Four and a half minutes.

Mr. Maloway: Four and a half? Okay. Well, you know, recently we had a situation where a resident of Elmwood, Eric De Schepper and his partner Katherine Ellis, were very frustrated by the broken system that they went to the media. And she had level 4 pancreatic cancer and she came home in–for palliative care, and the care didn't arrive until three days after she had died.

      And I can tell you that's not the first time this has happened. It's happened before, okay. The first time I've read about it in the newspaper. But, you know, there's a lot of work that has to be done here, and I don't know whether the minister has enough time to do it.

      Anyway, I'm ready to move on to the questions.

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): And we thank the member for his–that opening statement.

      So, under Manitoba practice, debate on the minis­ter's salary is the last item considered for the de­part­ment in the Com­mit­tee of Supply. Accordingly, we shall now defer con­sid­era­tion of line item 34.1.(a), contained in reso­lu­tion 34.1.

Mr. Maloway: Mr. Chair, I would prefer to–global approach to the–

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Yes, that's part of it. That's what we're doing. Yes, it's automatic.

      So, at this time we would invite the minister's staff to join us at the table, and I would ask that the minister please intro­duce the staff in attendance.

* (15:20)

Mr. Johnston: Mr. Chairman, I would intro­duce Bernadette Preun, my Deputy Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care; Sandra Henault, who is the assist­ant deputy minister and executive financial officer for Manitoba; Larissa Gobert, who is the senior project 'manister'–manager for policy and planning secre­tariat; and Mr. Doug Nanton, who is my special assist­ant in seniors long-term care.

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Thank you for that, and we welcome you to the table.

      According to our rule 78 section 16, during the con­sid­era­tion of de­part­mental Estimates, questioning for each de­part­ment shall proceed in a global manner, with questions put separately in all reso­lu­tions once the official op­posi­tion critic indicates that questioning has concluded.

      Therefore, the floor is now open for questions.

Mr. Maloway: Can the minister under­take to give–provide us a list of all the technical ap­point­ments to the de­part­ment, including the names and titles?

Mr. Johnston: I have two technical staff: my special assist­ant, Doug Nanton and my executive assist­ant, Andreas Kontanaeous [phonetic].

Mr. Maloway: Can the minister under­take to give an organizational chart that lists all employees in the program areas?

Mr. Johnston: I'll take that question as notice; I don't have that parti­cular chart with us, but we obviously do have one, and I will forward it to the member.

Mr. Maloway: Can the minister give a list of all current vacancies in the de­part­ment by program area?

Mr. Johnston: We are proceeding to find that infor­ma­tion for the member. Once we have got it, then I will certainly relay it, but I won't take up too much time while the search is going on right now. So if that's acceptable to the member, then we can proceed further.

Mr. Maloway: It would be acceptable, but I'd like an idea as to whether it's going to be coming here in the next day, by tomorrow or a month or two from now.

Mr. Johnston: That's the efficiency of my staff.

Mr. Maloway: Also, I'd like to ask some questions within the home-care field. We've asked him to explain why his de­part­ment is failing when it comes to the demands being placed on the Home Care program, and he would know that we had docu­ments from a response to a FIPPA request that shows monthly home-care staff vacancies continue to be a problem. The last data they provided shows that one in five positions, or 20 per cent, are vacant.

      So the question is, what spe­cific­ally is the minis­ter's plan to fill these positions and reduce the vacancies so the home-care clients are getting the supports they need?

Mr. Johnston: I would disagree with the member that this de­part­ment is failing its respon­si­bilities to address the needs of seniors in Manitoba. Quite the contrary, we have taken a number of initiatives, and certainly our budget reflects the initiatives that we are taking to support the people of Manitoba. I will–would indicate to the member that there–he is correct that there has been some challenges in regards to home-care satis­faction. However, we are striving to address those staffing issues and will continue to do that.

Mr. Maloway: That's not really a very good answer because I just previously outlined the situation with Eric De Schepper and his partner, Katherine Ellis, who are con­stit­uents of mine.

      And she had level 4 pancreatic cancer and she was promised home care. This was–like, this was over a number of months. This didn't happen just–she was stage 4 in November and passed away just recently, I guess February 22nd. But after–passed away three days before any home care arrived.

      Like, how does the minister explain that? How you could go from November and all those–all that time, 'til February 22nd, and then show up with the home care and the supplies three days after the person's passed away. How does that happen?

Mr. Johnston: I am certainly familiar with the Mr.–Mrs. De Schepper's tragedy, and that's what it was. And certainly our gov­ern­ment doesn't condone a situ­a­tion and circum­stances that took place.

      There–when learning of this parti­cular issue, my de­part­ment, working with the De­part­ment of Health, did do an in­vesti­gation into the circum­stances that did exist with this initiative and–or with this problem. And we are certainly addressing that issue.

      As I mentioned, that situation was unacceptable and we understand that action needs to be taken to ensure that these situations don't occur.

      That's why there was an in­vesti­gation that took place with the WRHA and there's–in my view, that situation was addressed. I know that the WRHA officials had addressed the situation with Mr. De Schepper after his concerns were raised.

      And, as a matter of fact, I have cor­res­pon­dence from Mr. De Schepper that was–that had indicated to the staff how satisfied he was with the study and diligence that was done to try to address his concerns.

Mr. Maloway: This is way after the fact. Like, how does it happen that a person gets diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic–that's the worst–pancreatic cancer in November and three months later, the person passes away and then the home care shows up? Clearly, some­thing went wrong here.

      Has anybody been disciplined for this? Or do we just, like, pretend that it's, you know, what's passed and we go on and hope it doesn't happen again. Is that what we're relying on here? Or did the minister actually–was anybody disciplined over this?

* (15:30)

Mr. Johnston: Well, you know, under these circum­stances you have to rely on your manage­ment to deal with these tragic circum­stances.

      And when this situation did occur, the WRHA manage­ment did certainly do its diligence to in­vesti­gate and address the issues. I, as minister, don't have direct manage­ment over the individuals who potentially needed to be addressed. I rely on the manage­ment that we put in place to be able to address those issues.

      In this parti­cular case, this fell under the author­ity of the WRHA and the Min­is­try of Health, and it's my perspective that it was dealt with through that manage­­ment structure.

Mr. Maloway: This is not the first time that this has actually happened. I've got names and times and what­not where the exact same situation happened before, where the person had cancer and the hospital bed got delivered literally the day after the person died. You know, so, I don't know what happened at that time, like, whether anybody was disciplined; it's hard to talk to somebody, they're very emotional when this happens, you know?

      And–but, I'm just–I don't know what sort of a system you can put in place. I know today we have the electronic medical records, is way more than, you know, it's in place in many more areas than it was before.

      You know, I just wonder, is there a way to have a system where you can–you, when the doctors prescribe the home care that it's locked into a system and it's not forgotten, and the home care gets sent out?

Mr. Johnston: When you're getting into the specifics of someone's medical circum­stances, that really is not–ministers and politicians aren't privy to that type of infor­ma­tion, nor should they be.

      You're asking whether or not the system is able to address those parti­cular issues, and I'd indicated to the member that the WRHA–the author­ities; all the health author­ities–have mechanisms in place to be able to address these issues. And it's the minister's respon­si­bility to ensure that these situations, when they come up–unfor­tunately, they do come up periodically–are addressed, to try to prevent further problems. And that's exactly what we do.

Mr. Maloway: The point here is that we don't precisely know what went wrong in each of these two cases, do we? I mean, somebody has to find out at–where did the actual mistake happen? You know, when there's a railway–a train crash, they do an inquiry to find out and reconstruct exactly what hap­pened, to find out just what happened, with the idea that you're going to improve the safety. That you're going to maybe have a mechanical problem, or a problem with a person. I mean, that's what you have to find out.

      And those recom­men­dations are made public at a certain point, and changes are made. And the railway is made safer, and the problem doesn't repeat itself. But you–here, you have two examples–actually, both of them are my con­stit­uents–where the same sort of situation is here. And nobody's been able to point out what the actual problem was in either one of these cases right now. Like, what could have made this–and it went on three months.

      So, is everyone running for cover here? Is that what, sort of, happened, and they covered things up?

Mr. Johnston: I would challenge the member to–who's indicating that our health-care pro­fes­sionals are  running for cover. We have a very, very capable health-care system with very, very dedi­cated and com­­pas­sion­ate and passionate individuals. So to sug­gest that those parti­cular individuals are not prepared to do their job and do due diligence to this type of thing, frankly, is not really acceptable.

      So, again, I come back to the same position that the health author­ities in­vesti­gate these situations and, based on their in­vesti­gations, they take the appropriate actions and try to ensure within their processes that these type of situations don't re-occur.

      Again, our gov­ern­ment–nobody in this room–would condone a situation like that that exists. And to suggest that our health pro­fes­sionals wouldn't do their due diligence to ensure that these type of situations don't exist and just throw it under the table is totally inappropriate and not accurate.

Mr. Maloway: So, I'd like to ask the minister then, what is the current vacancy rate then in staff positions with home care today? Like, where are we at with vacancy rates at the moment?

Mr. Johnston: I would have to take that question under ad­vise­ment. The parti­cular numbers that the member is asking for, we would have to get through the De­part­ment of Health.

      And in order to get the member the accurate infor­ma­tion that he is seeking, we would have to do further due diligence with the de­part­ment and reply to him once we are able to achieve those numbers.

Mr. Maloway: So, can the minister give us an idea as to when we should be getting that infor­ma­tion?

* (15:40)

Mr. Johnston: My de­part­ment works very, very closely with the De­part­ment of Health, and I'm ad­vised that we should be able to supply–I say should be able to supply–that infor­ma­tion by the end of the week. That is our intent. If we have to go into the next week based on circum­stances, I can assure the mem­ber that we will find the infor­ma­tion for him in reasonable time. [interjection]

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Excuse–I need to just acknowl­edge you first, sir.

Mr. Maloway: So, when–could you ask them, then, in addition to finding out what the vacancy rates are, say, today, can you give us a trend line as to whether we can see–where we're seeing im­prove­ments, right? So if they can say, well, the vacancy rate is such-and-such on April 1st, then, you know, which way is it going, here? Is it improving or is it getting worse? That's what I'd like to see, anyway, so, maybe if you could graph it from January, right? Maybe, right, try that?

Mr. Johnston: I would indicate to the member that our de­part­ment is committed to satisfying his request, and with the infor­ma­tion that we're able to supply, I'm sure that he has the ex­per­ience and the ability to analyze and deter­mine what those trends may be. So, I have every con­fi­dence in the member's abilities.

Mr. Maloway: So, with that in mind, then, I'd like to know spe­cific­ally what the minister's plan is to fill all these positions, these vacant positions, and reduce these vacancies, so that all of the clients who–are getting the supports that they need. So does he have any specific plans, here, to keep this–get this vacancy down to zero and keep it there? I guess that's the question.

Mr. Johnston: I would indicate to the member that this gov­ern­ment has taken a number of initiatives to ensure that we are addressing the needs of seniors, in parti­cularly–in parti­cular, the de­part­ment has increased its overall budget to this de­part­ment by 71.3 per cent, I believe, and a lot of the initiatives–or all the initiatives are going into enhancing seniors' ex­per­ience in Manitoba.

      Currently, there are 50,000 seniors that are being served by the Home Care program and that relates to an invest­ment of this gov­ern­ment by over $300 million to home care annually. That initiative and that con­tri­bu­tion to ensuring home care is continually supported, I think it speaks for itself. As a matter of fact, at the end of this fiscal year, our gov­ern­ment has increased the home-care funding by 3.66 per cent, which again, speaks loudly to our commit­ment to home care.

      We are certainly looking to take initiatives through a number of issues. I know most recently the Winnipeg Regional Health Author­ity was on a very aggressive recruiting program to hire 50 individuals, non-certified, initially. And the goal, again, was to have 200 more by the end of June with ultimately the goal being at the end of the year to have 500 ad­di­tional recruitments.

      So we are, certainly, working very diligently to address the issue of staffing and support home care in a number of different areas. And we will continue to do that.

Mr. Maloway: Well, you know, what the minister says, you know, makes sense and would make more sense if there wasn't a past history with this gov­ern­ment. I guess that's the reason the conundrum here, that if you could forget the last six years, when Brian Pallister was elected premier the first time, it's a totally different looking gov­ern­ment right now, at least talking gov­ern­ment.

      That's what they're trying to do here. But, you know, the public, I don't think have gotten onto this newfound approach yet. Because they remember all those years, those six years where, you know, this wasn't your priority.

      So forgive me if I, you know, want to ask you a few more questions here because of that. You know, if the gov­ern­ment had been paying attention to this issue of home care and these–and building more of the buildings and so on, had they been in tune with this issue for the last six years, we probably wouldn't be, you know, totally skeptical of what the gov­ern­ment is doing right now.

      I think a lot of people think that what you're trying to do is just get past the next few months. And this kind–this has happened before, probably with you guys, too. But it's a believability issue. And so you say you're going to do this and then people just want to know that it's real, that it's actually going to happen.

      And I think, you know, what you want to be doing here, if you're going to build a seniors home or if you're going to do one of these long-term-care homes, that you actually announce a real project, you know, so we can see it. And–[interjection]–well, there's a new one that you want to make this. Yes, I want to see that.

      But I can tell you that in, for example, the Highway 59 issue, right, of the cloverleaf up there and expansion, we didn't think the public was going to believe us if we just simply announced it again. So we made sure–some of us made sure that there was actual graders and work being done there, like, right away. Okay? And it proved out to be a good project. But did we even believe it ourselves because it had been promised so many times before, you know? And gov­ern­ments have a tendency to do that.

      The Conservatives in Brandon announced that hospital in Brandon probably how many times over, about ten years. It became a point where people actually wouldn't believe that you're actually going to do it when you just keep re-announcing it. That's what the issue is here, right? You know, so I just want to know, like, when are we going to get–when am I going to find out when this next PCH is going to be built?

      You were supposed to build one in Lac du Bonnet. That was a big issue for quite a few years here while the–he's now a minister, but he was the critic before–was complaining about the PCH home being built in Lac du Bonnet and all of a sudden, it just disappeared. It disappeared in thin air–gone. What happened to that home and where is it now? Like, why are you not building it as we speak? Because it was a promise.

Mr. Johnston: Certainly, the member brings up a great–likes to bring up a great deal of history. I mean, the previous gov­ern­ment that he represents was thrown out by the people of Manitoba who understood that there needed to be change in this province, and initially in 2016, gave this gov­ern­ment one of the highest majorities in the history of the province, if not the highest.

      And then in 2019, after this gov­ern­ment had an op­por­tun­ity to continue to show the people of Manitoba how it was going to proceed and progress, the people of Manitoba with their wisdom, deter­mined in 2019 they would also give this gov­ern­ment a very sub­stan­tial–second highest and doubling, I think, what the New Democrat Party, the member's party, had.

* (15:50)

      So, I think that if you're looking at the perception of what the public feels about gov­ern­ments, I think there is a history of, certainly, of what the people's preference was in regards to gov­ern­ments doing their job.

      Now, the member does indicate–I think the member jumped around here a little bit; we were talking about home care, and now we're talking about PCHs.

      So, I'm very happy to–if the member wants to shift gears to personal-care homes, I'm very comfortable in doing that. As I mentioned, our home-care initiatives–before I leave that parti­cular component–this gov­ern­ment is working very diligently not only to esta­blish further aging-in-home initiatives such as the self- and family-managed program, which we have initiated; and we also, too, I've indicated several times in the House that there are more initiatives coming forward out of the seniors strategy.

      And I can assure the member that they are coming forward, and they're–and innovative initiatives, not just the standard status-quo initiatives that are well thought out–and a lot of due diligence done to look to the–how the people of Manitoba, seniors of Manitoba, are going to be able to enjoy their aging.

      Now, back to the personal-care homes that the member now brings forward, is that the member is correct. This gov­ern­ment is very interested in fulfilling the needs of Manitobans when it comes to personal-care homes, and again, we will be announcing in the very near future our gov­ern­ment's plans to fulfill those needs. And I can indicate to the member, if he's taken the time to read the seniors strategy–which does, I think, very aggressively indicate that this gov­ern­ment is very sup­port­ive of the concept of seniors' village or seniors' campus.

      And I can assure the member that the initiatives that we are bringing forward do address that parti­cular concept and that initiative. The member does bring up  that there are different models in different areas, and I can assure the member that myself, with my de­part­ment, with the stake­holders of Manitoba, have reviewed a number of different areas that–different models–that we feel that we can adapt going forward. And also, too, there's more than just focusing on the traditional personal-care home that can satisfy needs of Manitobans as they age.

      And as we proceed with further initiatives, to be able to address the needs of those individuals who need personal-care homes, we will also be announcing other very innovative and progressive initiatives that will also address it. So I'm sure the member will be sitting on the edge of his seat, waiting for these an­nounce­ments to come forward, and I certainly look forward to presenting them.

Mr. Maloway: I'll be pleasantly surprised when I see it–

An Honourable Member: Optimistic.

Mr. Maloway: –optimistic when I see it, yes. I know I want to see it done.

      And so that way–when the next pandemic comes, hopefully it never comes, but it will be on some day, that we will not have–whatever gov­ern­ment's in power at the time–that we will not have this terrible situation on our hands. It was totally–I wouldn't say it's totally impossible, it can't happen again; but we should do whatever we can to make certain that it doesn't.

      Now, I have a question here about the data showing that the number of–back to home care, here–the number of home-care clients helped was down by over 1,000, and the number of hours of care is down by over a quarter million hours close to a–it's about a 10 per cent decline.

      Does the minister acknowl­edge that the staff vacancies are the main barrier, here, to increasing hours of care for an increasing number of patients and making up for the cuts they made to the total hours of care?

Mr. Johnston: So, just for clari­fi­ca­tion with the member, we are talking about personal-care homes right now, staffing? Or are we talking about home-care staffing?

Mr. Maloway: We're talking about home-care staffing right now. I did say that.

Mr. Johnston: In order to ensure that the member has  the most accurate data on that parti­cular question, I would, again–admin­is­tra­tion feels that they can give me some information right now, but it doesn't really include all the infor­ma­tion that the member's asking for.

      So therefore, if it's–accommodates the member, we will, with the other infor­ma­tion that we are provi­ding him, we will provide you with that too.

An Honourable Member: Tomorrow, or?

Mr. Johnston: We're looking–[interjection]

      As I'd indicated previous, we will be supplying you the infor­ma­tion. It's our in­ten­tion to get it to you by the end of the week, if not the begin­ning of next week. So therefore, I can assure you that you'll be getting it in real time.

Mr. Maloway: Is the minister concerned that certain health support staff have still not received retroactive pay for the negotiated wages they agreed to last year some–yes, I think it's seven months ago?

      So, there's an issue with retroactive pay, has that been worked out?

Mr. Johnston: You know, I'm not in a position to be able to answer the question in regards to how the contractual arrangements between our employees and the de­part­ments are carried out. So, on that parti­cular issue, it's my ex­pect­a­tion that all negotiations continue to be done very, very positively and both parties are able to come to a reasonable conclusion under the traditional contract negotiations.

      And therefore, I'm really not in a position where I can indicate to the member one way or another on satisfaction or dissatisfaction in regards to negotiated contracts.

* (16:00)

Mr. Maloway: Now we're going to flip back to personal care homes–just follow that bouncing ball. [interjection]

      Oh, yes. Does the minister believe that the standard of care within Manitoba's personal care homes is adequate?

Mr. Johnston: I can indicate to the member that the criteria of personal care homes is actually legis­lated. And it is our ex­pect­a­tion as a gov­ern­ment–not our ex­pect­a­tion, our demand, as a gov­ern­ment that that  legislation is followed by those caregivers. And I would indicate that it is our in­ten­tion to ensure that all of those different entities fulfill the–their obligations through the legis­lation.

Mr. Maloway: What percentage of the Stevenson review recom­men­dations have been imple­mented so far?

Mr. Johnston: I can advise the member that the Stevenson recommendations, as we've publicly stated, out of the 17 recom­men­dations, 10 of those recom­men­dations have been imple­mented and the other seven are in the process of being imple­mented.

Mr. Maloway: And so, what's the timeline for the remaining seven to be imple­mented?

Mr. Johnston: The initiatives that are proceeding are all underway. I can indicate that to the member with a great deal of con­fi­dence.

      I can indicate to the member that, when the Stevenson review was brought forward, the–our posi­tion and guarantee may be strong, but certainly our position to the public is that we would be im­plementing within a six-year time frame. So we're in the–based on that six year, we're into the second year now.

      So, in answer to the member's question, I can indicate that we are looking to have all of the recom­men­dations of the Stevenson report imple­mented within the six-year time frame that we initially put forward.

      If we can get the initiatives satisfied before the end of that six-year time frame, then obviously we will do that. We're working towards achieving those goals as soon as we can.

      But we indicated a six-year time frame, and that was two years ago.

Mr. Maloway: Does the minister think that there's enough PCH beds in Manitoba at the current time?

Mr. Johnston: As I think I'd indicated earlier in the–or answered the member's question earlier was that this de­part­ment will be bringing forward further recom­­men­dations on personal‑care‑home‑bed initia­tives and also, too, over and above the personal­care‑home‑bed initiatives, other very inno­vative initiatives to satisfy care beds in the province of Manitoba.

      So, I–the only way that I can answer that question is to say that the gov­ern­ment is taking an initiative to further add personal‑care homes to Manitoba.

Mr. Maloway: As I said before, in '16–2016–the PC Party campaigned on a promise to build 1,200 PCH beds, so can the minister explain whether his gov­ern­ment has followed through on this promise?

Mr. Johnston: As I'd indicated to the member, it is the gov­ern­ment's in­ten­tion to increase personal­care‑home beds as well as other innovations to ensure that we will fulfill the needs of Manitobans. And I had indicated to the member, basically, stay tuned.

      I'm sure that the member will be extremely sup­port­ive of the initiatives that the gov­ern­ment is going to be bringing forward to ensure that the needs of Manitoba seniors are fulfilled.

      So, I mean, I'm not sure how better to answer that question.

Mr. Maloway: Well, the fact of the matter is that the gov­ern­ment has not followed through on this promise of 1,200 PCH beds. I don't know how he expects the public of Manitoba to believe–this year, if he makes a similar an­nounce­ment, are we going to build another 1,200 PCH beds?

      And six years ago, he made the same an­nounce­ment. The party made the same an­nounce­ment and didn't follow through on. What credibility is he going to have going forward with the public when you didn't fulfill your first promise of 1,200 PCH beds?

      I'm just saying that it's probably going to be seen as an empty promise if it's–if that's what you're doing is making a promise that we're going to do another 1,200–we didn't do them in the last six years, so we're going to do them in the next six years.

      So the answer to that question is no, you've not done 1,200–built 1,200 PCH beds.

      Now, not only have they failed to follow through with their 2016 promise, within two terms, there's actually fewer PCH beds in Manitoba today than when they took office in '16. There were 9,698 in the province in–beds in 2016, and there's 9,549 now.

      Can the minister explain why his gov­ern­ment broke their promise to Manitobans?

Mr. Johnston: I wouldn't agree with the member indicating that this gov­ern­ment isn't following through on commit­ments to ensure that the seniors of Manitoba's needs are being met.

      I think that many of the initiatives that this gov­ern­ment has taken place in regards to supporting seniors are quite apparent. The seniors strategy that was brought forward has a number of different an­nounce­ments that were brought forward to assisting the people of Manitoba.

      The–one of the most recent ones, what I can tell you was very well accepted, was the hearing-aid initiative that this gov­ern­ment brought forward to support seniors. So much so, that they were all–seniors were very interested to see what the op­posi­tion was going to do in regards to supporting this initiative so that we could get going on this and they could receive that type of support.

      But–and certainly all of the other initiatives that are coming out of the seniors strategy which I have identified, which I can walk through–which I enjoy walking through in the House, actually.

* (16:10)

      But let's talk about a little bit more of the mem­ber's concern in regards to personal‑care homes. I can indicate–and I've indicated publicly in the House; this shouldn't come as any surprise to the member–that this gov­ern­ment is in planning and design for a number of increased personal-care home beds, or personal-care beds, to the province of Manitoba.

      So, being in planning and design is a very sub­stan­tial step to continuing to fulfill the obligation of–the member continues to say 1,200. It is my ex­pect­a­tion that after we finish bringing forward our initia­tives, that we will surpass that, which is some­thing that no other gov­ern­ment has been able to accom­plish, but our gov­ern­ment certainly is looking towards fulfilling that goal.

      And, as I mentioned, we are proceeding in planning and design on these initiatives, as well as other initiatives too, which I will identify.

      So, I look forward to bringing that to the member's attention.

Mr. Maloway: The PC gov­ern­ment cancelled PCH projects in Lac du Bonnet and Bridgwater.

      Can the minister explain why, and was this the correct decision?

Mr. Johnston: I can indicate again to the member that this gov­ern­ment is in planning and design. There are a number of different initiatives that will be brought forward to not only reach the 1,200 beds that he con­tinues to reference, but actually surpassing that.

      So, I'm very con­fi­dent and very optimistic and very enthusiastic about the support that my gov­ern­ment has given this de­part­ment to be able to proceed and fulfill its needs–its perceived–the needs that it believes will fulfill the needs of Manitoba seniors. So, look forward to it.

Mr. Maloway: Well, I distinctly remember the member for Lac du Bonnet (Mr. Ewasko), for at least a couple terms as an–as he was an MLA, talking about building the PCH project in Lac du Bonnet. And then, when the Conservatives formed the gov­ern­ment, this was not done. Why?

Mr. Johnston: We do our due diligence when we deter­mine how we're going to proceed to fulfill the needs of seniors in Manitoba and overall popu­la­tion of Manitoba. We take advice from the health author­ities, the pro­fes­sionals who are assessing the needs of Manitobans, and we proceed accordingly.

      Again, I would say to the member that we will be proceeding–we're in planning and design of a number of different facilities, as well as other initiatives, to fulfill that initiative of care beds.

      And it's my hope or my ex­pect­a­tion that the member will support this when they come forward. I've heard many times the Leader of the Op­posi­tion indicate what–his support for increased personal-care‑home beds in Manitoba.

      And I will–I indicated to the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, when he was speaking to it in the House once, that I would look forward to his support on these initiatives. Just like when we bring them forward, I'm looking forward to the support of the op­posi­tion to allow us to continue to proceed with these initiatives.

      This is a whole‑gov­ern­ment situation. This is just not our gov­ern­ment. This is some­thing that affects all Manitobans, including the con­stit­uents of the op­posi­tion. And therefore, these positive needs are not–they should stand outside the political arena. They should go to fulfilling the needs of Manitobans. So, therefore, it would be my ex­pect­a­tion that the op­posi­tion will whole­heartedly support these initiatives brought forward by the gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Maloway: The minister's referenced a couple times now that there are a number of projects–PCH projects in the planning and design stage. How many are there and is one of the them Lac du Bonnet?

Mr. Johnston: As I'd indicated to the member, we will be bringing forward the initiatives that we are planning to take in the very near future. And the member, I'm sure, will be very interested to hear our an­nounce­ment.

Mr. Maloway: We know that Manitoba has an ageing popu­la­tion that will require more supports in the future, including PCH beds. And has the minister's de­part­ment done any analysis on how many PCH beds Manitoba will need in the future?

Mr. Johnston: Certainly, I can ap­pre­ciate the mem­ber indicating that we do have an ageing popu­la­tion and a popu­la­tion where the demo­gra­phics are skewing towards seniors.

      And this is not some­thing that's new. This is some­thing that his previous gov­ern­ment, quite frankly, were seeing the same trends, were seeing the exact same situations and they did not act on it. They didn't do anything on it.

      I, frankly, was–have–since I–when I took this position, I looked to see what type of reports or what type of infor­ma­tion was gathered by the previous gov­ern­ment in regards to looking at the long-term needs of Manitobans, and quite frankly, there was nothing. So, this gov­ern­ment took it upon itself to address these needs.

      In answer to the member's question, is that we have pro­fes­sionals that work within the Health Depart­ment. We have pro­fes­sionals that are looking at demo­gra­phics and looking at different areas of need and we take that advice. And so, the member's asking what type of planning was done? Well, the planning was done with a great deal of due diligence with the de­part­ment.

      And I can also indicate that when the–we were developing our seniors strategy, we went out and we talked to Manitobans. We talked to stake­holders. We talked to seniors. We talked to all Manitobans and they also, too, presented their thoughts in helping us develop our strategies and also, too, contributing to the overall needs of Manitobans.

      So, we took into con­sid­era­tion a number of dif­ferent areas of expertise and–going forward.

Mr. Maloway: Well, I guess–thank you, Mr. Chair–I would guess that the minister has half a dozen of these projects that he's holding up his sleeve and waiting to announce in the election that's coming up. I can just assume that's what's going on here, otherwise I think he looks pretty excited that he'd want to intro­duce them, you know, announce them right now, and let us all know, but he's been ordered not to do it.

      I just don't know how the public can trust a gov­ern­ment that promises to build 1,200 of them six years ago, actually–not only doesn't do it, but actually reduces the number of PCH beds. And now he's going to start again. They're going to start again and say, oh, we're going to deliver another 1,200.

      And I just think we're looking at more broken promises, but that's just me. Maybe this time it's going to be different.

      In 2016–oh, the minister would like to answer that question. Okay, sure, go right ahead. That is a question.

Mr. Johnston: Well, I enjoy the discussion with my hon­our­able friend, I must say that. I'm–was actually hoping that with him being–and I think it's safe to say that we're both seniors, and I was always looking forward to–being my critic, to asking me some questions in the House and we could have that back and forth.

* (16:20)

      And I've enjoyed those con­ver­sa­tions too, so I consider the member–and the member indicates that these initiatives are coming forward as some type of an election strategy. You know, when the–when Premier Stefanson, you know, became the Premier of this province, one of the initiatives that the Premier took was to esta­blish a de­part­ment of seniors and long-term care. She recog­nized that the Health Depart­ment is so large that there needed to be some further focus in regards to some different areas. So the De­part­ment of Seniors and Long‑Term Care was esta­blished, as well as Mental Health and Com­mu­nity Wellness.

      So the Premier deter­mined, at that time, which was considerably earlier than the member is indicating right now, as far as timing of an­nounce­ments, to address the needs of seniors, and that's what this depart­ment has been working towards.

      So we've been working on a seniors strategy for a number of time now, and we've announced, certainly, several initiatives that has come out of that based on this–the seniors strategy, as well as the imple­men­ta­tion of the Stevenson report.

      So, I would indicate to the member that his commentary is not accurate. We've been planning to support seniors ever since Premier Stefanson has created this focus and these de­part­ments. So, this is really not an election issue; this is a gov­ern­ment issue that we recog­nized seniors' needs needed to be addressed, based on the demo­gra­phics that took place. And as I mentioned, I come back to what the member had indicated previously in regards to history.

      The former gov­ern­ment, as far as I could see–I looked around for a number of different reports, et cetera, that the gov­ern­ment did to address the increase in seniors' popu­la­tion, the explosion, bound to the baby boomers, were hitting the seniors age grouping, and I couldn't find anything. So, I mean, this trend is nothing new, but our gov­ern­ment deter­mined that, obviously, we had to address it, and we are.

      So the initiatives we're taking don't have anything to do with the election. They have every­thing to do with fulfilling the needs of Manitobans.

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Thank you for that.

      And just before I recog­nize you for the next question, just a quick reminder that when you're referring to other members of the House, it's by position or title, not with their name, please.

      And I will now call on the member from Elmwood.

Mr. Maloway: Before we move on to another ques­tion, though, I just wanted to finish off by saying that 2016 was an election year, right?

      And the PCs promised to build 1,200 PCH beds within two terms. And we never heard anything about that anymore. We didn't hear anything about PCH beds for the next number of years. So they broke that promise.

      Now they've announced, just before an election, we're going to build a new PCH in Winnipeg. It's the first time they've raised the idea since 2019. And what do these two years have in common? Well, they're election years.

      So, I mean, he can say all he wants, that they've been lying awake at nights or every single day in the last six  years, conspiring to build things that they didn't build. They just promised in 2016 these 1,200 beds, and then what happened? Nothing happened. And then the next election came up. Once again, nothing happened.

      So having said that, I want to move on to my next area here, which is patient transfer. Want to ask the minister, does he believe that seniors should have access to personal-care homes close to home? Because we have instances now where we've got patients being transferred, you know, I don't know, 100 miles or 100 kilometres from their homes; that's just not right. So I'd like to get your comments on that, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Johnston: And just before I go to the next topic of the member, before we leave personal-care homes initiatives, our gov­ern­ment will continue to fulfill the needs of seniors and that's exactly why we're in planning and design, as well as other innovative initiatives to fulfill those needs.

      And I would remind the member that on many occasions, I heard your leader indicate that he was in support of personal-care‑home beds for the province of Manitoba. And it would be my perspective that the member support his leader in supporting our initia­tives to further create further supports for the people of Manitoba.

      Now, back to the next line of questioning that the member has brought forward in regards to transport of fulfilling seniors' needs in regards to location and in areas of more convenience–I think it's fair to say that.

      Certainly, this de­part­ment is very sup­port­ive of trying to satisfy the needs of any individuals who are wanting to stay closer to their com­mu­nities and closer to their families. I mean, that's some­thing that is certainly a priority when circum­stances do exist under this–very difficult circum­stances that all gov­ern­ments had to contend with during COVID; there were some very difficult decisions that had to be made.

      I was–for our de­part­ment, I think, in this parti­cular instance, we're more relying on the expertise of our health pro­fes­sionals to recom­mend the most ap­pro­priate initiatives to ensure that the care of the individuals required were taken.

      So, I know that our De­part­ment of Health was the author­ity in regards to deter­mining these initiatives and these transfers through advice of pro­fes­sionals and I would defer to their expertise.

      In answer to your question, do I believe that it would be best to try to keep seniors closer to home? Well, of course. I mean, I think–I don't think anybody would indicate that that wouldn't be a priority. But, ultimately, the needs of the health of seniors has to be considered first and foremost.

Mr. Ian Wishart, Acting Chairperson, in the Chair

Mr. Maloway: Well, I'm looking for the member's comments, I guess, on examples that we have. Like, we have a case here covered in The Roblin Review regarding a 90-year-old woman who was literally ripped from the only com­mu­nity she's ever known and placed in a personal-care home in Shoal Lake where she has no family or friends.

      And so, there's–and there's more examples like this. So I don't know where there's, you know, medical evidence that it's a smart idea to take somebody and move them 100 miles from their com­mu­nity and then make it tougher for their loved ones to come and see them. Like, does that make any sense?

      I'm sure that nobody around this table would agree that that's a good idea, but these things are hap­pening. And, of course, you're the minister, so it falls on you to find out why this is happening and what are we going to do about it.

Mr. Johnston: Well, first and foremost, I'm really not going to get into the detail or comment on a specific case that may–being dealt with–excuse me–through the health author­ities. I mean, I don't believe this is the ap­pro­priate place to get into that. This is more of a discussion in regards to our Estimates and the initiatives of the gov­ern­ment.

* (16:30)

      So, you know, I understand that there may be some frustration in regards to some of the initiatives that are taken. I can't speak to why those initiatives are taken, because really, that's really a decision that are–that's made by the health pro­fes­sionals, and it's my under­standing that all reasonable initiatives are taken to try to ensure that individuals are able to be kept within their com­mu­nity. And that's the–that's my position, and I believe–I know that's the position of the Minister of Health (Ms. Gordon); but if circum­stances dictate that an individual has to go to another area to satisfy their needs, then that's really a decision made by the health pro­fes­sionals.

Mr. Maloway: Can the minister explain why esta­blish­ing a seniors advocate was not part of the seniors strategy?

Mr. Johnston: Frankly, I'm very enthusiastic about an initiative that this gov­ern­ment is taking, or this de­part­ment is taking, to expand its de­part­ment to include a position of advocacy and in­vesti­gation which will advise–further advise the minister, who actually is the seniors advocate of Manitoba.

Mr. Len Isleifson, Acting Chairperson, in the Chair

      And it's–the De­part­ment of Seniors and Long-Term Care has now been in existence for just over a year, and with that comes an evaluation and a deter­min­ation of how our de­part­ment can run even more effectively.

      And, therefore, it's our gov­ern­ment's initia­tive to add a further position to our de­part­ment, which will act to further enhance the advocacy of seniors in the province of Manitoba. And, Mr. Chair, I would indi­cate that there are several models of advocacy out there; there's just not one solution.

      I would note that seniors advocates in the country of Canada, there are three, out of all the provinces and territories. So therefore, there are other models in place that gov­ern­ments are pursuing to ensure that the needs of seniors are being met. I'm very proud of the initiatives that this de­part­ment has taken to ensure that seniors are being advocated and initiatives are being taken to support–and, frankly, the stake­holders that we deal with are very, very satisfied with the progress of this de­part­ment.

      And sometime when we we have more time, or sometimes when I'm questioned in the House, I'd be more than happy to relay all the positive and sup­port­ive comments that we have from stake­holders who also advocate on behalf of seniors. So we're working together with all of the initiatives and all the very passionate and committed people, working together to esta­blish a–mechanisms that are going to support seniors. And we've done that.

      So, in answer to your question, we do have a seniors advocacy in this province, and it's expanding.

Mr. Maloway: The recently released seniors strategy lacked im­por­tant details such as when initiatives would be imple­mented. For example, the initiative to develop an ageism-pre­ven­tion toolkit is outlined in the strategy, but there's no timeline provided to complete the toolkit.

      Can the minister explain why the strategy lacks clear timelines?

Mr. Johnston: I think that the member is mistaken. I  just announced a $4.5‑million seniors support initia­tive that addressed that parti­cular initiative that he's referring to. So I will further ensure that I've got that infor­ma­tion in front of me and I will relay it further.

      As I mentioned last–not last week, the week before, I publicly announced a $4.5‑million invest­ment to sup­port stake­holders who are exactly–doing exactly what you're asking me. [interjection] You don't want to go there anymore.

Mr. Maloway: Many of the initiatives in the seniors strategy also lack specifics. For example, strategy on page 28, that the gov­ern­ment will work to support older residents and those who care for and support us to deal with the rising cost of living, yet it doesn't say how this will be accom­plished.

      Can the minister explain why?

Mr. Johnston: This gov­ern­ment has taken a number of addition–of initiatives to support seniors.

      The member references affordability. We are–we have proceeded with many, many initiatives in–one in parti­cular that, again, I mentioned earlier, has resonated with the people of Manitoba, being the hearing aid initiative, where seniors who have a household income of $80,000 and less would qualify for a $2,000 grant, each member.

      And Mr. Chair, that initiative is so positive be­cause not only does it affect lower income Manitobans, it addresses middle‑income Manitobans. And that initia­tive, as I mentioned, has been extremely well received. And, again, once our budget passes, the op­por­tun­ity for those individuals to be able to utilize that will be, I'm sure, well received. That's just one example of what this gov­ern­ment is doing to ensure affordability and supporting.

      The other area that I would indicate is that this gov­ern­ment has identified that one of the areas that is very, very sig­ni­fi­cant challenge to our seniors is Alzheimer's and dementia. And we have been work­ing with our stake­holders to try to identify different ways of being able to support those individuals, those caregivers who are faced with dealing with this very difficult disease.

      So, you know, we had, you know, offered a First Link program, working with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. And in doing so, that, of course, does address and further fulfills needs of Manitobans.

      So those are just examples of things that our gov­ern­ment is proceeding to do to support not only seniors but also, too, to support those caregivers.

      As I mentioned, my an­nounce­ment that I made in supporting support mechanisms such as the Manitoba Association of Senior Com­mu­nities, as well as other support groups. We have–we'll continue to do it, and that's some­thing that we've committed to and we will continue to proceed.

* (16:40)

      Those are some of the initiatives, and there's more to come. I keep reminding the member that the seniors strategy has a number of initiatives that we're bringing forward, and there's more to come.

Mr. Maloway: On home‑care strategy, this home‑care strategy says that the home‑care model in Manitoba will be redesigned. Can the minister explain what the new model's going to look like, and when are we going to see this redesigned model?

Mr. Johnston: I am very excited about the new, inno­vative modelling that we're bringing forward for home care. We have already initiated a $12.6‑million invest­ment into self‑ and family-managed care.

      And, certainly, that's an area that has been well received. That's what we heard. When we went to public con­sul­ta­tions in all parts of this great province, we heard from people that they wanted to age at home. And that was quite clear.

      That was quite clear in Brandon. That was quite clear in the North. That was quite clear in the south. That was quite clear everywhere. And we had reacted on our initial invest­ment an­nounce­ment of a $12.6‑million invest­ment in self and family care, which allows the individuals to be more in control of how they're going to proceed within their environ­ment.

      And the member asks, well, when can we expect even further? And I can tell the member that the an­nounce­ment that will be coming forward to indicate more innovation to home care will be coming forward very soon, and I look forward to the member reviewing and certainly probably being as enthusiastic–'susiastic' as I am on that because as the member appreciates, I'm a senior and longer term I'm looking forward to seniors being able to utilize this type of support longer term as I'm sure the member is also.

Mr. Maloway: I promised the member for River Heights 20 minutes, and we're down to 18 now, so I think we should allow the member for River Heights to use the 18 minutes.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): When you look at the efforts for seniors and we combine long-term care and home care, it's my under­standing that as the dollars–that the allocation is about two thirds for long-term care and about one third for home care? If the minister could, you know, confirm that and tell me whether that's the kind of balance that he's anticipating into the future.

Mr. Johnston: So just to clarify, I want to make sure that I have the member's question clear. So you're asking whether or not the one third-two thirds ratio that he indicates, and I haven't confirmed that, but he indicates is some­thing that the gov­ern­ment is adopting, is that correct?

Mr. Gerrard: Is that your vision of what that will be five or 10 years from now?

Mr. Johnston: In answer to the member's question, I would indicate that that's not a gov­ern­ment policy, one third, two thirds.

      I would indicate that we're going to have to do a little bit more number crunching to ensure that in fact the accuracy–I'm not suggesting that the member's trying to mislead; I just wanted to confirm the accuracy of what he is indicating in regards to–I assume you're talking about budgetary expenditures here.

An Honourable Member: Right.

Mr. Johnston: So, we'll have to further indicate what exactly that looks like and confirm it. But I can confirm to the member that there isn't a gov­ern­ment policy that says it's one third, two thirds. It's just–if, in fact, the member is correct, then that's just the way it shook out.

Mr. Gerrard: I understand that–from the minister's–from your remarks–that the–you're planning to and are expanding the self- and family-managed care program. Some funding was going to that before the allocation of the $12.6 million.

      But I'd like to know–you've got two primary programs, in a sense. One is the regular publicly funded home care delivered by people who hire the staff to do that, and the other is the family and–self- and family-managed care.

      What's the current allocation between the two, and what's the plan for the years ahead?

Mr. Johnston: We looked at some different scenarios here in regards to answering the member's question; however, I don't feel comfortable in answering it to the accuracy that I want to.

      So, therefore, I would indicate to the member that we will further deter­mine with the De­part­ment of Health the actual dollar amounts and those break­downs and get that to the member.

* (16:50)

Mr. Gerrard: If you could get at the same time the figure and the proportions for home care versus long-term care?

An Honourable Member: I can certainly do that.

Mr. Gerrard: The minister mentioned long-term-care standards and said that these were in legis­lation, but I suspect that they're in regula­tions, rather than in legis­lation. But maybe you can tell me whether it's legis­lation or regula­tions.

Mr. Johnston: I'd answer the member–I think the member's sort of right on both occasions, or both scenarios. It is regula­tion but it's also within the legis­lation. So the regula­tion is within the legis­lation, that's what I'm advised.

      So when I had indicated that the–drawn the distinction between that parti­cular service offered versus others, I'm very clear on indicating that there is a criteria that personal-care homes have to meet based on legis­lation, which includes regula­tion. I think–I hope I'm clear on that.

Mr. Gerrard: Now, one of the standards, which I understand has been in place, was that there was 3.6 hours per resident, and I believe the minister has indicated that he is or has moved to 3.8 hours per resident per day.

      Is that one of the standards, and what is the current situation with 'thrat?'

Mr. Johnston: Yes, an answer to the member's question is that I wouldn't say that that would be a standard. That would be a goal.

      And also, too, that comes from a national study or a national–the federal gov­ern­ment hasn't adopted a standard or national standard.

      So I want to be quite clear that this gov­ern­ment is proceeding to esta­blish a higher ratio. That's really not in question; that's where we're going. Whether or not we identify it as a standard or not, I guess, is a question.

      But in answer to the member's question, when we started the–further to the Stevenson review, which the member is familiar with, one of the recom­men­dations didn't actually indicate an actual ratio but what–did indicate that an increased ratio, hour ratio, was warranted.

      So we were at a 3.6 to start and right now we are at an average of 3.7. So we've moved from 3.6 to 3.7. Our goal by the end of this year is to get to a 3.8. That is our goal. Ultimately, I've said publicly, that it's the gov­ern­ment's goal to proceed to a 4.1 within six years. That's challenging because of, basically, staff chal­lenges, but that is the goal that we're working towards.

      Now, in saying that, as the member would know, the federal gov­ern­ment is taking some initiatives in regards to this area, which I'm not privy to exactly where they're going and how they're going to implement their various policies.

      But if we can get this done within six years, we can get it done earlier to get to the 4.1, then that would be our gov­ern­ment's ambition.

Mr. Gerrard: One of the things that's become in­creasingly im­por­tant, as the minister knows, is the proportion of people in many long-term-care homes who have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementias.

      Is it a standard that everybody who works in such long-term-care homes have specific training in dementia and under­standing dementia and the care for people with dementia?

Mr. Johnston: In answer to the member's question, the criteria of the individuals who work in the health-care system are more deter­mined and met with the Depart­ment of Health, not the De­part­ment of Seniors.

      So, therefore, the criteria that they have in regards to different areas of expertise, I would indicate that some of the individuals that are taking care of our elderly within personal-care homes would have an under­standing of how to deal with dementia, but I can't indicate that all individuals would have that expertise. That's some­thing that we would have to deal with from the Health De­part­ment's perspective.

      I can tell you that I've had extremely good discussions and liaison with the Alzheimer Society of  Manitoba, they're great people to work with; and Erin Crawford as well as Wendy Schettler, who've been very, very supportive and helpful to me in my under­standing of this parti­cular challenge.

      So, they have indicated that as we continue to work with them through developing dementia com­mu­nities and their advocacy on behalf of that, have indicated that they're certainly prepared to make further recom­men­dations in how to properly address that, which could include those individuals who may not necessarily have the training in this parti­cular area that the member references.

      But, certainly, I'm not opposed to further under­standing of dealing with it.

Mr. Gerrard: I think this is fun­da­mentally really, really im­por­tant in terms of having people who under­stand and know how to deal with people with dementia. You know, I've had a number of people come to me with instances where clearly that was not the case, and it was a big problem.

      In Brian Goldman's book on kindness, he has a chapter which describes a woman by the name of Naomi Fiel, who has written a book called Validation Breakthrough, which talks, in an interesting and helpful way, about different levels of dementia and how individuals–

The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): Sorry to interrupt, but the hour being 5 o'clock, com­mit­tee rise.

Room 255

Education and Early Childhood Learning

* (15:00)

Mr. Chairperson (Brad Michaleski): Will the Commit­tee of Supply please come to order. This section of the Com­mit­tee of Supply will now resume con­sid­era­tion of the Estimates for the De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion and Early Child­hood Learning. Ques­tioning for this de­part­ment will proceed in a global manner.

      The floor is now open for questions.

Mr. Nello Altomare (Transcona): I'd like to welcome everybody back to this process. I always enjoy this because it gets the–gives us the op­por­tun­ity to really dive into some things that are im­por­tant to people in the field, doing the work that is really im­por­tant here in the province.

      I do know that many of us–all of us–come to this with that conviction, with that seriousness and with that real desire to serve the people that not only we represent, but the province in general, because, as you know, one of the foundational pieces, of course, is a good edu­ca­tion, and part of that is obviously what we do in the classroom and how supported that is.

      So, Mr. Chair, I always read with interest the Estimates book, and I just want to focus on page 17 for a minute and spe­cific­ally No. 2, supporting high-quality learning and well-being.

      I do know that the de­part­ment is aware of the Ontario Human Rights Com­mis­sion Right to Read and their recent findings on that. And when I go through this parti­cular docu­ment in Estimates, I don't see any mention of how that will–was impacted in the creation of this docu­ment.

      So I'm just curious. If I–I'd like to ask the minis­ter, what was the timeline in the creation of this docu­ment, and was this done before the Ontario Human Rights Com­mis­sion's Right to Read report?

Hon. Wayne Ewasko (Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning): I'd like to thank the op­posi­tion critic, my friend, the MLA for Transcona for the question.

      And it's always im­por­tant and I'm glad that he highlights the fact that in the sup­ple­ment to the Estimates, you know, talking about supporting high-quality learning and well-being. And I know that, you know, we've had con­ver­sa­tions not only in question period but outside this wonderful, wonderful hon­our­able place to come to work and to represent Manitobans, and how we feel that exactly, that title in No. 2 on page 17 of the sup­ple­mental guide, support for high-quality learn­ing and well-being, is so im­por­tant here in Manitoba.

      Because we found that over time, when you drill down and we talk about all the hard-working educators in our school system and then, of course, all of those hard-working educators supported by, again, hard-working support staff within the schools–and whether that's an edu­ca­tional assist­ant or bus drivers, custodial staff, admin­is­tra­tion staff, senior admin­is­tra­tion within the schools and senior admin within school divisions. It is very im­por­tant that we high­light the fact that we want to make sure that we're supporting that high‑quality learning and well-being.

      And, as I know the member from Transcona, I believe his last–was over 33 years of ex­per­ience and I think his last job was at a–as a principal of a–early years school. I know how im­por­tant it was for those educators to do assessments on a day-to-day basis and I know that teachers work very hard on making sure that they are assessing on a day-to-day basis.

      And then within their toolboxes that they have, various different resources and supported by the de­part­ment and also many curriculum experts as well, not only through the de­part­ment but also through this great province of ours, we're doing many things to make sure that we're trying to create success for all students in this great province of ours, no matter where they live, their cultural back­ground or their own personal circum­stance.

      And so, another thing I know that the member knows, and that's why it's sort of–his question was a little interesting, but I'll try to elaborate a little bit in the short amount of time that I have to answer–is the fact that each and every student is an individual and they are different.

      And when you talk about assessments, that's why we have highly trained educators in the province, to be able to assess the students that are in front of them in their classes to then be able to take those assess­ments and adapt how they are teaching and helping the students learn whatever is in front of them.

      And whether that's numeracy or literacy, we need to make sure that we are working hard on a day-to-day basis, and again, making sure that from those tool­boxes that those teachers have, they're able to make sure that their–the students in front of them are achieving success, whatever that success means for the individual student.

* (15:10)

      So when we talk about–you know, the member talks about No. 2, the supporting high-quality learning and well-being, you know, I will high­light a couple things. You know, curriculum renewal process. We heard loud and clear from the K‑to‑12 com­mission, 30,000-plus Manitobans were–had shared their views. K‑to‑12 com­mis­sion came out with many initiatives and things to think about in regards to edu­ca­tion. We know that a royal com­mis­sion on edu­ca­tion hadn't been done since 1959, and it took our gov­ern­ment–a PC gov­ern­ment–to make sure that we were showing that we were listening to Manitobans and coming up with plans.

      And so out of that K‑to‑12 com­mis­sion we came up with the K‑to‑12 action plan, and I know it's a roadmap in response to the recom­men­dations of the com­mis­sion of the K to 12–in K‑to‑12 edu­ca­tion, and I know that earlier on, when I was first appointed sometime in May, I had tabled a copy of the docu­ment for the member.

Mr. Altomare: What I was spe­cific­ally asking about is the timeline in a creation of this docu­ment. Because when I look at No. 2, and I look at the early learning curriculum framework, I see nothing on right to read.

      This is a very sig­ni­fi­cant topic, Mr. Chair, one that has really come to the forefront because there are sig­ni­fi­cant challenges being faced by a number of students in our schools, and one of them is, really, based on their foundational need–and basically a human right–in learning how to read.

      Reading is a basic and essential human right, Mr. Chair. And what I was–what I'm spe­cific­ally asking is, what was the timeline for the creation of this docu­ment, and why is there nothing through­out the docu­ment that refers to Right to Read, the Ontario human rights report, and the impending Manitoba Human Rights Com­mis­sion report on right to read? This is very, very im­por­tant. I can't stress it enough that people in the field are waiting for what the de­part­ment is going to bring forward regarding the impending ruling coming from Manitoba Human Rights Commis­sion around right to read.

      So I asked first: What was the timeline? Was this done before the Ontario human rights report came out? And then the second part is: If it was done before it, then just say it, okay?

      This came out before; we didn't have a chance to really incorporate what is coming down the pipe. But if it wasn't, I want to know spe­cific­ally what is the de­part­ment doing to prepare for the Manitoba Human Rights Com­mis­sion report that's coming out on right to read?

Mr. Ewasko: In regards to the member's question, so, the sup­ple­mental docu­ments, of course, he knows we tabled them begin­ning of March and we know that–he knows, he should know and–because I've said it multiple times–that literacy and numeracy is definitely a priority of our gov­ern­ment, and in addition to that is definitely Indigenous edu­ca­tion and inclusion.

      And that we heard loud and clear from the K‑to‑12 com­mis­sion on edu­ca­tion. And then that's why we developed the K‑to‑12 action plan, which I tabled for the member earlier on–I guess, mid–probably in the first quarter of 2022 because we'd launched the docu­ment in March, April of 2022, the K‑to‑12 action plan.

      And the nice thing is, the K‑to‑12 action plan is a living, breathing docu­ment and it's a plan. It's a plan on how do we, again, create success for all Manitoba students and, again, no matter where they live, their cultural back­ground or their own personal circum­stance.

      Some­thing that I don't feel–and I think part of the reason why the member from Transcona ran in the first place, I think he was finding that when he was teaching, that the system–the former gov­ern­ment just wasn't quite getting things done for students.

      And so, you know, making sure that literacy is a priority and has been a priority, especially, you know, following the pandemic. I know that the members opposite want to pretend that the pandemic never ever happened and didn't have any impacts on anything, but we know that it did, especially on edu­ca­tion.

      And you know what? I might even take this time to thank, once again, all of our edu­ca­tion partners, teachers, front-line staff who worked 'tireously', day in, day out, to make sure that schools were as–were open. And that goes along with, you know, the extra work custodial staff had to do and, of course, the bus drivers on a day‑to‑day basis. And that's why, you know, following the pandemic we made sure that we invested.

* (15:20)

      We invested $22 million to strengthen student learning and supports. And the member's heard me multiple times talk about the breakdown of the invest­ments that we've made into edu­ca­tion. And also he knows that it's not a one-size-fits-all approach.

      Early years assessments is being worked on, as the member knows himself because he referenced the page, the curriculum renewal process. So we're also embarking on taking a look at the curriculum and reviewing it and renewing it and bringing in edu­ca­tion partners and experts from all over the province in the various different academic fields that we're–in the curriculum coursework that we're embarking on, making sure that students are learning on a day-to-day basis.

      Also, in regards to legis­lation, I mean, we have standards for ap­pro­priate edu­ca­tion and pro­gram­ming and that is–it supports responsive teaching. So it's right in our legis­lation as well. So this is always evolving.

      And I know that the member from Transcona–I think that's part of the reason why he decided to run the time that he ran, because I think he knows that the former gov­ern­ment were failing our kids, our students and that, you know, is well documented and I've spoke about it quite a few times.

      And that's why I'm proud of our gov­ern­ment and the hard work of the de­part­ment to work with our edu­ca­tion partners and actually show some col­lab­o­ration and listening to those edu­ca­tion partners through­out the province on how we can strengthen the existing system and make things better for all students, and not only the students, but all the staff that work with them on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Altomare: I can't underscore how im­por­tant it is that the de­part­ment show leadership in this area around right to read.

      I noticed in the first two answers, Mr. Chair, that the minister doesn't seem aware of the Ontario Human Rights Com­mis­sion's Right to Read inquiry report that was published last year. It's a really im­por­tant docu­ment because right now, Mr. Chair, the Manitoba Human Rights Com­mis­sion is under­taking a very similar inquiry as we speak. Knowing that reading is a foundational basic skill, it's a human right.

      We need to be prepared as a De­part­ment of Educa­tion for this impending release of this very im­por­tant report. I can't underscore how im­por­tant this is, and how im­por­tant leadership will be from the de­part­ment regarding this and the direction that the de­part­ment will take.

      So my question for the minister is: Knowing what was recom­mended in Ontario, what is the gov­ern­ment or De­part­ment of Ed going to do to prepare for the Manitoba Human Rights Com­mis­sion's report and recom­men­dations? Because right now, in my first few questions regarding this, I haven't received a direct answer regarding that.

      This is important. And smaller school divisions that are going to need leadership from the Department of Ed regarding this. There are school divisions in the city that have scale, that can have a response in place. But I'm thinking of areas outside of the city that simply don't have the scale to tackle this very im­por­tant topic. And even for those school divisions in the city, they're going to need some direction from the de­part­ment regarding this.

      And like I said in my opening remark on this parti­cular–my third question here, Mr. Chair, I can't underscore how important this is. I–what I would like to hear is that the de­part­ment is preparing for this.

      So my question is, again, what are we doing to prepare for the Manitoba Human Rights Com­mis­sion's report and recom­men­dations that are impending?

Mr. Ewasko: Yes, the Right to Read report, we're aware of, and as the member tries to put certain things on the record in regards to infor­ma­tion that may or may not, and he's insinuating various different things. And he puts that on the record.

      I mean, the fact is, is that we are working with our edu­ca­tion partners. We're making sure that, as the member mentioned, there's some definite challenges that we've found that we have here in Manitoba. And the member knows. And the member actually mentioned a couple of them, with the geography and the sparseness of–the wide vastness of a lot of our school divisions within the province. We've had–the de­part­ment has, and we have had sessions with super­in­ten­dents to discuss the early years assessments as recent as just this past month.

      And we are continuing to prepare to make sure that we are, again, making sure that we are having the culture and the environ­ment for students to learn in. We are also conducting the Early Dev­elop­ment Instrument to get more data from our edu­ca­tion partners.

      We've also, as the member knows but has not high­lighted it in question period to give us some con­gratu­la­tions on the fact that we have partnered and funded the Manitoba Rural Learning Consortium and have expanded that to the North as well, with a focus on numeracy and literacy.

* (15:30)

      We're also working with school divisions and talking about best practices within those school divi­sions so that we can make sure that we're not necessarily recreating the wheel on various different things as well. And the member knows, as an educator himself, that these are things that, I think, students, parents, guardians, pro­fes­sionals, edu­ca­tion partners have all strived towards for quite some time. We're restructuring the English language arts curriculum, which will in­clude specific learning out­comes for each grade level as well. Literacy progressions to support teachers in guiding students towards their learning goals.

      The member makes a great point. When we talk about a student's right to read, the right to know basic math, be able to progress through­out the K‑to‑12 educa­tion system, and that's why I think, also, some of the instrumental–monumental–things that our Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) has done; and I'll say, on top of the fact that she went and amalgamated the K‑to‑12 edu­ca­tion system with the Early Child­hood Learning sector, to make sure that that amalgamation of the two de­part­ments, I think, was–is a game-changer for Manitoba. And it will help with the transition of those Manitoba children going from early child­hood edu­ca­tion right to–right into the K‑to‑12 system.

      As the member knows, because he's an early years specialist, that reading is complex, and it's a complex process and requires a variety of approaches. And, again, one size doesn't necessarily fit all, and–when teaching a diverse group of learners, which includes those students that are having dif­fi­cul­ties, or have been diagnosed with dyslexia, or have not been diagnosed.

Mr. Chairperson: Before I recog­nize the member for Transcona, I would just remind the com­mit­tee that the questions that the members ask should find their way back to questions that are in the Estimates book.

Mr. Altomare: I ap­pre­ciate the guidance. And–[interjection]–oh, okay.

Mr. Chairperson: Just on a point of clairty. You were–you raised the issue of the Right to Read report, and that's not–[interjection]–yes, yes. Just if you raise it, just find a way to link it back to the Estimates book.

Mr. Altomare: I ap­pre­ciate the guidance. It's referring to the early learning curriculum framework. And the Right to Read report–

An Honourable Member: Are you challenging the Chair?

Mr. Altomare: I'm responding to the Chair. [interjection] Am I challenging the Chair? What I'm doing is–[interjection]–can I–do I–can I respond to that? [interjection]

Mr. Chairperson: Order. The hon­our­able member for Transcona has the floor.

Mr. Altomare: I was tying it to the early learning curriculum framework that's located on 17, and the fact that there's nothing on right to read in the Estimates book; that's how I was tying it.

      The other piece regarding that is that this has come out previous, and I was curious as to why it wasn't mentioned into this Estimates book, because it's a very im­por­tant piece that's part of early learning. That's what I was referring to.

      So, are you suggesting I continue down this path?

Mr. Chairperson: I would suggest the member–you're talking about a different subject matter and why it's not in the book.

      So, again, just to reiterate what I had said before, it's okay to reference that if you can link it back to the Estimates book. But I would say you were referencing the fact that it wasn't in the Esti­mates book.

An Honourable Member: Can I ask a clari­fi­ca­tion question?

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able member for Transcona.

Mr. Altomare: So, what does it mean to have a global discussion?

Mr. Chairperson: I would say to the member from Transcona that you had indicated, what had the gov­ern­ment done to prepare, which is not linked back to the Estimates book. But the other questions were okay.

Mr. Altomare: I always ap­pre­ciate guidance, Mr. Chair. Thank you for that.

      I just found it kind of interesting because of the fact that we are–I said this earlier in my opening comments–we're at an inflection point. And one that requires some real leadership coming out of the de­part­ment when we're coming out of a pandemic; we're coming out of a system that has been stressed.

      And what I'm seeing here is a real need for some serious invest­ments that tackle the real challenges that are being faced in our schools on a daily basis.

      I have yet to see, Mr. Chair, a school division that has been happy with the level of funding these past six years. As a matter of fact, almost in unison at the recent MSBA convention, that they were saying that after six years of underfunding, they're finding it very difficult to meet the needs of their kids right now.

      And what we have here is a real desire to ensure that our kids are being prepared for the next phases of their lives. And a really im­por­tant piece to that is learning how to read. That's a foundational piece. I saw it on page 17, sort of referenced in the early learning curriculum framework. The minister himself mentioned that they're redoing or looking at a revamp of the curriculum there.

      My question, then, is: At what stage are they at this revamping of the curriculum?

      And, after hearing the response, I'll have more questions.

* (15:40)

Mr. Ewasko: I'm going to take this op­por­tun­ity and I'm going to try to spe­cific­ally answer the member's question without getting too political about talking about the past and the 17 years of, I think, not only the inaction to be able to adapt, but in the utter failing for our students in Manitoba under the former NDP gov­ern­ment in edu­ca­tion.

      And so, in regards to the member's question in regards to the right to read–and, as I have already men­tioned to the member that the de­part­ment has met with super­in­ten­dents in March, and we want to map out early learning assessments as a commit­ment of that K‑to‑12 action plan.

      And I'm hoping the member, you know, much like other times when we're attending–whether it's Estimates or budget debate or question period–that, hopefully, the member brought some of his home­work. And I'm assuming–because the K‑to‑12 action plan is a very well-written docu­ment and it's a docu­ment that came out of the K‑to‑12 com­mis­sion and it's a living, breathing docu­ment. And this is some­thing that didn't just come from the de­part­ment or just come from our de­part­ment; this came from Manitobans.

      And for the member to sit there and say that this is serious, we need to take this serious, then I almost want to ask the member, where was he in those 17 years of the NDP, his gov­ern­ment?

      But I'm going to tell–I'm going to move away from that, Mr. Chair, and I'm going to talk about all the good things that we are doing in the de­part­ment to work on reading, literacy and also some numeracy, as well.

      So, in curriculum and instruction, as I had already started to mention to the member, we're restructuring the English language arts curriculum, which will in­clude specific learning out­comes for each grade level, literacy progressions to support teachers in guiding students towards their learning goals.

      Early screening–very im­por­tant. Very im­por­tant. I had the pleasure of working with some in­cred­ible, in­cred­ible student services teams that absolutely high­lighted the need and the fact to do some of that early screening. And they took it, and we took some in­itiatives ourselves, to go ahead and have those con­ver­sa­tions with our edu­ca­tion partners within the school divisions. And then we also partnered with other school division student services teams to see what were best practices across the divisions.

      And at that time, with not a whole lot of help from  that NDP gov­ern­ment of the time and those two–those couple Edu­ca­tion ministers that I had the pleasure of being a critic towards. So, with early screening, I mean, we're exploring options for early  identi­fi­cation of learning needs to inform interventions through research and en­gage­ment with stake­holders.

      We're doing various types of reading interven­tions. As I've already said, reading is complex. It's a complex process. There's a variety of approaches that are out there that have been there for quite some time, and sometimes things evolve over time, as well. We want to make sure that our approaches are teaching to the diversity of our learners, and as I've said multiple times already just today this afternoon, that there's no canned fix for any of this and individuals are just that–individuals. So school divisions are receiving also depart­mental funding for interventions and making deci­sions based on local needs, data and context.

      Reading Recovery is an early literacy inter­ven­tion that has been supported by de­part­ment external expertise for many, many years. And many school divisions select to use other interventions, such as Orton‑Gillingham and/or Fountas & Pinnell, as well.

      I think these are ways that we're, again, building on the strengths of others as well, and some of the goals are to make sure, again, that all of our students are receiving success in all areas of the province. And I think that the former NDP gov­ern­ment failed to do that.

Mr. Altomare: I'm glad that the minister didn't get too partisan in his response. That was actually quite refreshing.

      It's interesting that he just dove right in, head first.  But, you know, what we're doing here is, I believe, a serious process. I would hope the minister continues on a more serious path because this is im­por­tant stuff that we're doing here today.

      I find it quite interesting that we're talking about this very im­por­tant topic and, you know, being redirected to ensure that we're, you know, in the Estimates book and having a global discussion about that is really im­por­tant because it gives us an op­por­tun­ity to dive into what is going on at the de­part­ment and the type of leadership that they'll be showing to educators as we move forward.

      It's really im­por­tant. This is some­thing that we'll need clear direction from the de­part­ment on. That can't be understated.

      I know the minister talked about the restructuring of the curriculum, and especially at early years. So, I'd  like to ask the minister: Will he commit to consulting with the Learning Dis­abil­ities Association of Manitoba to ensure that its latest curriculum docu­ment is aligned with evidence-based and inclusive practices?

* (15:50)

Mr. Ewasko: I ap­pre­ciate the member's question and, again, high­lighting the fact that we continue to try to be non-partisan and get to the bottom of some of the answers that the member's asking questions on. And to the member's question in regards to partnering with the Learning Dis­abil­ities Association of Manitoba, absolutely. Absolutely.

      You know, I know that I didn't have the 33 years of edu­ca­tion ex­per­ience that the member from Transcona has, but I had 17 years, and of those 17 years I worked quite closely, again, on the student services team, working with students with dis­abil­ities.

      And we're part of a great team in the school divi­sion, and I am surrounded by an absolute great team in the de­part­ment that are working together to make sure that we're taking the various thoughts and com­ments and sometimes frustrations that parents and guar­dians and edu­ca­tion partners felt with the pre­vious gov­ern­ment that didn't enact any plans moving forward.

      And so that's why it was time to do the K‑to‑12 com­mis­sion and out of that came the K‑to‑12 action plan. Also, the docu­ment Mamàhtawisiwin, which we're proud of, as well, which I don't know if I tabled that docu­ment for the member, but I should've. And if–I'm pretty sure he's got a copy. Matter of fact, he was in my office and I did give him an English version–to Mamàhtawisiwin, as well. And then with that was the framework for learning.

      We know that, as I've said already, that we have met with the super­in­ten­dents in March to launch the early years assessment piece. We have a plan and a commit­ment to continue to engage with all our education partners. I have met with the Learning Disabil­ities Association of Manitoba on a couple–on a few occasions and I definitely look forward to working–to continuing to work with them as we work with all our edu­ca­tion partners.

      I've heard multiple times from our education partners that it's a, you know, bit of a breath of fresh air being able to come and have a con­ver­sa­tion, you know, as opposed to what they were seeing. And I'm assuming it didn't happen for the whole 17 years of the NDP gov­ern­ment, but they were saying that, you know, near the end there in the last five, six years under the NDP, it was getting more and more difficult to have those con­ver­sa­tions and have open dialogue, because there's always things to learn from one another.

      In June of 2022, the de­part­ment updated the standards for ap­pro­priate edu­ca­tional pro­gram­ming in Manitoba, so AEPs. I know the member is familiar with AEPs. And the standards, along with the Manitoba philosophy and inclusion, sustain equal access to edu­ca­tional op­por­tun­ities for all students and support efforts to remove barriers to learning. Schools and school divisions are required at a minimum to follow these standards.

      So then, when we talk about pro­fes­sional assess­ment in Manitoba, specific planning to support students begins prior to a diagnosis. If learning dif­fi­cul­ties persist, the support team may involve other pro­fes­sionals, which includes clinicians and/or consultants.

      And in 2021, Manitoba announced an increase in edu­ca­tion funding, which includes an ad­di­tional 5 and a half million for students with special learning needs. And the member knows, because I've said this multiple times: in the last three years alone, above and beyond the operating dollars that we have provided the K‑to‑12 system, we've funded students with special needs to the tune of $17 million. This year alone, $100 million, a 6.1 per cent increase to the K‑to‑12 system all across this great province of ours.

      More work to do; we're going to continue to do it and I look forward to more years after this one.

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able member's time is up–or, minister, sorry.

Mr. Altomare: I'm glad that the minister referenced his ex­per­ience in working in student services and with students with ad­di­tional needs. It's really im­por­tant that, you know, we're influenced by that work because, as he's referenced previously, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.

      But we do know that studies have shown that kids with learning dis­abil­ities and ad­di­tional needs are sometimes, you know, more susceptible to mental health struggles–absolutely, I know we provided those services–struggle with anxiety, depression. And these are, again, im­por­tant topics, especially coming out of the pandemic, that have to be tackled and ensured that they're properly supported.

      And so, in going down this line, will the gov­ern­ment commit to supporting the dev­elop­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of evidence-based curriculum for English language arts and provide sufficient pro­fes­sional dev­elop­ment to teachers and administrators in order to support the needs of all students?

* (16:00)

Mr. Ewasko: Absolutely. I mean, I know that the member from Transcona, with not only his admin­is­tra­tion back­ground but his edu­ca­tion back­ground, and he saw and worked with many hard-working individ­uals at various different levels within the school system to make sure that, as I did, working with students with special needs, there's some definite 'challengems'–challenges, and you want to make sure that you're, you know, supporting the children them­selves, of course, the students, but also working with parents or guardians to help with various different strategies.

      And that comes from what I mentioned earlier in regards to reaching out and making sure that you're doing assessments and working with those pro­fes­sionals within the school and seeing what is working and what is not working, and then that's when you start to bring in some of those ad­di­tional supports.

The member mentions, you know, mental health, of course, and, you know, before I get there, I mean, our–you know, to answer his question in regards to language arts in the curriculum, the new language arts curriculum is being imple­mented and it's actually going above and beyond just English, Français and French immersion.

      And some of the things that our gov­ern­ment has already done in regards to–for mental health supports, we've expanded the services of the NorWest Youth Hub to the tune of $2.9 million, and this includes funding for ad­di­tional counselling and psychologists ap­point­ments, primary care visits and mental health support group sessions. In total, the ad­di­tional invest­ment will allow the number of the youth served at NorWest to increase by approximately 150 per year.

      We've also invested $1.92 million to create five ad­di­tional youth hub sites in Winnipeg, Brandon and Selkirk to provide youth-centred services across a continuum of care so that young people can access all of the core health and social services they need in one place.

      I worked for many years in Sunrise School Division; it was actually Agassiz prior to that. And many times under the former gov­ern­ment, you had to travel all the way into Winnipeg and then get on some form of wait-list and to access various degrees of pro­fes­sionals.

      Now, this is not going to be some­thing that can be fixed over­night. I know that the member from Transcona knows that. This is not an over­night fix.

      I'm not sure if his leader knows that, because from what I heard this morning, he's going to wave a magic wand and health care and a bunch of other things are going to be fixed. I'm not quite sure how that's going to happen but I guess we'll wait and see how–what some of those plans roll out. Because after 17 years, it seemed that they didn't have any plans or they were tired anyways.

      In addition to those youth hubs, we're expanding the dis­tri­bu­tion of Thrival Kits to the tune of $1.4 million. So, these kits are incorporating evidence-based mental health practices and coping strategies as well as inter­personal skills dev­elop­ments. At least 30,000 for grade 4 to 6 students across Manitoba are expected to benefit from the dis­tri­bu­tion of these kits.

      We're also expanding Project 11. Esta­blished by the True North Youth Foundation, this is a school-based mental health promotion program for students in kindergarten to grade 8. It includes virtual and in-person lessons and activities designed to improve mental health awareness.

      We're also enhancing access to school-based mental health and addiction supports, begin­ning in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach. Pilot projects is going to expand existing school-based clinical teams with psychiatric nurses and addiction support workers.

      I had the pleasure of working with many Addictions Foundation of Manitoba support counsellors that work­ed within schools, that were spread out pretty thin through­out school divisions, but I know that they definitely bring an added level of support to help the existing services teams–

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Altomare: I do know that the minister has referenced how im­por­tant it is to have data collection, accurate data collection. Has talked about at length, about dialogue with stake­holders and all the people that are involved in ensuring that kids with ad­di­tional needs and kids with learning dis­abil­ities are having their needs met in our public schools.

      We have seen a progression now where, like the minister referenced himself, there are multiple ways of tackling the needs that kids present when they arrive at school.

      I've worked with a number of pro­fes­sionals that have dedi­cated their lives to ensure that kids with ad­di­tional needs and kids with learning dis­abil­ities are receiving the very best edu­ca­tion they can, based on the needs that they present. And we do know how im­por­tant data is in this process.

      So, question I have for the minister is: How is the gov­ern­ment spe­cific­ally tracking those with learning dis­abil­ities in our schools to ensure that their needs are being met?

Mr. Ewasko: In regards to the member's question in regards to tracking students with special needs and that and–I mean, back when some of our mutual friends and that and I started in the teaching profession, I–[interjection]–I'm not sure, I'd have to ask for clari­fi­ca­tion. It's okay. But I won't; he might bring it up in the next question. It's all good.

* (16:10)

      So back when I first started teaching and I had the op­por­tun­ity to take on an edu­ca­tional assist­ant role in the school division, in the school, I was working with students with special needs and, you know–pre­domi­nantly male–and back then, this would've been late '90s, I guess, and into the 2000s, working with students with emotional and behaviour disorders. And, matter of fact, I was actually classified as an EBD teacher, and I think the member, you know, would've, because he taught for so long, he would've known the time when that–some of those stigmas and those labels were done, and I think we've moved past putting certain labels on students.

      And I think the main focus is that what we're trying to do–and I think deep down, the member from Transcona is hoping for this as well from his own party, but I think we just saw some–a lack of effort there in the last few years of the former NDP gov­ern­ment–is the fact that we want to make sure that there's proper supports for all students of all abilities in our systems.

      And so, we work–again, we work with our edu­ca­tion partners to make sure that we're tracking various–varying–various different things within our school sys­tem. And so, that's where school divisions are tracking, you know, what their students are doing. We are also using the Manitoba Health policy data to inform us and the de­part­ment and our edu­ca­tion part­ners, which then helps with future planning.

      As I said, in some case–not in some cases–we're trying to stay away from the labels, but I did want to mention the provincial student infor­ma­tion system. This is some­thing that came out of the K‑to‑12 action plan, and I know that many of our edu­ca­tion partners have been asking for for quite some time. We're in the process of imple­men­ting a student infor­ma­tion system for the edu­ca­tion sector, and this prov­incial SIS will provide timely and con­sistent access by creating a modern, integrated system which will put students at the centre while improving busi­ness processes, infor­ma­tion gathering and enhanced reporting with the ability to share infor­ma­tion within Manitoba's edu­ca­tion system.

      I know that the member himself used some form of infor­ma­tion system when he was an administrator and then a teacher, as well. I did. But some of the challenges were that if you did have students moving from a school division to another, you know, never mind coming in from another province or outside–into our province from another province, but just division to division it was a challenge to make sure that the proper data was going back and forth.

      And that student infor­ma­tion system is going to also help with that, as the member mentioned, the tracking of the various students to make sure that we are embarking on making sure that we're planning with the students at the centre of that planning, making sure that we're getting the best results for those students on a per-student basis, as well, and making sure that we've got the right supports put into place for them.

      That's why, to mention the budget, Mr. Chair, 2023, we're advancing the student infor­ma­tion system as a priority, and that's why we've increased the funding of $1.4 million, total invest­ment of about $3 million.

Mr. Altomare: The tracking and the data collection is im­por­tant because, ultimately, it does impact fund­ing. It absolutely does. School divisions right now are feeling the pinch when it comes to funding. It's well documented that the past seven years have been very difficult, Mr. Chair, for school divisions.

      I can provide an example regarding a school division in–that's in my con­stit­uency, in River East Transcona. They're having to deal with the challenge of up to–as of September of 2023 coming up, of the challenge of up to 1,500 new kids in the system, and many that will have ad­di­tional needs that have been identified by the Early Dev­elop­ment Instrument.

      And–you know, and I do want to state that River East Transcona has taken the extra­ordin­ary step, Mr. Chair, of creating two full-time kindergarten programs based on the need being observed in their com­mu­nities. They're going to have that at Polson School and Hampstead school. But what they've had to do, though, is create this program in spite of govern­ment support not being there, and that's creating a real challenge.

      I know the minister likes to talk about the sup­posed support–financial support–that's gone to school divisions, but they're not feeling it because they haven't been feeling it for the past number of years. We're at a point now where River East Transcona School Division is taking the extra­ordin­ary step of taking out a one-time loan just to cover expenses to meet the needs of their students. They're not feeling that they have a real partner in the province in helping them meet the needs of their students, Mr. Chair.

      This is a real concern and, you know, like I said in my comments previous, when we were here about a week and a half ago as the session began, is that we were–we are at an inflection point, one that needed some leadership.

      And I know that, typically, budgets are–come out a month before–[interjection]–school division bud­gets, right–before the actual budget is released by the Province, and in that time, many school divisions, including the school division that's in my–that is in the 'con­stit'­ I represent–was doing budget con­sul­ta­tions and saying–talking about the challenges.

      And I know the minister has met with many school divisions and has heard these challenges time and time again. And when given the op­por­tun­ity and provided the op­por­tun­ity with that whole month between the an­nounce­ment in early February to when budget came down, there was an op­por­tun­ity there to show some real leadership when it came to addressing these real needs that are being faced by students in our province, by school divisions that are tasked to do the service-delivery piece, one that they take very seriously, Mr. Chair.

      I don't doubt the sincerity of the de­part­ment or the minister when it comes to this. But I will say that there are challenges that are not being met.

      And so what I would like to ask the minister is, what is the Province doing to address the learning needs in literacy achievement caused by the pandemic and as we emerge from the pandemic?

Mr. Ewasko: And the member made some points, some comments that I want to definitely make sure that I take this op­por­tun­ity to correct some of the misinformation that the member puts on the record.

      But I do want to thank the member for acknowl­edging the fact that we have met with school divisions and we continue to listen to them, not only myself, but also the de­part­ment, and listen to the challenges that they are having within their school divisions.

      That's why, you know, on a couple things I would like to backtrack for a couple seconds here and talk about early learning literacy and inclusion, especially. And since the esta­blish­ment of the new de­part­ment as I referenced earlier–the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) form­ing the new de­part­ment in January of 2022–I think this offers greater op­por­tun­ity to better support children in the–within the continuum of learning from early child­hood right through to high school gradua­tion and beyond.

* (16:20)

      And because this was just created in January of 2022, I do feel that I've been surrounded by in­cred­ible change makers, not only within the de­part­ment, but then also those partners that they know outside into the various sectors–edu­ca­tion sectors, as well.

      So, as part of our commitment to expanding the early learning and child-care system, the principles of the–diversity and inclusion guide our work. And so, as the member had asked a couple questions ago in regards to tracking and, you know, spe­cific­ally tracking students with special needs, I think that's why we're trying to shift the focus to making sure that we're supporting learners. And we're not–I'm trying to get  away from those labels to make sure that we're able to–make sure that all children are able to have meaningful partici­pation in our various different programs.

      The inclusion support program provides funding and supports for ad­di­tional staff, as well as specialized grants to purchase equip­ment, provide training and complete renovations to help with those students that might need some ad­di­tional supports or supports for physical challenges, as well. In addition, in 2023, the de­part­ment announced $60 million in quality-enhance­ment grants, which includes the enhancing the diversity and inclusion grant.

      In regards to number of students and working towards making sure that we're ready and we have the supports in place for our new­comers–and I'm glad that the member from Transcona mentioned the part­ner­ship that not only myself but the de­part­ment has with River East Transcona, because they've hosted us on a couple occasions for a few of our an­nounce­ments. And for our new­comer and support grants that we have had, we've had a $1.8 million on the Intensive New­comer Support Grant funding for '22-23, and it was allocated to 16 school divisions, five of which were new recipients in that year for the school division allocations.

      Through regular enrolment data and late enrol­ment reports from school divisions, we know there are increased numbers new­comer refugee students, many who have file–who have fled the crisis in Ukraine, requiring supports to address edu­ca­tional disruptions, trauma and, of course, language barriers.

      And that's why we continue to work with the various different school divisions, to make sure that we're there not only at this time when we make the astro­­nomical funding an­nounce­ments that the mem­ber referenced of $100 million, 6.1 per cent increase to the K‑to‑12 system, but it's also to make sure that the de­part­ment and myself are open to having that dialogue with our edu­ca­tion partners, which includes school divisions, on a week-by-week basis to make sure that we're meeting the–

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Altomare: I have to say, I'm enjoying the ex­per­ience this afternoon because I think we're getting down to some real indications that–the direction that this minister wants to take the de­part­ment and wants to take edu­ca­tion in the province.

      I know it's been a challenge these past seven years. I can't imagine, when the minister is–has to sit around caucus and talk to his caucus members and try to convince them to fund edu­ca­tion adequately so that no one goes unsupported. I mean, there was a former minister of Edu­ca­tion that cut the teacher library. You got the current Minister of Finance (Mr. Cullen) who brought in bill 64, 'secondeded' by the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson). You know, it must be tough sitting around that table when you're dealing with this type of reception.

      And then, this is the piece that is the real–because school divisions right now, Mr. Chair, aren't feeling the support that they need to feel coming out of the pandemic. We've got real challenges that are facing us. And I've said this before: this is an inflection point.

      And we're missing an op­por­tun­ity here to really–to bring in–and it's not just about funding, but to–and I know the minister refers to this, to the dialogue piece. The dialogue piece is im­por­tant, but the second piece to dialogue is actually putting measures in place that school divisions feel are tangible and are making a difference. That's the piece that's im­por­tant, right?

      You can have all the dialogue you want, but if you're not going to do anything about it, then it's just dialogue. As opposed to having the next step, which is action. And that's an im­por­tant piece.

      So my question to the minister and his staff is, how can schools recover from the pandemic when they were receiving funding that hasn't kept up with inflation these past number of years?

* (16:30)

Mr. Ewasko: I think I am going to take this op­por­tun­ity to just correct the member's narrative that he continues to put on the record, which I don't think Manitobans are open to listening to what he is selling. They're not buying what the NDP are selling on edu­ca­tion funding.

      We know that this year alone–I've mentioned it many times, the member refuses to listen to it–$100 million; it's a 6.1 per cent increase, on average. No school division had received anything less than a 2.5 per cent increase. Matter of fact, only one school division received the 2.5; everyone else was 3.0 and higher.

      The member continues to talk about River East Transcona, so let's talk a little about River East Transcona. I feel that I've got a good relationship with River East Transcona School Division. I know that this year alone, River East Transcona School Division received a 9.8 per cent increase. The member from Transcona wants to argue with me on that. That's $11‑million increase.

      I know the member mentioned on how myself and the de­part­ment meets with our school divisions, and we do. And so I had–did have a meeting with River East Transcona School Division, and we did talk about many of their challenges, whether that's new students coming in or expansion of com­mu­nities within the school division catchment and the increase in student popu­la­tion.

      And so we did talk, in end of November, December, somewhere in there, about what number they were looking at. And they actually had come up with a number of $10 million. And so when the new funding came out for this year and we announced it, of the 9.8 per cent, they actually received $11 million.

      Keep in mind, and the member refuses to actually listen to this component, this part of it, but our edu­ca­tion funding since 2016 has gone up by 23 per cent–23 per cent. The Canada inflation calculator–I don't really want to do the homework for the member, but he can look it up–the Canada inflation calculator, since 2016, was a 21 per cent increase.

      So for years and years and years I had heard school divisions wanted to have fair and equitable funding, and we agreed. And so as we were looking at provi­ding fair and equitable funding, what did the member from Transcona and some of his supporters change the wording on? Adequate funding. Adequate funding.

      Well, if you start to look these various words up, they weren't happy with the fact that we were agreeing with them that they needed fair and equitable, and so that's where we came up with $100 million and 6.1 per cent average increase, which takes in a whole lot of factors.

      And the member knows himself that his 33 years in edu­ca­tion, my 17–actually this fall would've started my 29th year in edu­ca­tion–yes, and, you know, the member opposite's got his fingers going, so he's got the 'gazintas' and, hopefully, doesn't have to take his shoes off; it's all good. But we're working on that numeracy thing as well there, member–friend from Transcona.

      So, just to say that we are working with the school divisions, we are working with the edu­ca­tion partners. We are hearing the challenges, whether it's trans­por­tation costs, whether it is food and nutrition, whether it is our early child­hood edu­ca­tion components, that we're increasing seats, we're making life more afford­able for families so that they can spend their hard‑earned money–

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Altomare: This gives me an op­por­tun­ity to also put some facts on the record, right, especially when it comes to chronic underfunding, Mr. Chair, that has occurred since 2016: 0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5 for 'cumative' years has a 'cumatilive' downward effect on the budget capability of school divisions.

      I will say that the underfunding that's occurred from 2016 to 2022 actually resulted in a $107‑million cut, when you take into effect the impact of inflation, Mr. Chair.

      So, when this gov­ern­ment, then, all of a sudden in one year decides to, maybe, you know, throw a few crumbs towards some school divisions, they call it equitable. I want to–[interjection]–which one? Oh, you know what, we won't refer to that.

      But what I will say is this: I am on the record, Mr. Chair, of saying that they have chronically under­funded edu­ca­tion since 2016. Chronically. And right now, we're feeling a real impact of this. To the point, Mr. Chair, where many school divisions are now unable to provide the same level of service that they were once able to provide in 2016.

      That's a problem. This is some­thing that has to be tackled.

      And right now, what school divisions are looking for, is they're looking for leadership in this area. And what they also, Mr. Chair, are looking for is, just for once, for the gov­ern­ment to be honest and come out and say, you know what, we've underfunded for this amount of time; please forgive us. We're going to do some­thing now that's really going to have a positive impact.

      People would respect that more than the shell game that we're being shown here. That's the piece that's really quite insulting to Manitobans. He talks about–the minister talks about, they're not buying it. I'll tell you what they're not buying, Mr. Chair: they're not buying what this minister is saying about edu­ca­tion funding, because they're feeling it every day when their kids come home from school.

      Lakeshore School Division has to decide whether or not they can buy a bus with the increased costs now, from $140,000 a bus to $180,000 in one year. Yet, this gov­ern­ment feels it quite okay to send million-dollar cheques to cor­por­ations outside of Manitoba, when the real needs are right here. They need to be met, Mr. Chair.

      These are decisions that are being made around the Cabinet table. And who's it impacting the most, Mr. Chair? The kids that need support in our class­rooms. And I say it before, and I say it again: our kids, families and com­mu­nities are really feeling the impact of these decisions that have been made these past number of years.

      And for once, when you require some real leader­ship–and like I said, Manitobans are a forgiving lot–will anyone in this gov­ern­ment have the temerity to actually say, we made a mistake. Mr. Chair, the answer to that, we know what it is.

      Because what they're doing with this is they're trying to paper over years of underfunding, and hoping people aren't noticing. When we know the impacts are being felt at increased class sizes, more–with kids that are showing up with more needs every–each and every day because of the result of the pan­demic; they needed some leadership coming from this gov­ern­ment regarding this issue–these many issues.

* (16:40)

      So, my question to the minister is: How are school divisions supposed to recover from a pandemic when this gov­ern­ment refuses to fund edu­ca­tion to a level that matches the rate of inflation at the very least?

Mr. Ewasko: And you know what I ap­pre­ciate? My friend, the MLA of Transcona, is he put on the record that $100 million, 6.1 per cent increase to the K‑to‑12 system, he called it crumbs–[interjection]–you ab­solutely did. You called it crumbs–$100 million, 6.1 per cent increase–[interjection]–thanks, Mr. Chair–I'll go through you, Mr. Chair. I know this isn't a major debate; this is a question-and-answer thing.

      Mr. Chair, $100 million, 6.1 per cent increase to his own school division. We had 11.8 per cent increase–$11 million–$11 million–sorry, a 9.8 per cent increase.

      I better correct the record because then the member will go and put that on the front page of the–and I don't want to downplay any com­mu­nity news­papers; I'm hoping the member still, because I haven't forgot about it–hopefully, the member had actually went out to my com­mu­nity and apologized for his insen­sitive comments to my local com­mu­nity newspapers. But a 9.8 per cent increase to his own school division, which is $11 million–$1 million more than what they had asked for; 23 per cent increase in edu­ca­tion since 2016.

      He wants to talk about leadership. Leadership? Mr. Chair, I think our parents and guardians and our students, they were calling for leadership for 17 years under the dark days of the NDP. And what did they get? They got, when the NDP formed gov­ern­ment in '99 and shortly thereafter, parents and guardians, they want their students to succeed. They want the students to be in­cred­ibly great citizens. They want them to have success in numeracy and literacy; good stewards of the land; go through the K‑to‑12 education system; graduate; choose some­thing to do after graduation, some form of post-secondary edu­ca­tion.

      You got multiple great op­por­tun­ities right here in Manitoba. Could go to college, could take an ap­prentice­ship, could go to uni­ver­sity, private voca­tional in­sti­tutions. And you know what? For a short amount of time or some time there, you could actually go and get a job as well. Manitoba's got a lot of great things to offer.

      The member talks about leadership and also talks about that $100 million is crumbs to edu­ca­tion. Unbelievable. I might actually quote him in my next article in my local paper so that everybody is aware of that. What did we inherit when we inherited–when we won gov­ern­ment in 2016? Oh, wait; I have to finish the sentence. What I was saying earlier?

      So what did they receive when they took power? Students in Manitoba were third in the country in numeracy and literacy; 2014, 10th; and further behind ninth in numeracy and literacy and in science. That's not what–that's not leadership. That's a disservice to our students.

      The leadership is now, is what we are doing. We went out to the public, 30,000 Manitobans, K‑to‑12 com­­mis­sion, K‑to‑12 action plan, Mamàhtawisiwin and the framework for learning. That's a plan on how we get success for students in Manitoba no matter where they live, their cultural back­ground, or their own personal circum­stance. That's the goal.

      And it is funding edu­ca­tion. It's not all about money, because I know that's what the member wants to think. But a per-pupil ratio, we are a leader in the country per pupil for spending. Under the NDP, we went from third to dead last and further behind ninth. How is that leadership?

      I'll take our record and our leadership, and–with the great team that I have in the De­part­ment of Education and Early Child­hood Learning, to make sure that we continue to make success for all students in Manitoba.

Mr. Altomare: I notice that the minister didn't answer the question regarding what they're going to do with the challenges that are being faced by school divi­sions, the challenges that were created by their years of underfunding. That is on the record. We have seen the challenges that are being faced by school divisions on a daily basis regarding these issues, and yet this minister refuses to accept respon­si­bility for the years of underfunding that occurred from 2016 until now. And like I've said earlier in my previous statements, Mr. Chair, students, families and com­mu­nities are feeling it every day.

      And while the de­part­ment is doing the very best that it can–the employees of the de­part­ment that come to work every day–they have to deal with the chal­lenge of a gov­ern­ment that's underfunded this de­part­ment for years. Well, we can go into each and every detail regarding this, but the minister knows, through school divisions that contact him and his de­part­ment, of the very real challenges that they're facing due to the funding pressures. We know that inflation is taking away a tre­men­dous amount of ability to really pivot for school divisions, especially when it comes to having new student enrollment. That is a real difficult thing to react to.

      And you know what they used to have, Mr. Chair? They used to have some­thing called a surplus–a 4 per cent surplus–that good accounting practices call for. Do you know that almost every school division in this province is now under that 4 per cent threshold? Do you know that many school divisions are actually at zero and that my school division is actually in a deficit situation because they had to borrow to cover costs?

      Now, this minister talks about leadership. Some real leadership from the de­part­ment would've been some­thing along the lines of we're going to restore your budget surpluses, because it's im­por­tant to be able to pivot when we have new enrolment, when we have students that show up with ad­di­tional needs that require that support. And you know what that would've told school divisions? That they have a real partner in this Province, where they can rely on the Province to do–to take an initiative like that.

      Because, like I've said before, through­out this–through­out the Estimates process, is that we are truly at an inflection point here with our school divisions struggling, and there was an op­por­tun­ity here that was presented for some really creative thinking so that we can respond to these needs that are being presented to us right now. This is what we mean by having a de­part­ment that works in part­ner­ship, or a min­is­try that works in part­ner­ship with our school divisions, Mr. Chair. It's really im­por­tant. This is some­thing that can't be taken lightly.

      So when the minister says he wants to correct the record, the record is clearly showing these past number of years that school divisions haven't had a real partner in this gov­ern­ment. They've had to struggle to meet the needs of their kids, families and com­mu­nities. That's the piece that shows a bit of a disconnect here. One that I think we have to close the gap on.

      So I'll ask again. Given that the times that we're in, will they commit to meeting the needs of students in Manitoba and support teachers, school divisions, kids, families and com­mu­nities so that they can reach their highest potential?

* (16:50)

Mr. Ewasko: Yes, absolutely. We are supporting students, teachers, support staff, parents, guardians, all Manitobans. And that's why I look forward to, in a few weeks, the member from Transcona supporting this year's budget. Because it is–it's about affordability.

      The member from Transcona talks about this all the time, about, you know, asks about leadership. Well, I think I gave a fairly strong argument on why we are showing leadership, and the former NDP gov­ern­ment did not so much, no leadership. We know that they took edu­ca­tion from third in the country in numeracy, literacy, and about a year after that–science was included–to then dead last in the country. But yet, we're still–and we still are a leader in the country in regards to per pupil spending. But here's the dif­ference, Mr. Chair. We're actually making sure that students are going to start having even more success by not putting the labels that the member opposite wants to put on the students, but we want to make sure there's supports for all learners in this great province of ours.

      And the member talks about leadership and about making sure that the challenges for school divisions–I already have spoken about the challenges that not only urban centres have, but then rural centres and then northern and rural centres, school divisions have, whether it's trans­por­tation, whether it's wage pres­sures–'whedger'–whether it's human resource pressures.

      The member opposite from Transcona, I'm not sure what type of world he's living in where he refuses–and you know what? Maybe not so much the member from Transcona, but I know for fact his leader is ignoring the fact–ignoring the fact–that there was a worldwide pandemic and we're having chal­lenges. We're not using it as an excuse. We're just saying–stating a fact as opposed to their fiction that they continue to deliver. We all know that the NDP cannot be trusted, and that's why we're showing leadership.

      What's an example of some­thing that we inherited when we formed gov­ern­ment in 2016? Just to talk about cost pressures and affordability, since the member from Transcona–I have to remind the member: $900‑million deficit is what we inherited when we took over from the NDP. Did they have a worldwide pandemic? No, they didn't. No, they didn't. Nine hundred-million-dollar deficit.

      Where did they take Manitoba Hydro and that–and the overall prov­incial debt? Almost $50 billion–that's billion with a B–billion. How is that impacting Manitobans, our children's futures? They don't want to–Manitobans don't want to go back to the dark days of the NDP.

      The member from Transcona asks about those cost pressures for school divisions. Well, raising taxes on all Manitobans, I don't think is going to help with those cost pressures. But the member from Transcona and his leader definitely feels that, that that's the way to go. They're in favour of a $300-a-metric-ton carbon tax. Federal gov­ern­ment just announced that on April 1st. The increase to gas might have an impact on that transportation cost that the member mentions in regards to buses and the forms of trans­por­tation for our students all across this great province of ours.

      We talked about surpluses. What's the definition of a surplus? Surplus is when you actually get more money than what you necessarily need and you put it into a little bit of a savings account; that's called a surplus. So the question back at the member: Did the former NDP gov­ern­ment ever replace those surpluses in school divisions?

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able member for Transcona.

An Honourable Member: No, you didn't. There's the answer.

Mr. Altomare: Is it my turn now, Mr. Chair?

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able member for Transcona.

Mr. Altomare: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thought I heard it was the hon­our­able member for Transcona. I ap­pre­ciate that.

      You know, despite record revenue from three sources that this gov­ern­ment parti­cularly dislikes: record federal gov­ern­ment transfers that have doubled since they've been in gov­ern­ment, record income tax revenue that has come into the coffers of this gov­ern­ment, record Manitoba Hydro revenue that has come into this gov­ern­ment. Right, record revenue of over $300 million this year–[interjection]

      Mr. Chair, if I can continue without interruption? May I?

Mr. Chairperson: Order. [interjection] Order.

      The hon­our­able member for Transcona has the floor.

Mr. Altomare: I ap­pre­ciate that, Mr. Chair. I ap­pre­ciate your guidance in this, too.

      Because I'll tell you, with record revenue from three sources that they'll never actually acknowl­edge, what have they done?

      They have made deliberate choices that have had an impact directly on our public school system. Record federal gov­ern­ment transfers that are intended to even the playing field through­out the country–as a matter of fact, they're not even allocated exactly as to where the money goes.

      Guess what? The federal gov­ern­ment actually assumes that the province is going to take that revenue and use it for the im­prove­ment of the citizen's life in the province by provi­ding necessary gov­ern­ment services.

      The second most–the second highest expenditure is public edu­ca­tion, and the federal gov­ern­ment has an ex­pect­a­tion that with those transfer dollars that they get used in the proper areas. That's the ex­pect­a­tion. And when given this at this im­por­tant time, Mr. Chair, when we had the op­por­tun­ity to really have a positive impact on the citizenry here in our province, they've taken it into a different direction.

      And, ultimately, the judgment will be at election time, Mr. Chair. That will be, you know, we'll see how it comes out. Elections are im­por­tant. The people that vote will make their decision.

      Our job as legis­lators, of course, is to represent our con­stit­uencies and to also ask gov­ern­ment questions regarding issues as im­por­tant as public edu­ca­tion and the dollars that are being allocated to this very im­por­tant service.

      I can't stress strongly enough, Mr. Chair, that when we're at this point in history here in this province, that we needed to have a truly visionary docu­ment being presented to people of this province regarding how we're moving forward with public ed.

      We have seen school divisions and com­mu­nities line up to express their displeasure, not only this year but for the past number of years, because we're going to get to this point because of the years of under­funding, Mr. Chair, and the cumulative impact of that. That's the piece that's really being felt now in com­mu­nities, not just here in the city but outside.

      And so while we sit here and talk about this pro­cess, and like I said, I've enjoyed this back and forth with the minister because it really does indicate what direction that they're going in.

      So my final question before our time runs out today is, what are the gov­ern­ment's plans, moving forward, to ensure that school divisions will receive funding that matches the rate of inflation?

Mr. Chairperson: Order.

      The hour being 5 p.m., com­mit­tee rise.


Executive Council

* (15:00)

Mr. Chairperson (Andrew Micklefield): Will the Com­mit­tee of Supply please come to order. This section of the Com­mit­tee of Supply will now consider the Estimates of Executive Council.

Introduction of Guests

Mr. Chairperson: And before we go any further, I would like to draw our attention to the public gallery where we have seated from MDM Homeschool, 10 grade 8 to 10 students under the direction of Anna Doerksen.

      We welcome you to the Manitoba Legislature and hope you have a great time. You will be witnessing some exciting exchanges this afternoon. And this is an interesting time where we get into the details of some things.

      So, anyway, welcome here.

* * *

      Does the hon­our­able First Minister have an opening statement?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): I do, Mr. Chair, thank you very much.

      Budget 2023 delivers historic help for Manitobans with un­pre­cedented invest­ments in the services that Manitobans rely on most. Record funding will help heal health care, make life more affordable and lead to safer streets, stronger com­mu­nities and op­por­tun­ities ahead.

      Mr. Chair, Budget 2023 implements the largest tax reductions in our history and includes historic invest­ments that will bring total tax and affordability measures to more than $1.8 billion for Manitobans, provi­ding tax relief through increasing the basic personal amount, saving the average family $1,000 this year, taking more than 47,000 low-income Manitobans off the tax roll.

      We will increase income-tax bracket threshold, saving Manitobans hundreds of dollars more in income taxes next year. Mr. Chair, Budget 2023 will implement the largest tax relief in the history of Manitoba this year.

      Safer streets: Budget 2023 includes an historic invest­ment of more than $100 million to address the challenges of violent crime and homelessness across Manitoba. We are investing in Manitoba's violent crime strategy, Manitoba's homelessness strategy, Downtown Com­mu­nity Safety Part­ner­ship and the Bear Clan Patrol.

      We'll invest in new treatment spaces for Manitobans who are in need of addictions treatment services across Manitoba, as well as youth and child mental health services to improve access and reduce wait times.

      Mr. Chair, the NDP will defund the police and support the revolving door in our criminal justice system. Our gov­ern­ment is taking a different approach. On this side of the House, we are funding the police, cracking down on violent criminals and investing to address the root causes of crime in our com­mu­nities. The members opposite don't have a plan to make our streets safer. We do, and we are getting the job done with this budget.

      Healing health care: Mr. Chair, our gov­ern­ment is responding with the largest invest­ment in health care in the history of Manitoba. Budget 2023 includes an historic invest­ment of $7.9 billion in the health-care system, provi­ding $668 million more to heal health care for Manitobans. This represents a 9.2 per cent increase over last year, and a 22 per cent increase since 2016.

      Investing in a diag­nos­tic and surgical recovery task force, human–health human resource action plan. This includes efforts to recruit, to train and retain doctors, nurses and other health-care pro­fes­sionals from around the world. We will invest in a health infra­structure plan, including major renovations to hospitals right across this great province of ours. This budget will also provide support to advance initiatives under the seniors strategy, including a hearing aid program for seniors.

      Manitobans know that we are healing health care for gen­era­tions to come.

      Stronger com­mu­nities: Manitoba families rely on affordable and quality services close to home. Budget 2023 includes an historic invest­ment in mun­ici­pal operating funding, $47 million more than last year and the largest increase in more than a decade.

      To improve edu­ca­tion, we are making astro­nomical invest­ments in the K‑to‑12 public school system, provi­ding $100 million more than last year, a 6.1 per cent increase, and $76 million to implement a $10-a-day child care three years ahead of schedule.

      This budget also includes major invest­ments to com­mu­nity living and children's dis­abil­ity services agencies, for a funded average wage of $19 per hour, bringing the total budget for dis­abil­ity services to an historic $640 million this year.

      Our gov­ern­ment also made sig­ni­fi­cant invest­ments for the Arts, Culture and Sport in Com­mu­nity Fund, an area that was neglected by the NDP for more than a decade.

      Our gov­ern­ment is investing in the services Manitobans rely on now and into the future.

      Mr. Chair, Manitoba has ex­per­ienced an un­pre­cedented economic recovery. Budget 2023 makes an historic invest­ment in infra­structure and other initia­tives that will transform Manitoba into a global trade and trans­por­tation corridor. Key industries such as manufacturing and agri­cul­ture showed record new growth, and our gov­ern­ment is making major strides with historic invest­ments in our economy.

      There is so much more I could go on with, Mr. Chair. I know we will have various deliberations back and forth between myself and the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, but I just want to close by saying this is an historic budget for Manitoba. It's historic help for Manitobans. It provides for safer streets; it heals our health care; it builds stronger com­mu­nities, and it provides op­por­tun­ities–many, many op­por­tun­ities–for Manitobans ahead.

      Thank you.

Mr. Chairperson: We thank the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) for those comments.

      Does the Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion critic have any opening comments?

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): I want to welcome the Premier to the final Estimates process before the next prov­incial election.

      And we know that there's so many issues that Manitobans want to see addressed in our province.

      You know, the issue of health care is certainly top of mind for so many people across Manitoba. You  know, it's said these days that you can drive the entire­ty of Highway 2 and not see any more emergency services. It's said that so many people who are work­ing on the front lines are leaving our province to go to Saskatchewan or Ontario or other places where they're being offered a more competitive salary and the chance to work in a health‑care system not run by the Manitoba PCs, which seems to be an attractive proposition for some.

      We also know that the issues of waits in emer­gency rooms and for surgeries and diag­nos­tic tests is a major priority that needs to get fixed. We know that it's going to take years to fix the damage that this PC gov­ern­ment has caused to the health-care system but we're up to the task.

      We know that we have to invest in those people who work on the front lines. We have to hire more doctors, more nurses, more allied health-care pro­fes­sionals, and we're going to have to pay them to work in rural Manitoba, to pay them to work in other areas of our health-care system where we urgently need more help at the bedside.

      Whereas the PCs, over their time in office, have increased the health-care bureaucracy, we'd like to reduce the bureaucracy in health care and reinvest those savings into the front lines at the bedside where they would actually help patients and help people in Manitoba.

      We know, also, that the cost of living is such a huge burden on so many families. And so, you know, the Manitoba NDP is the party that built these Crown cor­por­ations like Manitoba Public Insurance, like Manitoba Hydro. And the reason why we did that was to be able to keep your life, as the average person in Manitoba, more affordable.

      So let's cut through the mis­manage­ment and the bureaucracy that we've seen increase over the PC admin­is­tra­tion, first under Brian Pallister and now under the Stefanson gov­ern­ment, and let's get back to the core mission for those Crown cor­por­ations of making your life more affordable.

      So, the Premier highlights many challenges that she sees in the province in her opening statement, but when she talks about needing to fix the health-care system, why doesn't she mention that she was the Health minister? When she talks about issues around public safety, why doesn't she mention that she was the Attorney General and minister of Justice? When she talks about cost of living, why doesn't she mention that she's failed to take action as the Premier to help Manitobans in their time of need?

      And so, these are the things that the PCs are trying to gloss over in their election-year rebranding efforts, but I think Manitobans understand which versions of the PCs they're going to get if they're re-elected again next year. It's going to be the same cuts and closures and chaos that we saw under Brian Pallister and that have continued under these two years of the Stefanson gov­ern­ment.

      So, we're putting forward a better plan. We'd like to make your life more affordable. We'd like to have more people working at the bedside, not less. And one step that this gov­ern­ment could take imme­diately to help health care would be to give a contract to the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals. These are the para­medics who work in rural Manitoba. These are the respiratory therapists who work in our hospitals. These are the lab techs and X-ray techs who do the tests for you, who–if you get injured or if you need to get a diagnosis from your local physician or nurse prac­ti­tioner or health-care team.

      And these people have had their wages frozen for five years. It's happening at a time when bigger pro­vinces out there are making big offers to some of these people to take their talent to other juris­dic­tions. We don't want to see that. We want to see more people working here in Manitoba. We want to see more people putting down roots and making the decision to raise their kids and to raise their next gen­era­tion here in this great province.

      And so, for us, you know, the prospect of being able to put forward a plan and implement it and to govern well in Manitoba is a high honour. And so our team is going to be working very hard on that project this year and we hope to earn the support of people right across this great province.

      So, today, as we kick off the Estimates process for the Executive Council, we look forward to diving into a few of these issues and, of course, getting some answers for the people of Manitoba.

      So, I leave my opening statement at that.

Mr. Chairperson: In accordance with subrule 78(16), during the con­sid­era­tion of–oh, we do thank the leader–the official Leader of the Op­posi­tion for those remarks–[interjection]–yes, I was a paragraph ahead of myself.

      In accordance with subrule 78(16), during the con­­sid­era­tion of departmental Estimates, questioning for each department shall proceed in a global manner, with questions put on the resolutions once the official opposition critic indicates that questioning has concluded.

      At this time, we invite min­is­terial and op­posi­tion staff to enter the Chamber and we ask the members to please intro­duce their staff in attendance.

* (15:10)

Mrs. Stefanson: The staff that I have joining me today are Kathryn Gerrard, who's the Clerk of Executive Council. I have Braeden Jones, who's the director of com­muni­cations and stake­holder relations, as well as Brad Salyn, the chief of staff.

Mr. Chairperson: Would the hon­our­able Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion (Mr. Kinew) like to intro­duce his staff?

An Honourable Member: Yes.

Mr. Chairperson: The hon­our­able Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion.

Mr. Kinew: This is Mark Rosner. We affectionately calling him the Tories' worst nightmare.

Mr. Chairperson: Moving right along, the floor is now open for questions. [interjection] Will the Committee of Supply please come to order.

      The floor is now open for questions.

Mr. Kinew: I'd like to begin by asking some ques­tions about Manitoba Public Insurance and some of the issues that we were raising in question period earlier today.

      And I'd just like to begin by asking the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) how many times concerns regarding cost overruns on Project Nova have been raised at Cabinet.

Mrs. Stefanson: The Leader of the Op­posi­tion will know that discussions that take place within Cabinet are con­fi­dential, and so it'd be inappropriate to comment about what those discussions are and what has been taking place in Cabinet.

      I will say that, you know, several discussions have been taken place with respect to this issue, as–and I know that the minister has really been taking the lead on this issue and I know that he and I have had many discussions. He's kept me up to speed with every­thing that has been transpiring and some of the actions that have been taken.

Mr. Kinew: So, there's been two directives issued by gov­ern­ment regarding cost overruns at Manitoba Public Insurance. The first was in January and one more recently.

      When did the Premier first become aware of the size and scale of cost overruns at MPI with respect to Project Nova?

Mrs. Stefanson: Yes, I believe we're just trying to get the details on the actual date, and so if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has other questions, once I get the answer to that, I'll be happy to share that with him.

Mr. Kinew: Sure. That sounds fine.

      So, we did raise this issue–some concerns about increasing costs at Project Nova last October in the House in question period. Did the Premier take any action on reining in costs on this project prior to January of this year?

* (15:20)

Mrs. Stefanson: It was our under­standing that the IT equip­ment at MPI was quite outdated, to say the least. For decades, the system had not been updated, and certainly, when the original proposal came forward, there was a recog­nition that it wasn't enough to fulfill what was really needed to ensure that the IT system at MPI was fully up to speed with where it should be in today's day and age.

      So, as I understand, back in October we realized–because we ask these questions ourselves–but there was–the original scope was not enough of the con­tract, and so there was a change in the scope to reflect what was actually needed with respect to the IT equip­ment at MPI.

Mr. Kinew: Yes, just wanted to reiterate that the ques­tion's about what action the gov­ern­ment has taken to address the cost overruns that have been apparent, now, for quite some time. The initial budgeted projection for this project was somewhere in the range of $90 million and now it's closer to $300 million, which is a pretty big increase.

      And, you know, this is an issue that has been raised publicly. We raised it, but of course, we're not the only ones. This has been raised publicly by other folks and, certainly, organi­zations like the Consumers Coalition has weighed in because of the impact on rates for ratepayers and customers of MPI.

      So, we'd just like to know, in addition to what steps the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) may have taken–whether there were any steps prior to January–whether the Premier has met with the board chair or members of MPI during the last–members of the board of the directors, I should say–within the past six months; whether there's been any meetings between the Premier and the chair, or the board members of Manitoba Public Insurance.

Mrs. Stefanson: Yes, I haven't met personally with any of the members of the board with respect to this parti­cular issue. I know the minister has had those discussions, though, and I know certainly if–I know once he is up in Estimates, he would be, I'm sure, more than happy to answer some of these questions, as well, during those Estimates.

Mr. Kinew: I thank the Premier for that answer.

      I was curious whether the Premier's authorized MPI to make any transfers of funds in order to support the operations of driver and vehicle licensing branch of MPI since March of 2022.

Mrs. Stefanson: Again, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is getting into details with respect to a Crown cor­por­ation that is under the purview of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Goertzen), and I know that he would be happy to answer these questions at his Estimates pro­cess. I think it would be more ap­pro­priate that the details with respect to these types of initiatives be asked at that level.

      I think, certainly, we're here to answer, you know, higher level questions with–pertaining to MPI. If the Leader of the Op­posi­tion wants to get into more details, I suggest that there's a more ap­pro­priate Estimates process where that could take place.

Mr. Kinew: So, at this higher level, was the Premier aware of the sig­ni­fi­cant contracts awarded to McKinsey as part of Project Nova?

Mrs. Stefanson: The Leader of the Op­posi­tion will know that MPI runs in­de­pen­dently of the gov­ern­ment. They have their own board of directors, they have their own manage­ment that manages the day-to-day activities within MPI.

      Certainly, when it comes to any sole-source contracting with McKinsey, I was not aware of any of those contracts taking place until after it was brought to my attention that there were a number of them.

      And we–the minister gave a directive to the board to seize any more sole-source contracts to–until, you know, further infor­ma­tion was provided.

Mr. Kinew: So, the Premier describes a couple of con­cerns regarding McKinsey's contract with Project Nova, that there was a sole source–that's a direct quote–and that there were a number of them.

      So, beyond the sole-source nature of these con­tracts–plural–is the Premier aware of other concerns regarding how McKinsey was awarded these con­tracts by MPI?

Mrs. Stefanson: Again, I think that that would be more appropriately asked of the Minister respon­si­ble for MPI.

Mr. Kinew: All right. And thank you again, Mr. Chair.

      Will the Premier commit that there will be no new increases to the cost of Project Nova?

Mrs. Stefanson: So, I know that we have been assured by MPI that Nova's cost is final and not will increase–and not increase, and is moving ahead on schedule and on time. That's what we have been informed by MPI.

Mr. Kinew: I thank the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) for that and I also thank you, Mr. Chair, for being recog­nized again.

* (15:30)

      I wanted to turn now to the issue of personal-care homes and to talk about one personal-care home in parti­cular, the Maples Personal Care Home, which is owned by Revera.

      I think Manitobans all remember the very tragic circum­stances at the Maples PCH. More than 50 Manitobans lost their lives and we learned in the aftermath of that tragedy of some very, very terrible con­di­tions at this long‑term‑care facility.

      What I think was also very disturbing, though, for  Manitobans, is that this year we heard again in, I believe it was February, when public reports came out about the continued very, very difficult–and disturb­ing, I would say–con­di­tions at the Maples PCH up to the present day.

      There was one gentleman, a Mr. Lloyd Bone–is a resident of the care home. I had the op­por­tun­ity to meet him, along with members of his family and some folks who were advocating along with the family for im­prove­ments for both Mr. Bone and also for others who live in long-term care.

      A lot of very serious concerns. I'll table some photographs that the family shared just for the Premier and her staff to be able to review. Just–I do think it's im­por­tant to see the con­di­tions that seniors are forced to live in in the long-term‑care system.

      Just to maybe begin at a high level by describing some of the photos. You do see some of the kind of happy scenes of a daughter visiting her father and, you know, the smiles on their faces. But then you do see some pretty disturbing images of soiled sheets and filthy rooms and living con­di­tions for this elderly gentleman, which I don't think any of us would want to see our loved ones living in, and you see some very difficult con­di­tions for any human being.

      And so, certainly, I share these images just to kind of put a face and a picture on some of this continued situation that really needs to get addressed on behalf of seniors here in Manitoba.

      So, given the fact that we do see some of these images very starkly in the docu­ments that we shared here, many of these have been shared publicly through the media. We also know that the descriptions from the family member of, you know, people being, you know, left for hours in urine and, again, rooms not being cleaned such that, you know, the–you know, these things we're talking about actually started to stain the floor.

      Doesn't give me any pleasure to describe these things; they're very disturbing. But I do so because these are, you know, Manitobans who deserve to have a better quality of life and better living con­di­tions.

      So, I just wanted to ask, I guess, at the outset of this section of questioning: Can the Premier tell the House how it is that, you know, two years after the tragedy at Maples, that care for seniors in this same facility is in such a terrible state, to say nothing of other care homes, which may have their own challenges?

Mrs. Stefanson: Listen, I believe, like the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and others, that seniors deserve to live in dignity in our province, and that's certainly the premise of where I come from and where our team comes from. And we want to ensure that, if that is not taking place, that we want to get to the bottom of that and find out what the challenges are.

      And so, obviously, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has tabled some, you know, some photos that are, you know, disturbing, absolutely. I think that this matter–I'm not sure if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has handed these over to the Winnipeg Regional Health Author­ity for in­vesti­gation. We certainly will do that and we'll hand those over to the ap­pro­priate, you know, to the ap­pro­priate individuals who will look into this matter.

      What I will say, from a broader picture, is that after, you know, we discovered some challenges with Maples Personal Care Home and, of course, just congregate-care settings in general during the pandemic, we conducted an in­de­pen­dent review by Dr. Lynn Stevenson.

      And she came out with a report with 17 recom­men­dations where we have committed to imple­men­ting all 17 of those recom­men­dations and those are at various stages. Many of them–I don't have that in front of me right now–but most of those, I believe, have been imple­mented and the latest I know that we have earmarked more than $50 million to ensure that we com­plete the rest of the recom­men­dations from that report. So that's where we are.

      We do recog­nize there are challenges in our personal-care homes. I, again, want to make sure that our seniors are living in dignity. And to the extent that there are individuals that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is aware of who–there are challenges there, we need to let author­ities know so that we can fix that.

      And so, obviously, some pictures have been tabled here today. I don't like to discuss individual matters on the floor of the Chamber, but–or, in a com­mit­tee–but these are–you know, it's incumbent upon all of us, if we know that someone is not living with dignity in personal-care homes or anywhere, that we need to make sure the ap­pro­priate author­ities are aware of that.

      So I'm not sure if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has already passed this on to the WRHA who is respon­si­ble for the manage­ment of personal-care homes in our province, but we can certainly pass these photos along.

Mr. Kinew: Yes, I think that would be good if the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) does pass the photos on to the WRHA, to use her description. Certainly, we're working with the family to help them advocate for them­selves and for their loved one who does need a PCH bed. But I think that correspondence or follow-up coming from the Premier certainly carries a certain amount of heft and would likely spurn further follow-up, perhaps more quickly than through the avenues that we have open to us.

      So, I certainly would invite the Premier to do so.

      In addition to, you know, the photos that were shared with us–and, you know, the family encouraged us to share these photos and to advocate on behalf of their loved one–they asked us spe­cific­ally to bring his story forward.

      We also heard descriptions from those family mem­bers and for the advocates and people who are supporting them about what it's been like there, you know, with the family members having to clean up in the room, family members having to advocate spe­cific­ally to get clean laundry–sheets in parti­cular–having to ask for the mop and pail, things like that. Family members have had to really go above and beyond just to get some kind of baseline, more sanitary con­di­tions for this gentleman.

      I'm curious if the Premier has visited the Maples Personal Care Home to see the con­di­tions there since becoming the Premier or if she's visited other personal-care homes since becoming Premier.

Mrs. Stefanson: You know, I–again, I ap­pre­ciate having a discussion in this Estimates process when it comes to the dignity of our seniors and–in personal-care homes and making sure that they're living safely in those personal-care homes.

* (15:40)

      But I think it's very im­por­tant, when I look at these photos–and, you know, this appears to have been some­thing from February 1st, which was two months ago, that I hope that the Leader of the Opposition wasn't waiting to kind of do this on the floor of the Legis­lature or the Chamber. You know, that these–I hope he would've brought this forward to the WRHA or to officials prior to this. This was two months ago.

      And I think it's incumbent upon all of us to be part of the solution. So, I hope that when this was brought to his attention, that he also brought this forward to various author­ities to get–to make sure that action is being taken. I don't like the fact that two months has gone by. I hope that this isn't continuing to happen, and certainly, we will look into it.

      But it's very im­por­tant that if you–you know, if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion or any member of this Chamber has infor­ma­tion about the safety and well-being of someone in our personal-care homes, that we bring that forward to the ap­pro­priate author­ities as quickly as possible so that they're not sitting and waiting in the same kind of situation that they are with some of these photos.

      So, I'll leave it at that. Again, I don't like dis­cussing, you know, issues–you know, specific, you know, cases, you know, on the floor of the Chamber, but I'm very passionate about wanting to make sure that our seniors are safe living in personal-care homes.

      My father lived in a personal-care home for some time, and I know–and I can remember visiting him quite often in the personal-care home and how difficult it is, you know, for family members to go in and to see, you know, your loved one in a, you know, a compromising position or–you know, you just–nobody wants this. I don't want it for any family out there, ever.

      And I just think, you know, when we are in possession of infor­ma­tion, I think it's incumbent upon us to act as swiftly and quickly as possible. Because that–you know, the individual in the photos that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion has tabled in the House, I want to make sure that he gets the ap­pro­priate care that he needs and that he never gets that–that he's not in the position that he's in anymore.

      And, you know, I just hope the Leader of the Opposition brought this forward to other author­ities before bringing it two months later after the fact to, you know, to the Estimates process.

Mr. Kinew: This issue has been raised publicly with these photos, and certainly, we've advocated on behalf of the family.

      And the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) should look at this inter­ven­tion in the Estimates com­mit­tee as a reminder to her, a reminder to take action. She was the minister of Health when the tragedy happened at Maples.

      How is it that these con­di­tions can continue in the same personal-care home not only after her time as Health minister, but after she's been the Premier?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, I take these issues very seriously, and that's why I did take action to–right away. As soon as the situation that came about at Maples Personal Care Home, we took action right away and we got an in­de­pen­dent review–Dr. Lynn Stevenson involved, who did that in­de­pen­dent review of the facility and made sure that she came up with general–you know, she came up with general recom­men­dations, 17 of those recom­men­dations, all of which are either imple­mented or in the process of being imple­mented.

      Now, we do know that there are challenges with respect to health human resources, and we know that that's nothing that is unique to Manitoba. That is some­thing that, you know, every single province is facing across our country. I've had those discussions with my counterparts across the country. We're trying to work together to see how we can overcome some of those challenges that have been perpetuated as a result of the worldwide pandemic.

      Now, I know some of these challenges existed back when the NDP was in gov­ern­ment, and they had an op­por­tun­ity at the time to take action. That wasn't after or during a pandemic at the time. But they didn't take action at that time to ensure that there were appro­priate health human resources in place at that time.

      So when we took over office in 2016 we started to have to clean up the mess from the previous NDP gov­ern­ment. And, of course, we started to do that and then a pandemic hit, and we know what has happened since then.

      And we have a health human resources challenge because many of those people who worked, you know, during the pandemic, you know, they were work­ing long, hard hours during those times. They were very, very difficult, challenging, un­pre­cedented times, some­thing we'd never seen before in the history of our health‑care system. And they did in­cred­ible work, but many of them, you know–you know, it created challenges for them. And we recog­nize that some of them just wanted to retire after that, there's no question.

      And so we know that that has caused challenges within our health human resources, and it's why we have esta­blished our $200-million fund to recruit more than 2,000 health-care pro­fes­sionals. And we're well on our way to doing that. More doctors, more nurses, more health-care pro­fes­sionals working in our personal-care homes; that's, of course, what we all want to see.

      But we need to ensure that, you know, we recog­nize, of course–the Leader of the Op­posi­tion needs to recog­nize as well–because all other Manitobans recog­­nize the challenges that we face with health human resources. People right across the country recog­nize the chal­lenges that we face in health human resources, and it's very im­por­tant that we take action.

      So, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion asks why, you know, what action I had taken. Well, we have taken action when it comes to health human resources and personal-care homes. That's why we announced the $200 million, the 2,000 more health-care pro­fes­sion­als in the province of Manitoba.

      And so when he says we're not taking action, again, that's just false infor­ma­tion. And the truth of the matter is that we are taking action. Those are the facts. Again, the facts versus the false infor­ma­tion that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion wants to continue to put on the record in the Chamber.

      But I will tell the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, I will tell all Manitobans that I care very deeply about not just those in our personal-care homes, I care very deeply about all Manitobans. I want to make sure, in parti­cular, our seniors are able to live with the dignity that they deserve to live with in their latter years in life, and that they get the care that they need when they need it.

Mr. Kinew: You know, I don't know if the talking points are persuasive to the Premier's staff or to her caucus, but they're certainly not persuasive to the Manitobans who've had to live with this PC admin­is­tra­tion these past many years.

      The pandemic is being used as a shield by this admin­is­tra­tion to try and cover up for their failures in health care. These failures started prior to the pan­demic. There was not a single personal-care-home bed built in this province leading up to COVID‑19. And then what did the PC admin­is­tra­tion do? They froze operating funding for PCHs in their first pandemic budget.

      And they failed again, second pandemic budget, to increase invest­ments in personal-care homes. The Maples tragedy befell our province while the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) was the Health minister. She went on to her current office and here we are, two years later, with seniors still living without dignity.

      So, the talking points may work around the PC caucus table, but they don't work for the public. Because regardless of whatever an­nounce­ment the PCs make, they need to be judged on the con­di­tions in which seniors in PCHs live. Frankly, we haven't seen progress in those areas.

      And it's not surprising as to why there's been a failure to improve these living con­di­tions. When we go back to the Stevenson report that was com­missioned in the wake of the Maples tragedy, we have to conclude that this report was deeply flawed from the outset.

      I think we all recall the press conference an­nouncing the Stevenson report, where this person who was brought in to author it was asked about the fact that Revera lied about the staffing level in this care home at the time of the tragedy. And the look of utter shock and 'bewilderedment' on this person's face, and then they put it into verbiage imme­diately following this, to clarify that this Health minister and this–or, rather, the Premier, who was then the Health minister, and this gov­ern­ment, never told Mrs. Stevenson that Revera had lied and misrepre­sented the staffing level in their personal-care home.

* (15:50)

      You know, there's a, you know, concept out there–fruit of the poison tree. It therefore stands to reason that since this gov­ern­ment misrepresented the situation at Maples PCH during the in­vesti­gation, that it com­pro­mised the integrity of the report which followed, which therefore helps to explain why the inaction that followed under the watch of this now-Premier contributes to the results that we see in the terms of undignified con­di­tions for seniors.

      So, let's examine some of these so-called an­nounce­ments that this PC admin­is­tra­tion makes on this topic in parti­cular. In April 2002, the Premier made an an­nounce­ment and stated her gov­ern­ment would invest $15 million to supposedly enhance infection pre­ven­tion and control in the long-term-care sector, including hiring a prov­incial program manager, regional leads, 50 infection control staff, to hire more than 200 full-time-equivalent housekeeping staff, 44 full-time equivalents to make im­prove­ments to infor­ma­tion and com­muni­cation tech­no­lo­gy.

      We know the answer to this question, but we'd like the Premier to answer it for us on the record here.

      Can the Premier tell this com­mit­tee whether any of these people have been hired?

Mrs. Stefanson: You know, the Leader of the Opposi­tion wants to be disrespectful–that's fine–of me, you know. I'm more concerned about Manitobans, and I think it's disrespectful to Manitobans to say that, you know, that we don't somehow care about their care. And we absolutely do. And I think it's disrespect­ful to them to give false infor­ma­tion to them out there.

      What they deserve is the facts. And so, of course, we will, once again, where the Leader of the Op­posi­tion does not deliver the facts out there with respect to what is going on, and he's off in, you know, some tangent about, you know, the misinformation and all the sort of stuff out there.

      The fact of the matter is Dr. Lynn Stevenson conducted a report–an in­de­pen­dent review of what had transpired at Maples Personal Care Home–came up with 17 recom­men­dations, all of which are–we agreed to implement.

      And I can tell you that the active recruitment in all positions–again, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is talking about positions in personal-care homes–active recruitment in all positions, despite some of the health human resource challenges that we've been facing, not just here in Manitoba, but across the world and across the country. Certainly, 468 of those full-time em­ployees are esti­mated to be recruited by the end of March of this year. So that is March 31st, just a few days ago, and so that is the recent update of those–that recruitment activity.

      So the $15 million, plus we've put and invested more than $50 million to ensure that we're able to finish off the recruitment of the other FTEs out there to ensure that we fulfil our obligation to complete the 17 recom­men­dations from the Stevenson report.

Mr. Kinew: I just want to point out for the record that every­thing I said about Maples was a fact in the previous preamble. Every­thing I said about Revera was a fact. Every­thing I said about Lynn Stevenson was a fact. And every­thing that I said about this gov­ern­ment's failure on long-term care was also factual.

      The one thing that the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) said that was incorrect about my remarks beyond that is that I somehow characterized her as not caring. I made no speculation what­so­ever in my preamble about whether or not the Premier cares. But the pact–but the fact that she would volunteer that, perhaps is a little bit of a slip on her part. So, I'll just leave that elucidation on the record.

      On the topic of health-care an­nounce­ments un­fulfilled, I wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker–Mr. Chair in this context–whether you remember in Budget 2022 when this admin­is­tra­tion under this Premier promised that all outstanding contracts with health-care workers would be resolved as of last week, the end of the fiscal year.

      Reason why I ask that rhetorical question, the reason why I ask that rhetorical question to you is because we know that the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals are currently without a contract as we speak.

      So I'm wondering why the Premier broke that promise that she laid out in last year's budget.

Mrs. Stefanson: I wonder if the Leader of the Opposi­tion could just repeat–he had mentioned that there was a time frame, a certain time that he alleges that I said that we would have a new contract with the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals.

      Could the Leader of the Op­posi­tion indicate what that time was, and does he have some­thing that he might be able to table that suggests that?

Mr. Kinew: Page 105 of the budget that this Premier brought in last year, so the 2022 budget, for greater clarity. The specific wording here on page 105 is that all remaining wage-contract settlements by the end of this fiscal year 2022-23 will be completed. So that was last week.

      So again, the question is: Why did the Premier break this promise from her 2022 budget? Because we all know that the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals are still without a contract.

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, I mean, we all know in nego­tiations that anything can happen during negotiations.

      And, certainly, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, I hope he's not suggesting that just because, you know, of an arbitrary deadline that we inter­fere in the bar­gaining process. I think that would be inappropriate. So, is that what the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is suggesting, that we should have inter­fered in the bargaining process?

      We believe–and I'm not sure, I'm not a party to those negotiations them­selves, but I think from time to time things can come up in those negotiations that–where there's sometimes delays that are beyond, sometimes, our control or the control of either side within those negotiations. And so I think it's very im­por­tant–the most im­por­tant thing is that we net–let those negotiations continue in the way that they should, without any inter­ference.

Mr. Kinew: If the Premier believes in what she's just contended, then why did she put this in her 2022 budget?

* (16:00)

      Why did she put the words all wage settlements will be concluded by the end of the fiscal year 2022‑23, if what she just contended is her actual belief, instead of, say, some sort of verbal contortion to try and escape account­ability in an Estimates commit­tee?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, I know the Leader of the Opposi­tion thinks that he's got some sort of a gotcha moment here. The fact of the matter is that when we are anticipating that, you know, potential collective bargaining agree­ments are completed, we budget for them. So, you know, we were anticipating and hopeful that those budget–or, those negotiations would be completed at that time.

      But, again, as I mentioned earlier, there are reasonable, you know, reasons why sometimes these collective, you know, bargaining negotiations take time to complete. And there's, you know, things on either side; you just don't know what's going to come up in the middle of a negotiation. I think Leader of the Op­posi­tion should know that. Maybe he's not aware that there are other extenuating circum­stances at times that will come up during a negotiation period that may delay things.

      You know, I look at the example of a worldwide pandemic that delayed many things past where certain deadlines should've been, and certainly, when it comes to, you know, Leader of the Op­posi­tion says, why didn't we do this five years ago, he says. Well, we had a worldwide pandemic, and that will delay some of the things–some of these things. And so I think Manitobans expect us to deliver on things that are reasonable.

      Again, I–we, as a gov­ern­ment, don't get into the negotiations with respect to the paramedics. That is up to the, you know, the health author­ity or Shared Health that is respon­si­ble for those negotiations, and we don't get involved in the, you know, the day-to-day negotiations when it comes to those things. And we leave that up between the employer and the employee.

      So, again, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, I guess, is suggesting that we should've jumped in the middle of this and, you know, just signed on the dotted line. Well, that's inappropriate. That is not what you do when you're negotiating a collective agree­ment.

Mr. Kinew: You know, Mr. Chair, you're a reason­able person. A lot of people are throwing that term reasonable around a lot these days. And so–[interjection]

      Well, I'll disagree with your colleague from Radisson, and I'll call you reasonable today, Mr. Chair. And I just want to point some­thing out that the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) tried to slip past the com­­­mit­tee here in blaming the pandemic for the disrespect that's been shown to allied health-care pro­fes­sionals.

      So, I think it's common knowledge that the pan­demic arrived in Manitoba in 2020. You know, there might be some, you know, quibbling about, was that the start of March, the end of March 2020; maybe we should even talk about January 2020, you know, just as, like, very early days in terms of that. But I think there would be a consensus that 2020 is when the pandemic arrived.

      These allied health-care pro­fes­sionals–and again, they do include the paramedics, but the Premier should be aware that it's also respiratory therapists, lab techs, X-ray techs–many other health-care pro­fes­sionals who are highly valued. They've been without a contract since 2018.

      So, why did the PC admin­is­tra­tion freeze their wages for years before the pandemic? It's one thing to try and escape account­ability by blaming the pandemic, but it's another thing to have been trying to disrespect these health-care pro­fes­sionals by freezing their wages and refusing to enter­tain a contract with them for years prior to the onset of COVID‑19 here in Manitoba. So I'll leave that for your careful deliberation and con­sid­era­tion.

      It does–you know, I would just make the com­mentary, it seems more likely that it's just, you know, a talking point to try and escape account­ability, when the proper course of action should be to ensure that there's a fair deal done here that'll help keep these health-care pro­fes­sionals working at the bad–the bedside here in Manitoba.

      I also want to just put on the record here that, even though we're reading a deadline from the budget that the Premier herself brought forward to this House, that she also disparaged the words from the budget by calling it, and I quote, an arbitrary deadline. End quote. So, it's kind of a bizarre view for the leader of a gov­ern­ment to talk about the commit­ments made in her own budget as being arbitrary.

      But again, I'll just kind of put that on the record here and say it reflects one of two things: either (1) you know, the Premier did not respect the 2022 budget that she brought forward, or, perhaps–and the more likely alter­na­tive–she's just trying to escape account­ability now at this com­mit­tee by trying to diminish the words that were tabled in that Budget 2022.

      I do want to pick up by way of a question, though, on the comment made that there was a settlement anticipated and that this settlement was budgeted for in the gov­ern­ment docu­ments. So I would like the Premier to tell the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals who are looking for a fair deal here, what was the amount budgeted for this contract?

* (16:10)

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Mr. Chair, this is once again why you can't trust the op­posi­tion, because he put false infor­ma­tion on the record once again. And let me read from budget–from this budget that he's referring to.

      It goes on to talk about collective bargaining agree­ments that we made, a number of different collective bargaining agree­ments that we completed, and then it goes on to say that Manitoba values its public servants and is working towards completing–working towards completing all remaining wage contract settlements. That is no–by no means suggest­ing that we had promised to complete them by the end  of that time. It says, very spe­cific­ally, working towards completing all remaining wage contract settlements.

      Now, those are the facts, and the Leader of the Opposition will know that when it comes to the allied health‑care pro­fes­sionals–and I know he's laughing from his seat, he thinks this is a laughing matter; I don't think it is. I want to see that our allied health-care pro­fes­sionals, all those individuals working out there and doing in­cred­ible work to work with individuals in our province, I want to make sure that they have a fair and equitable agreement. I want to make sure that there is–that the time is taken to make sure that that bargaining process takes place, Mr. Chair.

      And so, you know, while the Leader of the Op­posi­tion tries to say that there's sort of a gotcha moment here, you know, it's simply not true, for one thing.

      But secondly, Mr. Chair, it's being disrespectful. The Leader of the Op­posi­tion is being disrespectful to the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals. He obviously wants this to end quickly, regardless. I want to assure, on our side of the House, that they get a fair and equitable agree­ment.

      And that's why we need to ensure that the ap­pro­priate and proper collective bargaining process takes place. We respect that process. The Leader of the Op­posi­tion doesn't appear to respect that process, but we do because we have too much respect for all of our allied health-care pro­fes­sionals in the province of Manitoba.

      We want to make sure that they get a fair and equitable agree­ment.

Mr. Kinew: I would've liked to see Manitoba allied heath-care pro­fes­sionals get a fair deal five years ago. Instead, they've had their wages frozen for five years. That's disrespectful. It's not also–it's also not a good strategy when there's a country-wide health human resource recruitment effort under way by every prov­incial gov­ern­ment, seemingly.

      So I think this certainly causes a lot of concern for those who've been supporting these paramedics and other allied health pro­fes­sionals and I would just encourage the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) to try to improve her gov­ern­ment's performance on this issue because certainly folks in rural Manitoba, folks in the North, people right across Manitoba want to see these health-care pro­fes­sionals treated with respect.

      Does the Premier believe that the consolidation plan started by former premier Brian Pallister helped to improve health care in Manitoba?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Mr. Chair, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, you know, accused me of making a promise in a budget book which didn't actually take place. I just pointed that out to him. And rather than apologize and admit his mistake or his misleading of this com­mit­tee, you know, he went on–off in another tangent.

      I mean, again, this is why we talk about fact versus fiction. These are people across the way–the NDP will put anything on the record just to suit their own narrative. And yet, when he realizes that he is in the wrong and we've–you know, we have pointed it out to him in our budget books where he is mistaken, he doesn't apologize.

      But what I'll say when it comes to our allied health-care pro­fes­sionals, I want to ensure that they get a fair and equitable deal out of this.

      Yes, negotiations, I'm sure, started to take place back before the other–the collective agree­ment expired. But we know, also, that these deals take time. And we also know, if the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is talking about that being up in 2018, we also know that we had a worldwide pandemic starting in 2020. Okay? I want to make sure that those allied health-care pro­fes­sionals get a fair and equitable deal that they deserve.

      They have done a tre­men­dous amount of work for us day in and day out during the pandemic, before, after; they have been doing in­cred­ible work for us. And I believe they deserve nothing less than to allow this bargaining process to go forward so that they can negotiate their own fair and equitable deal.

Mr. Kinew: Yes, I mean, if the Premier's election strategy is to keep litigating the cuts and closures of health care, then I'll happily engage in that process. The talking point here that the Premier's trying to put on the record is that she, quote, did not promise to complete, end quote, these negotiations. Instead, she stated that she was working towards completing, end quote.

      I think the average health-care pro­fes­sional out there would be puzzled, if they were in a charitable mood, and more likely frustrated to hear the Premier, who has frozen their wages these many years trying to play a game of semantics rather than engage substantively with the issue here. On the question of respect, these workers' wages were frozen when the current Premier was the deputy premier. That wage freeze continued under her time as the Health minister, and it continues today, well into her term as Premier.

      Will the Premier improve her gov­ern­ment's performance when it comes to respecting allied health-care pro­fes­sionals?

Mrs. Stefanson: I think it's im­por­tant when the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and members opposite put false infor­ma­tion on the record in the Chamber that we call them out on it. And I am going to call the Leader of the Op­posi­tion out, once again, on some­thing that he misled this com­mit­tee.

* (16:20)

      He stated that the problems at Maples Personal Care Home started under our watch, and in fact, that is false. There were challenges before that where they were under the previous NDP gov­ern­ment.

      And in fact, back in 2013, alarm bells were raised in Manitoba over staffing in the long-term-care sector at Maples Personal Care Home. And the staff were actually picketing at that time under the previous NDP gov­ern­ment, under Greg Selinger, the previous premier of this province. And I know Greg Selinger was–hand-picked the current Leader of the Op­posi­tion and, of course, he should be made aware that, once again–[interjection]

Mr. Chairperson: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: –he put false infor­ma­tion on the record when he knew full well that there were challenges at the Maples Personal Care Home that the NDP did nothing about at that time.

      So, we will take no lessons from the members opposite. But it's time that they start to put the facts on the record.

      That's not the only thing. I also pointed out today that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion tried to make a claim that in the budget last year that we promised or made a commit­ment that we would have the collective agree­ment completed for the allied health-care pro­fes­sionals by the end of the budget. And it says right in the budget itself, it says it's–we were working towards a date.

      So, it's very clear–very clear, Mr. Chair, that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion wants nothing more than to continue along the lines of misleading Manitobans. And we think that that's unfor­tunate.

      But when he starts to make accusations, it's incumbent upon us to inform Manitobans and to let Manitobans know that we are going to stick to the facts. And while the Leader of the Op­posi­tion wants to continue down his fictitious line of, you know, putting things on the record that have no bearing of the truth what­so­ever, we will continue down a line of ensuring that Manitobans know the truth.

Mr. Kinew: Here's some false infor­ma­tion the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) just put on the record: the  previous premier of Manitoba was actually Brian Pallister. But I'm sure she was about to–

An Honourable Member: Point of order.

Mr. Kinew: –say  Brian Pallister's name at any moment here.

Mr. Chairperson: Order, please. Order, please. The–

Mr. Kinew: So, yes, because previous refers to–

Mr. Chairperson: Order, please. Order.

Point of Order

Mr. Chairperson: On a point of order, the hon­our­able First Minister.

Mrs. Stefanson: Yes, actually, the previous premier would have been Kelvin Goertzen.

      But what I am focusing on–what I was focusing on when I spe­cific­ally stated the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is false, once again, on the infor­ma­tion that he is putting on the record. He knows full well when I mention 2013 that it was an NDP premier at the time. Those are the facts.

      And I will continue to put the facts on the record in this Chamber, while he continues down a road of false infor­ma­tion.

Mr. Chairperson: Okay.

An Honourable Member: I'd like to respond.

Mr. Chairperson: On the same point of order–the hon­our­able Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion, on the same point of order.

Mr. Kinew: I'd just like to state that there is clearly no point of order, mainly because there was no rule cited that was being broken. Instead, the Premier is trying to use a point of order to debate and is therefore, actually, kind of breaking the rules herself.

      So I would think that perhaps we could just maybe cut off some of these attempts at debate and just return to the questions at hand, because, of course, there will be the op­por­tun­ity for the Premier to respond when I pose the next question. Right?

Mr. Chairperson: Okay. It is, in fact, not a point of order. It is a dispute over the facts.

* * *

Mr. Chairperson: And I'm obliged by the rules to remind the First Minister and all members not to refer to a member by their first and last name–a sitting member–by their first and last name.

      So, anyway, I did–I paused the clock and I believe the–the hon­our­able Leader of the Official Op­posi­tion.

Mr. Kinew: Yes, on the subject of Brian Pallister, does the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) believe that the consolidation plan started by former premier Brian Pallister help to improve health care in Manitoba?

Mrs. Stefanson: The Leader of the Op­posi­tion seems to want to go back in history, so perhaps we will go back to history when in the 1999 election campaign the NDP ran on a promise to end hallway medicine in six months with $15 million. And he–and they also promised at the time to fix health care.

      Well, fast forward to 2015, after 15 years of the NDP in gov­ern­ment, supposedly would have fixed our health-care system by that. They said that they would have ended hallway medicine in six months with just a mere $15 million. Well, I can tell you 15 years later, clearly, the health-care system was not fixed.

      And I know from today's debate that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is promising once again to fix our health‑care system. Well, if they couldn't do it in 17 years, why would we trust that they'd be able to do it again, Mr. Chair?

      So, I would go back. And in 2015, the Grace  Hospital had the longest ER wait times in the  country. Now, that was under their watch. The NDP government at the time, 15 years that they had to fix the health-care system.

      Now, I don't recall there ever being a worldwide pandemic in there, Mr. Chair; I'm not sure if you do. But I don't think there was a worldwide pandemic at that time where there were sig­ni­fi­cant challenges placed on our health-care systems, not just here in Manitoba but right across the country, we've had challenges with health-care systems.

      So, 15 years, 17 years the NDP couldn't fix health care after promising to do so.

* (16:30)

      So we know that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion who gets up today, you know, in front of a whole bunch of people because it's on the eve of an election; he's got to tell them what they want to hear–that he's going to fix health care.

      Here we go. We've got an NDP party that is going to promise Manitobans, once again, that they are going to fix health care. Well, I can tell you that history proves that they never got it done then and they sure won't get it done now, Mr. Chair.

      But I can tell you that, yes, there have been some challenges in our health-care system. There's no question. A worldwide pandemic puts a lot of strain on a health-care system. Again, you didn't need to just look at local media here in Manitoba. You look around the world, what different gov­ern­ments were facing around the world and their health-care systems. There was a sig­ni­fi­cant challenge, you know, at that time.

      And so we recog­nize, you know, and we want to learn from some of the challenges, the things that we learned from the pandemic, and we are continuing to do so. If there are ways, now, that we can make it more efficient to deliver health care in Manitoba, we will look for those ways, absolutely.

      But don't be fooled by an NDP des­per­ate op­posi­tion, who wants to get into power in the province of Manitoba because we've seen them make those same promises before. We know they didn't deliver those promises then, so why can Manitobans trust them now? I'll tell you: they can't.

Mr. Kinew: Gary Doer was a great premier. Hallway medicine returned to Manitoba under the PC admin­is­tra­tion.

      Does the Premier believe–and I'll ask this question a second time because the Premier did not answer it–does the Premier believe the–actually, this is the third time, now that I think about it, because we had a point of order and all that, you know, that you had to rule on against the Premier–does the Premier believe the consolidation plan started by former premier Brian Pallister helped to improve health care in Manitoba?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, again, Mr. Speaker–or, sorry, Mr. Chair, I do want to just go back and remind the Leader of the Op­posi­tion that when we took gov­ern­ment in 2016, the health-care system was in disarray. There were a lot of challenges that we inherited from the previous NDP gov­ern­ment that needed to be cleaned up. And so, of course, we embarked on a plan to make im­prove­ments to the health-care system.

      I can recall, at the time–many times in my days in op­posi­tion, I was there for a few years–but I can recall times where people would go to an emergency room in the city of Winnipeg, they would present them­selves, they would need certain diagnostics that wouldn't be available at that hospital.

      So then they would go again by ambulance from that hospital to another hospital to get–and to wait in that hospital, then, to get the diag­nos­tic procedures that they needed. Sometimes they would have it, sometimes they went–they wouldn't; they would then be sent back again to the other hospital.

      We recog­nized that there were challenges with that and we wanted to make sure that those diag­nos­tic services were there in those emergency rooms and on those premises so that we weren't putting people back in ambulances to travel across the city of Winnipeg. And in rural com­mu­nities, it was even worse at the time, during the previous NDP gov­ern­ment. We don't want to go back to those dark days.

      I will recall, I–you know, today–so, I think that there have been some im­prove­ments where–when individuals present in the hospital, at least they can get the diag­nos­tic services that they need.

      Now, after the pandemic, we know there's been backlogs and we recog­nize that; but that's after a worldwide pandemic, Mr. Chair. And so, we, of course, are putting resources into those areas to ensure that we are increasing the diag­nos­tic and surgical procedures for Manitobans when they need it. And we're making sig­ni­fi­cant headway in reducing and eliminating those backlogs, back to pre-pandemic levels. And those are the invest­ments that we are, of course, making.

      But I will note that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, I believe, was asked a question today about whether or not he would go back, he would reverse what–the decisions that were made in the Pallister gov­ern­ment, and he was asked whether or not the–he would increase the number of ERs back to where it was before. And he said no, that he wouldn't do that.

      So, clearly, he also agrees that we have moved in the right direction, to ensure that those diag­nos­tic and surgical procedures can take place without having to send people by ambulatory or stretcher services to get those diag­nos­tic and surgical procedures at other hospitals. I gather that's a–he agrees that that's a good thing and maybe he wants to comment on that, I'm not sure; I know he already has in the media, but we think that there have been some approvements.

      But I–what I will say is that there is always room for more im­prove­ment. I don't want to see any Manitoba–Manitoban being left out and not being able to get the either surgical or diag­nos­tic procedures that they need. I don't want to see any Manitoban waiting in pain to get the surgery that they need.

      And so each and every day we will find ways to ensure that, whether it's through health human resource invest­ments, whether it's through our surgical and diag­nos­tic tax–task force, that we are ensuring that those individuals get the health care that they need when they need it, sooner and closer to home, I might add, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

      So, again, a lot of work has been done, but I think there's still a lot more work that needs to be done. We've learned a lot from a time during the pandemic, where we can make some im­prove­ments, and as I said earlier, I'll say it again, that if there are ways to improve and stream­line the delivery of health care so it's better for the patient in our province, we will do so.

Mr. Kinew: I just want to draw your attention, Mr. Chair, to the substance of what we just discussed in this back-and-forth here between the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) and I. The question was, does the Premier believe the consolidation plan started by former premier Brian Pallister helped to improve health care in Manitoba.

      The Premier said in response, there have been some im­prove­ments. She said it twice, there have been some im­prove­ments. Brian Pallister's plan for health care; positive reviews from this Premier.

      Does the Premier believe the closure of three emergency rooms in Winnipeg was the correct decision? Was it done in the right way?

* (16:40)

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, I think it's im­por­tant that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion know and understand that we inherited a mess, not just in health care, but pretty much right across the board, from the previous NDP gov­ern­ment under Greg Selinger, who I know the Leader of the Op­posi­tion was very close to.

      And what I will say to the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, I know he was asked this question today, whether or not he would go back and open up those ERs, and he said that he wouldn't. And that is interesting, so he obviously sees that we had moved in the right direction on some things. And I think, you know, but–let's fast-forward.

      I know when changes are made to systems, that there's never just one or two or three or four changes that are made. Changes are, you know, the system of health care, whatever it is, you know, a system that you're managing, it changes over time based on new tech­no­lo­gy that comes into the system, based on new infor­ma­tion that comes in to better offer, you know, where you can stream­line and better–and offer services in a better way.

      And so, we will always look at better ways to deliver health-care services to Manitobans; that doesn't stop. We don't just go back and say, okay, we're done. No, we're done with that. It's an evolving situation.

      And I think we've learned a lot, parti­cularly going through a pandemic with our health-care system, the things that we can learn and the changes that we can make as a result of that. And so we will continue to look at how can we improve the delivery of health-care services to Manitobans.

      We will always looks at ways to making and improving the system of health care in the province of Manitoba.

Mr. Kinew: I'll ask the question again: Does the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) believe the closure of three emergency rooms in Winnipeg was the correct decision?

Mrs. Stefanson: I believe I've already answered that question, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Kinew: It's a yes-or-no question, and we haven't heard a yes-or-no answer, so I'll ask the Premier again.

      Does the Premier believe the closure of three emergency rooms in Winnipeg was the correct decision?

Mrs. Stefanson: I think it's not a yes-or-no question, Mr. Chair, and I believe that any question needs to have context put to it. I've already put that context on the record. With respect to that, I think that there are ways that we can improve our system based on what we have learned over the years, and we will continue to improve the system moving forward.

Mr. Kinew: Okay, I'll reformulate it as a yes-or-no question: Does the Premier believe that closing three emergency rooms in Winnipeg was the correct decision, yes or no?

Mrs. Stefanson: And, respectfully, I believe I've already answered that question.

Mr. Kinew: So, I just want to ask further questions about Brian Pallister's plan for health care. Again, Brian Pallister announced this as the clinical and pre­ven­tative services plan, and I think many Manitobans grew to have very strong feelings about those words–the Clinical and Preventive Services Plan.

      And I would note the visceral reaction of my colleague from Concordia. We know that there was an emergency room closed in Concordia. There was also the com­mu­nity CancerCare clinic in Concordia that was closed. And, of course, in northeast Winnipeg, there was also a closure of the com­mu­nity IV clinic, right? Those are people who need, you know, access to treatment for chronic con­di­tions–in some cases, life-saving treatments–counted on in their com­mu­nities.

      And so, that term, Clinical and Preventive Services Plan, the Brian Pallister plan for health care.

      Anyway, I would note that on this Manitoba gov­ern­ment news release dated March 29th, 2023, last week, talking about an an­nounce­ment that the Premier was a part of, along with the current Minister of Health (Ms. Gordon), that they use the same term–that the an­nounce­ment that they're a part of last week was part and parcel of Manitoba's Clinical and Preventive Services Plan.

      So, I mean, it's right here in black and white; it's very clear. But I would just like the Premier to confirm on the record that she is continuing to implement Brian Pallister's plan for health care. Can she confirm that for this com­mit­tee today?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, I think it's im­por­tant to note exactly what the an­nounce­ment was that we made back in Brandon last week.

      And I know that, certainly, it was well received for–by people in the Westman region and in Brandon because it had both to do with the hospital in Brandon, creating a hub there to provide health care closer to home, which has been very well received by people in the Westman and Parkland region. It offers 30 ad­di­tional medicine beds, a new 16-bed intensive-care unit, up from the current nine, with ad­di­tional staffed adult beds to meet the increasing demands of the health region and province and an expanded neonatal intensive-care unit. So those are all positive things for the Brandon hospital.

      Those are–those invest­ments are being made so that individuals can get the health care they need closer to home, rather than having to come into Winnipeg to get those procedures.

      And also, as part of that, was a sig­ni­fi­cant invest­ment in cancer care–in western Manitoba cancer care: an ad­di­tional exam procedure room and treatment spaces, a new medical linear accelerator, commonly used to–for delivering external beam radiation treatments to patients with cancer.

* (16:50)

      And the Centre for Hope, which was a sig­ni­fi­cant thing that was also a con­tri­bu­tion partly by the late Paul Albrechtsen and his foundation that gave 3 and a half million dollars toward this. So that's how, when we partner with com­mu­nity philanthropists, this is what we can do for com­mu­nities.

      So, a centre of hope that will provide sup­port­ive care services to western Manitoba patients and families for all cancers, provi­ding a continuum of care that starts at the point of diagnosis and includes edu­ca­tion, services and pro­gram­ming through­out a patient's cancer journey.

      So, again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you know, 'dogra'–sorry, Dr. Sri Navaratnam was there as well, the president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba, and spoke very highly of this project. It was $135‑million project in its entirety and will make sig­ni­fi­cant–make a sig­ni­fi­cant difference for people in the Westman-Parkland regions. What that means is that they will have the access to those health-care services closer to home rather than having to come in to Winnipeg.

      So, we believe that that's a positive thing. You know, I–it's disappointing to hear that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion does not believe that that's a positive thing. We think it is, and so do the people of the Westman region.

Mr. Kinew: Does the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) believe it was right to close CancerCare clinics at Seven Oaks and Concordia?

Mrs. Stefanson: Certainly, this is–my heart goes out to every Manitoban who has been touched by either them­selves, who have had to go through cancer, or a loved one or a neighbour or friend. And what they need to go through is a very difficult and challenging time. And obviously, I know, certainly, from having gone through this with my own mother and taking her to get treatment, she often went to get treatment at different facilities. And I think as time has evolved on and tech­no­lo­gy has evolved, those services have been able to be offered so the patient, the–who is suffering with cancer can go to one location to get the various treatments that they need.

      And I think that that centre, that patient‑centred focus, is what is extremely im­por­tant here while also looking at tech­no­lo­gical advances and advancements and making those invest­ments in those areas in cancer care. And, for example, just one of those areas that we announced back in January was a $6.6-million invest­ment to create an innovative CAR-T cancer therapy program at CancerCare Manitoba.

      And I know members opposite think that's funny; I don't think it's funny at all, actually, when we're talking about cancer patients.

      But what I will say, certainly, is that this will offer top-drawer cancer therapy for those patients closer to home who need it, and I think that that is very im­por­tant. These are people, in some ways, aged 25 or younger, including children with acute leukemia, that we're talking about, as well as people aged 18 and older with aggressive lymphoma, and other therapies when other therapies have not worked.

      So, of course, it's extremely im­por­tant to ensure that Manitobans get the cancer care that they need closer to home.

Mr. Kinew: I just want to say before the House rises  that cutting CancerCare was wrong. Cutting CancerCare under the PCs was a mistake.

Mr. Chairperson: The hour being 5 p.m., com­mit­tee rise.

Call in the Speaker.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Andrew Micklefield): The hour being 5 p.m., this House is adjourned and stands adjourned until tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m.




Tuesday, April 4, 2023


Vol. 36b


Tabling of Reports

Goertzen  1167

Driedger 1167

Ministerial Statements

Sikh Heritage Month

Khan  1167

Brar 1168

Lamoureux  1168

Caregiver Recognition Day

Morley-Lecomte  1169

Asagwara  1169

Lamont 1169

Members' Statements

RCMP Retroactive Salary Cost to Municipalities

Naylor 1170

Lakeside Community Initiatives

Eichler 1170

Penner International

Goertzen  1170

P3 Schools

Altomare  1171

Garden Grove School

Lamoureux  1171

Oral Questions

Death of Linda Mary Beardy

Kinew   1172

Stefanson  1172

Allied Health Professionals

Kinew   1173

Stefanson  1173

Manitoba Public Insurance

Kinew   1174

Stefanson  1174

Organizational Review of MPI

Wiebe  1175

Goertzen  1175

Resignation of Nurses from SANE Program

Fontaine  1176

Squires 1177

Expansion of Broadband Services

Sala  1177

Teitsma  1178

Construction Industry Apprentices

Marcelino  1178

Guillemard  1179

Manitoba Hydro CEO

Lamont 1179

Cullen  1180

Hydro's Debt Management

Lamont 1180

Cullen  1180

Garden Grove School Students

Lamoureux  1180

Stefanson  1180

Northern Manitoba Economy

Wowchuk  1181

Piwniuk  1181

Northern First Nation Communities

Redhead  1181

Clarke  1181


Health-Care Coverage

Altomare  1181

Right to Repair

Maloway  1182

Foot-Care Services

Redhead  1183




Committee of Supply

(Concurrent Sections)

Room 254

Seniors and Long‑Term Care

Johnston  1183

Maloway  1184

Gerrard  1196

Room 255

Education and Early Childhood Learning

Altomare  1198

Ewasko  1199


Executive Council

Stefanson  1213

Kinew   1214