Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

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


Introduction of Bills

Bill 239–The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act
(Application Fees and Deposits)

Mr. Andrew Micklefield (Rossmere): I move, seconded by the hon­our­able member for Brandon East (Mr. Isleifson), that Bill 239, The Resi­den­tial Tenancies Amend­ment Act (Application Fees and Deposits), be now read a first time.

Motion presented.

Mr. Micklefield: This amendment ensures that land­lords cannot charge unfair and un­neces­sary fees to prospective tenants before docu­men­ta­tion is suit­ably signed.

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

      Com­mit­tee reports?

Tabling of Reports

Hon. Kevin E. Klein (Minister of Environment and Climate): I am pleased to table the Manitoba Watershed Districts Program 2021-2022 Annual Report for the De­part­ment of Environ­ment and Climate.

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 our rule 27(2).

      Would the honourable minister please proceed with his statement.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Hon. Obby Khan (Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage): Madam Speaker, I rise today in ob­servance of Yom HaShoah, which is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

      Ninety years ago, the Nazi Party came into power in Germany, initiating a campaign of terror that tar­geted political opponents, marginalized groups and ultimately the entire Jewish popu­la­tion. Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis and the collaborators were respon­­si­ble for the deaths of over 6 million Jewish people, who were targeted based solely on their ethnicity and faith.

      This targeted ethnic cleansing is esti­mated to have resulted in the deaths of almost two thirds of Europe's entire Jewish popu­la­tion. This horrific chapter in history came to be known as the Holocaust or the Shoah, in Hebrew. The Holocaust impacted gen­era­tions of families and com­mu­nities around the world.

      Following the liberation of survivors, com­mu­nities across Canada worked to sponsor and resettle approximately 35,000 Jewish families and their depend­ents. Among those working to resettle these families were members of the Manitoba Jewish com­mu­nity, who alongside this 'disporia' built the strongly rooted Jewish com­mu­nity evident in our province today.

      Madam Speaker, the legacy of the Holocaust includes the tre­men­dous tragedy, but it also includes triumphant acts of resilience, resistance and perseverance.

      Manitobans can learn about these individuals, families and com­mu­nities through the stories they have generously shared at the newly reopened Holocaust Edu­ca­tion Centre in the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. We are honoured that despite their own trauma, many survivors bravely shared their experiences.

      Madam Speaker, the Holocaust and its aftermath are evidence of the fragility of our demo­cracy–of all demo­cracy–but also a testament to the power of resistance, open dialogue and action to ensure that history is never repeated. We must continue to seek learning op­por­tun­ities and docu­ment the stories of survivors, victims and their descendants.

      As members of the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba, we remain committed to using legislation and edu­ca­tion to protect Manitobans from violence, racism and hate.

      Sadly, Madam Speaker, anti-Semitism and other acts of hatred are on the rise. We must all work together towards ending anti-Semitism and all acts of hatred.

      Madam Speaker, we are stronger together. And today within this Chamber and through­out this entire province, that is seen.

      In observance of Yom HaShoah, I encourage all Manitobans to learn more about the Holocaust. Please consider visiting a monument here on the Legislature grounds, a local museum or a Jewish cultural centre. We each have a role to play in making Manitoba a welcoming place for all. In doing so, we demon­strate our commitments to the values, multiculturalism and the pro­tec­tion of all human rights. Through a diverse and respectful society, we support connections between people of all cultures, faith and ethnicities, and shepherd our collective success.

      That is why I am proud and honoured to be wear­ing the yarmulke today in show of love and respect to my Jewish brothers and sisters.

      Madam Speaker, unfor­tunately, a lot of the Jewish com­mu­nity couldn't be here today as they were invited to the Lieutenant Governor general's house after the ceremony outside. I would ask that the six currently living Holocaust survivors, which I'm going to table today, be included in Hansard.

      Madam Speaker, on this solemn occasion, I would also ask those present to stand and join me in a moment of silent reflection and remembrance to the many lives lost in the Holocaust.

Mr. Diljeet Brar (Burrows): Madam Speaker, today is Yom HaShoah. It is a day to say, never again, while we also say, never forget.

      Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan–a week after the seventh day of Passover.

      Today we read the names of 6 million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and honour their memory. We repeat the truth of what happened to Jewish people and listen to the stories of survivors so their memories can live on.

      The horror of Nazi genocide is something that all of us as human beings have a responsibility to carry. The Nazi concentration camps tried to take away the humanity of all Jewish and many others: Roma, Sinti, Slavic people, political opponents and LGTBQ+ people–but for all their terror, the Nazis did not succeed.

      Today, we also remember and honour all the descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors who now call Manitoba home. Their identity as Jewish people and their contributions to our province are acts of defiance against the Nazi project and anti-Semitism.

      Sadly, we know that even now, many decades after the Holocaust, Canada is not immune to this form of hatred. Anti-Semitism in Canada has reached record levels in the past few years, and it is up to all of us to call out this form of discrimination in our com­munities, online and everywhere else it occurs. I hope all Manitobans will take the opportunity to com­memorate this important day and to recommit to standing up against all forms of anti-Semitism.

      Today, on Yom HaShoah, we say the names of the 6 million. We remember their lives. We remember their contributions to their communities, their families. And we say, never again.

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 statement? [Agreed]

      The hon­our­able member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard)–sorry.

      The hon­our­able member for St. Boniface. My apologies.

Mr. Lamont: I had the honour this morning of attending a ceremony of Holocaust remembrance in the Legislature. It was sombre and moving and it marked the horrors of the Holocaust in naming the individuals who were murdered, and where their lives were lost.

      In attendance were survivors who read names. They were the descendants of Holocaust survivors who lost grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, children. Some had lost dozens of members of their families.

      Jews, Roma, people with dis­abil­ities, LGBTQ+ were all rounded up, murdered, and every­thing they owned was stolen, sometimes to pay for their own execution as part of the Holocaust.

      In a world where gov­ern­ments still and have built prison and labour camps and engineered famines and genocide, it is im­por­tant to understand the unique evil of the Nazi Holocaust, designing and building infra­structure for the deliberate, planned slaughter of millions of humans on an industrial scale, with the purpose of eradicating every last Jewish man, woman and child. The crimes of the Holocaust plumbed the greatest depths of deliberate human evil.

* (13:40)

      And as the philosopher Emil Fackenheim wrote, the extermination of the Jews had no political or econ­omic justification. It was not a means to any end; it was an end in itself.

      I would like to thank my colleague, the MLA for River Heights, for his leadership in working with B'nai Brith and bringing forward a reso­lu­tion to combat anti-Semitism, that was supported by every member of this House. As Dr. Ruth Ashrafi wrote, we fully realize that an op­posi­tion MLA can only submit one private member's reso­lu­tion per year, and you decided to use your one slot to fight anti-Semitism.

      As Manitobans and as Canadians, we must recog­nize that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We must remember our history. We must remember and value each human life that was ended.

      There is also a vital lesson that we can draw from Judaism, the idea of tikkun olam: we all have a role to play in repairing and bettering the world. This is our Jewish–our commit­ment to the Jewish com­mu­nity and the com­mu­nity of Manitoba today and every day.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage (Mr. Khan) had asked to have those names included of the survivors in Hansard.

      Is there leave to have those names included? [Agreed]

Sol Fink, Rachel Fink, Regine Frankel, Edith Kimelman, Judy Lavitt, Anne Novak

      Is there leave for a moment of silence? [Agreed]

      Please rise.

A moment of silence was observed.

Members' Statements

Super-Spike Volleyball

Hon. Janice Morley-Lecomte (Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness): Maple Grove park in the constituency of Seine River is a versatile sports park, which is home to many sport venues and hosts hundreds of athletes throughout the year.

      Football, Frisbee, rugby and volleyball are of the–few of the sports which call Maple Grove home.

      This year, Maple Grove will host many tourna­ments, one of them being Super-Spike volleyball.

      Super-Spike is a not-for-profit charitable event which fundraises money for local non-profit organ­izations and Volleyball Manitoba and the programs that Volleyball Manitoba supports. To date, the event has raised over $1.3 million.

      This year, Super-Spike volleyball will be cele­brating its 20th anniversary on the July 21st, 22nd weekend. For the past 20 years, Super-Spike volleyball has grown into one of western Canada's largest outdoor beach volleyball tournaments.

      Teams of all levels, beginners to veteran players, from across Canada and the regions in the United States gather together to compete in the weekend-long tournament. Spectators and participants enjoy meeting other players, listening to various performers through­out the weekend and sampling food from the many food vendors which are set up throughout the area.

      Last year, the rugby tournament hosted 280 teams.

      This year, the tournament includes many local performers, with the headliner being Shawn Desman. Registration for this event is now available online through the Super-Spike website.

      Madam Speaker, I invite all my colleagues to come out and celebrate the 20th anniversary of Super-Spike at the Maple Grove Rugby Park on July 21st and 22nd.

      Thank you.

Klinic Com­mu­nity Health Centre

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): I am thrilled to stand today to mark the 50-year anniversary of Klinic Community Health Centre.

      Klinic was founded in 1970 through the grass­roots efforts of volunteer physicians and medical students who saw the need for substance-related services and medical care for youth.

      Over the next few years, through grants and volunteer efforts, they began to offer basic services and a 24-hour crisis line was born. Klinic provided birth control information and operated a Crisis Bus that patrolled areas where drug intervention was needed.

      In April 1973, Klinic was incorporated and this is the anniversary we celebrate today.

      In the '70s, rape crisis services began, and in the '80s, Klinic initiated the Evolve Program for families affect­ed by domestic violence. In the '90s, Klinic created the flood stress phone line, which is now the Manitoba farm, rural and northern phone line, providing specialized services for Kosovo refugees, and launched the school-based Teen Talk program.

      A decade later, they started the Manitoba Suicide Line and began providing services on campus at the University of Winnipeg and Tec Voc High School. In 2009, they launched the first Manitoba Transgender Clinic.

      During the pandemic, Klinic partnered with other services to provide drop-in health care to vulnerable community members.

      Today, Klinic provides primary medical care, a trans health clinic, trauma counselling, phone lines for sexual assault, suicide prevention, gambling addiction, supports for seniors experiencing abuse and more. Their support groups include Dream Catchers for those transitioning out of sex work and Project Choices for those navigating substance use and reproductive decisions.

      Many of us cannot imagine this city without Klinic at the heart of it.

      Please join me in thanking and congratulating Klinic staff and board members for 50 years of miti­gating the social determinants of health while pro­viding innovative, inclusive and justice-oriented care for everyone.

Team Terrick

Mr. Brad Michaleski (Dauphin): Like most small towns in my constituency of Dauphin, the village of McCreary hosts a local curling club. McCreary also holds the proud distinction of being home to one of the best junior curling teams in Canada, and Manitoba provincial champions, Team Terrick.

      Team Terrick has a unique story, as this season marked the first time that three sisters–Jaycee, Zoey, and Tessa Terrick–were able to curl together on the same team. The sisters have been curling for years, sometimes in opposition, and they were excited to play as a team while they were still all under the age of 21. The team found their fourth member, Jensen Letham, out of the Heather Curling Club in Winnipeg.

      While these athletes continued to study at both university and high school, they excelled and clinched the under-21 Manitoba junior women's title in January. Then, in an intense 10-day competition at nationals, Team Terrick earned themselves the bronze in a challenging 18-team tournament.

      I'd like to thank Team Terrick for representing Manitoba so well, and encourage them in their ongoing commitment and dedication. I also say thank you to the hosts, ice crews, families, volunteers and coaches who supported them, and the community of McCreary for assisting, celebrating and fundraising for the team.

      I offer my sincere congratulations to Team Terrick on their 2022-23 season, provincial champion­ship and national bronze medal achievement, and I wish them many more successes in the years to come.

      Thank you.

Twila Richards

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, today I honour Twila Richards, a Manitoba educator and parent with a child with a learning dis­abil­ity, and another with autism. She joins us in the gallery today.

      As vice-president of Manitoba Teachers for Students with Learning Dis­abil­ities, vice-president of Dyslexia Champions of Manitoba and an Orton-Gillingham prac­ti­tioner, she's been an extra­ordin­ary advocate for children with learning dis­abil­ities, or LDs.

      In their first school division, the school psych­ologists never assessed her children. She had no option but to have one of her children privately evaluated, a big financial hardship for a single, full-time parent.

      Even after diagnosis, there was little support in school. Her children's IQs were above 70. They couldn't have an individual edu­ca­tion plan. She was told: you're a teacher; you can teach your children at home. Twila did, but it wasn't easy. She was drained after a day at work and her children were tired and stressed because school for them was tough.

      The Supreme Court of Canada has said children with dyslexia have the right to receive intensive sup­ports and inter­ven­tions to learn to read, affirming the basic human right to read. You cannot expect a person to learn to read when they have yet–you can't expect a person to read to learn when they have yet to learn to read.

      Too often students with LDs in Manitoba are only given adaptations, like read less and answer fewer ques­tions. And why are so many Manitoba educators not trained to understand LDs and to know what to do?

* (13:50)

      Teaching students with LDs with methods design­ed for them can enable these intelligent individuals to be literate members of society and to thrive. Too many children are being–in Manitoba are being left behind. We must do better.

      After years of NDP and PC governments missing the mark, it's time for a Liberal government to make the improvements that are needed for kids with learning disabilities.

Renters Town Hall in St. James

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): On March 20th, I hosted a renters town hall with St. James con­stit­uents at the Deer Lodge community centre.

      There is a high density of renters in St. James, many of whom are seniors and people on fixed incomes.

      Having had the opportunity to speak with renters at the town hall, what I heard over and over again is that renters in Manitoba are struggling. Whether it's above-guideline rent increases, the PCs' tax increase on renters or the rolling back of eligibility for Rent Assist, this government has made life much harder for renters in Manitoba.

      Many who rent who attended the town hall ex­pressed their deep frustration with the fact that the PCs raised taxes on renters by $175 in 2022, when they reduced the renters tax credit from $700 per year to $525 per year.

      They also made it clear that they want to see our provincial government take action on the issue of above‑guideline rent increases. This has been going on for years and it's out of control. In St. James, we've heard from many residents whose rents have gone up by hundreds of dollars a month because this PC government has continued to fail to take action to protect renters from above-guideline rent increases.

      We know how much this is hurting Manitobans, who are already struggling with an affordability crisis, a broken health-care system and so much more. And yet once again, the PC government has decided to not take action to help people who are struggling in our province. This shows just how out of touch they are from the needs of regular Manitobans.

      Renters all across Manitoba deserve a govern­ment that will listen to their concerns. But after making life harder for many years, the PCs have broken Manitobans' trust.

      The Manitoba NDP believes in making life more affordable, not less, and we will continue to fight for renters in Manitoba.

Speaker's Statement

Madam Speaker: I just have a short statement for the House.

      The–apparently a number of MLAs have been asking about their ability to wear Jets gear or Jets jerseys during playoff days and I'm going to let you know that I will agree to that, that on the days they are playing, that you will be welcome to wear jerseys or Jets gear so that we can cheer on our home team.

      So go, Jets, go.

Oral Questions

Misericordia Sleep Clinic
Public/Private Sector Funding

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): Well, on that happy note, go, Jets, go.

      There are thousands of Manitobans waiting for medical care right now, but the Stefanson gov­ern­ment is putting politics ahead of patients.

      The sleep clinic at Misericordia is a leader across the country. And they submitted a proposal to the govern­ment to care for the thousands of patients on their waiting list.

      Now, the PCs refused to act on it for months and then they rejected that proposal because, I quote, it had only minimal private sector involvement. End quote. Those are the gov­ern­ment's words and I'll table the letter that the gov­ern­ment sent to these doctors.

      Why is the Premier refusing to fund proposals that give care in our public health-care system?

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): Well, Madam Speaker, once again the Leader of the Op­posi­tion is just wrong, continues to put false infor­ma­tion on the record in this Chamber.

      We are making historic invest­ments in our health-care system, Madam Speaker; $668 million more this year than last year, a 9.2 per cent increase. Those are sig­ni­fi­cant invest­ments to ensure that in–and part of that is in our surgical and diag­nos­tic task force, a task force that was set up to ensure that Manitobans who are waiting for things like sleep apnea, that they can get those procedures when they need them. That's exactly why we set it up.

      And the Leader of the Op­posi­tion, all those mem­bers opposite, had a chance to support that initiative, Manitoba–Madam Speaker, but they chose not to. Shame on them.

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

Mr. Kinew: Once again the Premier is des­per­ate to try and run away from the damage she's caused to our health-care system.

      The letter that I tabled is from her own task force, and it rejected the advice of these local sleep docs, the experts in their field, renowned across the country. Now, what was the reason provided in that letter? It said that there was only minimal private sector involvement. It's a terrible reason.

      We should be focused on patients first, not priva­tiza­tion like the PCs. It's clear that the Premier and her Cabinet always put ideology ahead of getting things done here in Manitoba.

      The question remains for them: Why would they refuse to fund care for patients in our public health system?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Madam Speaker, we continue to make historic invest­ments in our public health-care system. That's why we increased the budget of Health by $668 million in this recent budget.

      I will remind Manitobans that the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and all of the NDP voted against that increase for those invest­ments in health care, Madam Speaker.

      But certainly when it comes to surgical and diagnostic procedures, I want to thank our surgical and diag­nos­tic task force for the in­cred­ible work that they do. Their focus is putting patients first, Madam Speaker, to ensure that those patients get the health care that they need.

      They are contracting out some of those services; that gets patients the health care that they need sooner. It's not taking an ideological approach like the NDP, which is the wrong way, Madam Speaker.

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

Mr. Kinew: Madam Speaker, the wrong approach is this PC Stefanson gov­ern­ment and their task force. We'll side with the doctors on this side of the House. These physicians quit their task force because they're saying it's the wrong approach.

      Regardless of where these tests are provided, they still need–patients, I'm talking about here–still need to get a prescription from doctors in the public system. That's the public system that this PC gov­ern­ment is starving.

      They rejected the proposal to add more physicians at the Sleep Disorder Centre, which would be the real solution to the backlog, getting more patients a prescrip­tion more quickly. And instead, they rejected this proposal because it had, quote, only minimal private sector involvement.

      Why is this PC gov­ern­ment so focused on priva­tiza­tion, and why do they refuse to fund solutions in our public health-care system that are advocated for by local experts?

Mrs. Stefanson: Madam Speaker, what we're focused on is making sure that patients get the health care that they need when they need it, and that's why we are not taking an ideological approach. That's why we are looking at all avenues to ensure–within a publicly funded system–that we're getting patients the health care that they need when they need it.

      But the Leader of the Op­posi­tion referred to a letter that he was going to table in the House. What he tabled today is not a letter, Madam Speaker. It has nothing to do with what he just said it was.

      So I'm wondering: Would he agree to then table the letter that he referred to?

Madam Speaker: Just a reminder to members that, when referring to the gov­ern­ment, the member can say Stefanson gov­ern­ment and PC gov­ern­ment, but not PC Stefanson gov­ern­ment. That is not allowed by the rules.

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

Grace Hospital
Surgical Capacity Concerns

Mr. Wab Kinew (Leader of the Official Opposition): Well, doctors are speaking out in more areas about this gov­ern­ment's failure to get patients the care that they need.

      Experts in orthopedic surgery from hospitals like the Grace are rejecting this Premier and her task force. They've written many letters to this gov­ern­ment. Their stance is clear; they've been trying to get action for five years from this gov­ern­ment.

      As a result of this gov­ern­ment ignoring these surgeons, and I quote here, the Grace Hospital is struggling to offer a basic standard of care that is acceptable. End quote.

      They know the problem is with the Premier, and they're calling on her gov­ern­ment to, quote, reverse our present course. This letter, from a separate group of surgeons at the Grace, which I will now table, was written last November.

      Why has the Premier ignored the doctors at the Grace Hospital for five years?

* (14:00)

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able First Minister. [interjection]

      Order. [interjection] Order. [interjection] Order. Order.

Hon. Heather Stefanson (Premier): Well, Madam Speaker, I don't even know where to begin with this. The Leader of the Op­posi­tion got up. In his previous set of questions, he talked about a letter that he tabled–which there is no letter that he tabled today, so I asked him to table it again in the Chamber.

      He's refused to do that. He's now tabled another letter that isn't signed by anybody, Madam Speaker. Again, we're supposed to take this Leader of the Opposi­tion seriously.

      I will say that we, on this side of the House, take the health care of Manitobans very seriously, and that's why we're investing more than $668 million more in health care in Manitoba today: a 9.2 per cent increase, when members opposite voted against that.

      We are investing in Manitobans. We're making sure that the patients get the health care that they need when they need it, Madam Speaker. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

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

Mr. Kinew: You know, Madam Speaker, the letter that I tabled is signed by surgeons who work at the Grace Hospital. We are protecting their identity–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: –but, quite rightly, they fear reprisal at the hands of the Stefanson gov­ern­ment. We've seen it time and time again, whether it was the former failed Health ministers who attacked doctors, or whether it was former failed Health ministers who attacked other front‑line pro­fes­sionals.

      And you can hear the glee in their voices right now, as they look to visit their revenge on more front-line staff who are speaking out. Here's a fact: the Grace surgeons tell us that the gov­ern­ment is demanding that they cut joint re­place­ments by 20 per cent.

      Why is the Premier telling surgeons at the Grace to cut surgeries by one fifth?

Mrs. Stefanson: Well, Madam Speaker, once again the Leader of the Op­posi­tion continues to put false infor­ma­tion on the record in this Chamber. When it comes to the Grace Hospital, of course, Manitobans recall the previous NDP gov­ern­ment.

      When, in 2015, under the previous premier Selinger, Madam Speaker, where the Grace Hospital had among the longest wait times for emergency rooms in the country, according to the CIHI report, at that time.

      Manitobans don't want to go back to those dark days of the previous NDP gov­ern­ment that denied them the health-care access in those ERs at the time. They went across rural Manitoba and shut down ERs in rural Manitoba, Madam Speaker.

      Manitobans don't want to go back to that. They want us to continue to make those invest­ments in our health‑care system, Madam Speaker, and that's exactly what we're doing.

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

Mr. Kinew: You know, it's really some­thing to see a Premier so des­per­ate to try and distract from the damage she herself has caused to the Grace Hospital, first as a failed Health minister, and now as the Premier. That's what's happening right now.

      And now surgeons are speaking out as a result. [interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kinew: Just like the docs at the Misericordia, these surgeons at the Grace are tired of being ignored by this Stefanson gov­ern­ment. They write, and I quote, the proposal to increase surgical capacity at the Grace Hospital within its current footprint has been rejected. Unquote.

      That's shocking. We should be investing in the Grace Hospital, not making more cuts.

      Why did the Premier's gov­ern­ment say no to more surgeries for hips and knees at the Grace Hospital?

Mrs. Stefanson: Look, Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Op­posi­tion continues with these accusations where he has nothing to prove what he is talking about, once again.

      And I will tell you that we are continuing to make those invest­ments in our health-care system, including for orthopedic and surgical procedures, including hips and knees, Madam Speaker.

      The Leader of the Op­posi­tion, members opposite will know and Manitobans should know as well, that we recently announced a further ER at the Concordia Hospital, Madam Speaker, that will perform more than 1,000 more surgical procedures at the Concordia Hospital. That is 1,000 more procedures for surgical–for–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: –knee re­place­ments, Madam–[interjection]

      I know they want to laugh, Madam Speaker. We don't call this a laughing matter–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mrs. Stefanson: –because those are surgeries that will be provided to Manitobans who are waiting in pain.

      And what did the members opposite do, Madam Speaker? When they were given the op­por­tun­ity to vote in favour of this, they voted against it.

      We'll take no lessons from the member opposite.

Grace Hospital
Surgical Capacity Concerns

MLA Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station): For years, we've been calling on this gov­ern­ment to address issues at the Grace Hospital, and for years, this gov­ern­ment has failed to do anything.

      The Premier's incompetence is putting patients and hospital staff at risk. Surgeons at the Grace Hospital signed a letter which says, and I quote: the Grace Hospital is struggling to offer a basic standard of care that is acceptable. End quote. This letter, Madam Speaker, was from November.

      Will the Premier stand in her place and tell Manitobans why she's failed to provide adequate sup­port for the Grace Hospital?

Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health): Under the Greg Selinger NDP gov­ern­ment, all their failed Health ministers were searching for a magic wand, Madam Speaker.

      When they couldn't find it, they made sure to tell the current NDP op­posi­tion members that they should be tabling blank pieces of paper with no signatures, Madam Speaker; no proof that it has, in fact, come from who they say it's come from, because they have run out of ideas.

      Yesterday's NDP looks exactly the same as today's NDP.

Madam Speaker: The hon­our­able member for–[interjection]


      A reminder to the member, too, that saying Greg Selinger NDP gov­ern­ment is this–is, again, one of the statements that is not allowed in the House. Can say Selinger gov­ern­ment or NDP gov­ern­ment, but can't put the two together.

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

MLA Asagwara: Madam Speaker, the minister would do well to actually take a look at that tabled docu­ment, because the surgeons actually sent it to her many, many months ago. And she knows that.

      Surgeons at the Grace Hospital says they have–say they have a moral and ethical respon­si­bility to speak out. They're concerned that this Premier and her gov­ern­ment's incompetence is putting patient safety at risk and the quality of care at risk.

      Rather than help, the PCs are demanding Grace doctors cut, and I quote, joint re­place­ment ap­point­ments by 20 per cent, end quote, and to tell patients that their surgeries are likely going to be cancelled. These issues have been going on since last November.

      Can the Premier explain why she's failed to address concerns from the doctors at the Grace?

Ms. Gordon: Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to thank all the health pro­fes­sionals at the Grace Hospital at all levels of that hospital: admin­is­tra­tion, doctors, nurses, allied health pro­fes­sional, support staff for your service to Manitobans.

      I ap­pre­ciated the op­por­tun­ity to be able to sit down with the nurses in the ER around the table of solutions, Madam Speaker.

      Madam Speaker, we have been working with phys­­icians and site leaders at the Grace for some time now. Shared Health and the WRHA have been working very closely with them. They've approved ad­di­tional physician resources for the site, as well as a hospital medical officer. Those are solutions.

      We will continue to move forward on Manitobans' behalf.

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

MLA Asagwara: Madam Speaker, you'll notice that in the minister's response, she made no mention of the surgeons at the Grace.

* (14:10)

      Yet, last November, those very surgeons signed a letter addressed to this Minister of Health. They out­lined how the Grace was struggling to offer a basic standard of care that is acceptable, and they spoke out against these PC gov­ern­ment's directives to cut joint ap­point­ments by 20 per cent and to cancel surgeries that Manitobans are depending on.

      In this same letter, Grace doctors put forward a solution to clear the backlog but, shockingly, it was rejected by this–these PCs and by this Minister of Health.

      Can the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) explain why she's ignoring these surgeons at the Grace Hospital?

Ms. Gordon: Again, we ask the op­posi­tion to table the letter that shows the letterhead from Grace Hospital, as well as the signatures of these surgeons that they are referring to, Madam Speaker. Until they do, I request that they discontinue making statements that are not factual and is not based on any evidence.

      We continue to work with the surgeons and admin­is­tra­tion at Grace Hospital to ensure they have all the resources they need to provide exceptional care to Manitobans.

Allied Health Professionals
Strike Action Vote

MLA Malaya Marcelino (Notre Dame): Madam Speaker, thousands of front-line health-care pro­fes­sionals across 190 different health-care professions have voted in favour of a strike.

      This is an un­pre­cedented mandate and it's a clear sign that they've had enough of this PC gov­ern­ment. They've had enough of a five-year wage freeze, enough of disrespect from Brian Pallister and now the Stefanson gov­ern­ment.

      Why has this gov­ern­ment forced allied health-care workers to vote in favour of a strike?

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): Madam Speaker, few people believe the Leader of the Op­posi­tion when he says things. Turns out nobody really should and the same goes for questions on this and questions from the member, too, when they seem to think that these valued health‑care workers won't be getting the raises. They will.

      We are active at the negotiating table through Shared Health. Shared Health is taking the lead, as they should, as the employer. Every single collective bargaining agree­ment that's been reached within Health has included compounding increases. Every single collective bargaining agree­ment that's been reached within Health includes retroactive pay. I have every reason to believe that this one will, too.

      Shame on the members opposite for attempting to mislead Manitobans.

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

MLA Marcelino: The PCs are always trying to change the channel from their failure on our health-care system.

      If you live in rural Manitoba, paramedics had to vote in favour of a strike because they've had their wages frozen for five years. A wage freeze for five years during a cost-of-living crisis; that's the policy of this shameful PC gov­ern­ment.

      On this side of the House, we respect allied health-care pro­fes­sionals.

      Why has the PC gov­ern­ment failed to give them a fair deal?

Mr. Teitsma: Madam Speaker, if the op­posi­tion really respects Manitobans and really respects Manitoba health‑care workers, they would be more honest with them, but, sadly, they aren't being honest with them.

      Now, I'll just remind the member on the issue at hand with regards to rural paramedics. For years, those paramedics, as well as Winnipeg paramedics, Brandon, asked the previous–Greg Selinger and his previous NDP gov­ern­ment to regulate their profession, to create a admin­is­tra­tive body for them. And they refused; they refused year after year.

      Which government showed respect for para­medics? This gov­ern­ment did.

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

MLA Marcelino: Everyone in Manitoba knows that this PC gov­ern­ment does not respect collective bargaining, and everyone in Manitoba knows that they have made a mess of our prov­incial health-care system.

      Paramedics in rural Manitoba, lab techs and X-ray techs, respiratory therapists and other allied health pro­fes­sionals have had their wages frozen for five years. That's during a cost-of-living crisis and that's why 99 per cent of these health-care workers have voted to strike.

      Will the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) give allied health-care workers a fair deal today?

Mr. Teitsma: Madam Speaker, it is out of respect for Manitoba's health-care pro­fes­sionals, it's out of respect for our labour laws, it's out of respect for the bargaining process that we're allowing the bargaining process to proceed and to do so without inter­ference.

      Now, what the implication of what the members are saying opposite is that they would be happy to inter­fere in those negotiations. Shame on them for saying that.

      And I will once again start where I–or, finish where I started, which is to say that, when the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and this member claim that these mem­bers are somehow not going to receive retro­active pay, that they're somehow not going to receive compounding increases.

      Shame on them for misleading those union members. Shame on them for misleading all Manitobans.

Manitoba's Crown Prosecutors
Bargaining Contract Negotiations

Mr. Matt Wiebe (Concordia): Madam Speaker, Manitoba's Crown prosecutors are yet another group of prov­incial employees that are currently without a contract with this PC gov­ern­ment.

      On top of that, they're underpaid relative to their colleagues in other provinces and they're overworked and understaffed, oftentimes with huge caseloads. Meanwhile, there are prosecutors languishing in tem­porary positions and others are off on stress leave.

      When will this gov­ern­ment stop disrespecting our Crown prosecutors and bargain a fair contract with competitive wages?

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): It's sad to see that it's not just the Leader of the Op­posi­tion and one of his NDP colleagues, but now a second that has joined their call for what they're attempting to ask us to do: to meddle and to inter­fere in collective bar­gaining and to somehow disrupt that process, that well-esta­blished process.

      Now, that process is under way and–as it should be–and it continues. And I'm–I've been hearing from both sides that progress has been being made, and I'm optimistic that they'll be able to come to a reso­lu­tion soon.

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

Mr. Wiebe: While this member is optimistic, violent crime is going up across the province, com­mu­nities feel less safe and this gov­ern­ment has continued to disrespect our Crown prosecutors.

      Meanwhile, next door in Saskatchewan, Crown attorneys are paid as much as 19 per cent more than in Manitoba, and provinces like Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia are actively and suc­cess­fully recruiting away Manitoba's senior Crown attorneys. For all the minister's talk, they haven't made a dent in filling these vacancies.

      When will the PC gov­ern­ment realize that com­petitive wages are integral to recruitment and retention initiatives?

Mr. Teitsma: Well, I suppose it is a little bit of a unique day in the House here where finally members of the–members opposite are caring about public safety.

      Public safety has been a priority of our gov­ern­ment–[interjection]–public safety has been a priority of our gov­ern­ment. We defend the police, not like the members opposite, who would seek to defund them. We support our Crown attorneys.

      We want to ensure that violent offenders are be­hind bars and that violent offenders face the con­se­quences of their actions instead of making excuses for their own behaviour.

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

Mr. Wiebe: Just words again from the minister while our justice system is in crisis because this PC gov­ern­ment continually disrespects our Crown attorneys, keep­ing them without a competitive contract and a higher than normal vacancy rate.

      Erik [phonetic] Dolcetti, the president of the Manitoba Association of Crown Attorneys, has said, quote: It's a vicious cycle, and we're going to keep losing people at this rate if the Province doesn't do some­thing to address the underlying issue, which is us being without a contract.

* (14:20)

      Why should anyone trust this PC gov­ern­ment when they show such a disrespect for the Crown attorneys by failing to negotiate a fair contract?

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Of course, we won't inter­fere in the contract negotiations, but I think the question that has to be asked is: Why would any Manitoban trust the NDP when it comes to violent crime?

      Not speaking about their own members and the challenges they have with the justice system, but even talking about how they refer to the justice system: the member for Fort Garry (Mr. Wasyliw), who speaks about police in a derogatory way and says that they're wrong to call for bail reform; the member for St. Johns (MLA Fontaine), who says that the police shouldn't receive an ad­di­tional penny to do their hard work.

      And contrast that with our Premier (Mrs. Stefanson), who's leading the COF and leading all premiers across Canada and meeting this Friday virtually with police across the–Canada to address violent crime.

      Why would they trust them when it is our gov­ern­ment actually taking action?

Five-Year Review of Ac­ces­si­bility for Manitobans Act
Request to Release Review Prior to Election

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): The Accessibility for Manitobans Act was esta­blished in 2013 to re­move, reduce and prevent barriers to ensure Manitoba is ac­ces­si­ble for everyone. The act is required by law to be reviewed every five years, which is also this year, Madam Speaker.

      And we know what this year's review will tell us, and that is that this PC gov­ern­ment has taken us down the wrong direction when it comes to supports for Manitobans living with dis­abil­ities.

      Will the minister do the right thing and commit to  releasing the review of The Ac­ces­si­bility for Manitobans Act before the election?

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister respon­si­ble for Accessibility): Our gov­ern­ment has always stood up for ensuring that Manitoba's ac­ces­si­ble for everyone.

      And that is why we've committed to imple­men­ting the standards and why we've committed to doing the review. Our gov­ern­ment also instituted the Manitoba Ac­ces­si­bility Fund, which is a source of funding for all busi­nesses and munici­palities to ensure that they can make their place of busi­ness ac­ces­si­ble to everybody in Manitoba.

      Unlike members opposite–when they had the chance to vote in favour, in support of ad­di­tional dollars for people with dis­abil­ities, what did they do? They voted against it.

      Shame on her.

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

MLA Fontaine: Madam Speaker, it's im­por­tant that the minister releases the findings of The Ac­ces­si­bility for Manitobans Act before this coming election.

      Voters deserve to be fully informed on the PC gov­­ern­ment's track record on Manitobans living with disabil­ities. And we already know what this report will find, and that is that the PCs have simply just not done enough for Manitobans living with dis­abil­ities. They cut funding for day pro­gram­ming services while undermining im­por­tant standards.

      Will the minister commit to releasing the review of The Ac­ces­si­bility for Manitobans Act before this coming election?

Ms. Squires: I'm very happy to update the House about our $104 million in ad­di­tional monies this year alone into the CLDS program to ensure that people living with dis­abil­ities in our com­mu­nities receive the utmost care and have a stable working sector.

      I would also like to inform the House that we are advancing $640 million towards the dis­abil­ity services programs in the province of Manitoba.

      In previous years when we have brought forward ad­di­tional monies for people with–individuals with dis­abil­ities, what did they do? They voted against it. They have no credibility when it comes to supporting people with dis­abil­ities.

      Our gov­ern­ment listened and took action.

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

MLA Fontaine: The PC gov­ern­ment's track record on supports for Manitobans living with dis­abil­ities speaks for itself.

      They've cut–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

MLA Fontaine: –supports, they've removed im­por­tant standards. High support-worker turnover negatively im­pacts Manitobans living with dis­abil­ities and their quality of life. That's what this year's ac­ces­si­bility for Manitobans review act will find.

      And that's why it's im­por­tant that the minister should commit to releasing the findings before this election, so that Manitobans can be fully informed when they go to the voting polls.

      Will she commit to doing so today?

Ms. Squires: This is in­cred­ibly shameful coming from this member.

      That member supported a gov­ern­ment that had a $12-an-hour wage for people working in dis­abil­ities–$12 an hour. And every year–every year–for the 17 years that they were in gov­ern­ment, the com­mu­nity–the sector came to them and asked them for an ad­di­tional increase to their wages; they did nothing.

      Madam Speaker, our gov­ern­ment took those employees from $12–that's what the NDP was paying them–to $19 as of April 1st this year.

      We'll take no lessons from members opposite.

Family Physician Shortage
Recruitment and Retention

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Yesterday we received an email from a member of the Manitoba Medical Group Manage­ment Association in Brandon who says the shortage of family physicians has reached crisis levels and that Shared Health's offshore physician recruitment project has serious short­comings. He said that Manitoba needs to step up because he's lost 12 doctors in the last three months and areas like Morden-Winkler are in big trouble.

      According to Prairie Mountain Health, there are over 90 vacant positions for family physicians just in that RHA and Manitoba is lagging behind the initia­tives put forward by other provinces while paperwork is delaying certification for years.

      Will this gov­ern­ment remove the red tape of the labour market survey, since we all Manitoba is hun­dreds of doctors short?

Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, thank you for the op­por­tun­ity to respond to the member for St. Boniface and to share that last Friday, our gov­ern­ment, through Shared Health, posted a request for proposal to recruit 150 new family physicians to this province: 50 for northern Manitoba, 50 for rural Manitoba and 50 for Winnipeg.

      This is in addition to 46 new physicians that have been hired and are practising since announcing the health human resource action plan on November 10th. This includes 30 family physicians, a cardiac surgeon, a neurologist and a neurosurgeon amongst many others, Madam Speaker.

      We are taking the steps necessary to address the physician shortage.

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

Mr. Lamont: I table the letter in which the individual says that very program will not work. He says, without imme­diate support there will be further clinic closures and reduction in primary-care services, which will inevitably lead to more strain on our hospitals. I can provide the signature if they want.

      Our physicians have completed our–their own recruit­ment and we currently have four qualified physicians willing–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Lamont: –to come to Brandon and begin practising imme­diately for overseas. They are all held up in various levels of college and physicians and surgeons'–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Lamont: –approval.

      We've been talking about doing a better job of recog­nizing foreign credentials for a gen­era­tion in this province, but qualified doctors who want to work in Manitoba are tied up in red tape.

      What is the Premier (Mrs. Stefanson) going to do to put–to make sure that the College of Physicians and Surgeons changes course? Because it's only going to get better with a change in policy.

Ms. Gordon: I want to recog­nize the work our gov­ern­ment and my de­part­ment has been doing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. We have worked with them to stream­line and remove an exam that was required of many individuals who wanted to practise here in the province.

      And what the registrar said when this was an­nounced is that the exam was holding back many qualified internationally trained physicians from coming to the province, and this will pave the way for more internationally educated physicians to practise in Manitoba. I want to thank the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

      More work to do, but we are committed to working together to get the job done.

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

Children with Learning Disabilities
Funding for Reading Programs

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, learning dis­abil­ities have been forgotten by the current gov­ern­ment, yet they are in­cred­ibly im­por­tant.

      A Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2012 that children with learning dis­abil­ities have a right to learn to read, using intensive methods if necessary.

      The Supreme Court said learning to read is a right, not a privilege, in the case of Moore v. British Columbia. Yet, Manitoba is systematically failing many students with 'reasing'–reading dis­abil­ities.

      When will the gov­ern­ment act to provide the fund­ing and the approach so that children with learning disabil­ities are not missed and so they are diagnosed early and given adequate help to be able to learn to read?

Hon. Wayne Ewasko (Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning): It gives me great pleasure to rise today to put a few words on the record in regards to students with dis­abil­ities.

      I listened 'intentively' to the member's private mem­bers' statement earlier today in regards to students with dis­abil­ities and concur with the member that the former NDP gov­ern­ment absolutely had no plan. We on this side of the House, Madam Speaker, are defin­itely working with our edu­ca­tion partners.

* (14:30)

      We know that there is no one-size-fits-all in regards to teaching for instruction for reading and that. We are working with our classroom teachers; we're working with our edu­ca­tion partners to make sure that we're receiving success for all students in this great province of ours, Madam Speaker.

Sale and Purchase of Bear Spray
New Identification Requirements

Mr. Rick Wowchuk (Swan River): Manitobans are rightfully worried about the dramatic increase of the unlawful use of bear spray in criminal activity. It's a regular occurrence to hear about it used either as a weapon in a robbery or thugs spraying individuals just for the sake of it. This is horrendous misuse of an im­por­tant tool designed to keep folks safe while they explore amazing wilderness areas.

      Can the Minister of Agri­cul­ture explain how we are cracking down on this criminal misuse of bear spray?

Hon. Derek Johnson (Minister of Agriculture): I want to thank my colleague from Swan River for that question.

      Our team on this side of the House, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Goertzen) and myself, take the misuse of bear spray very seriously, Madam Speaker.

      Along with showing gov­ern­ment-issued ID, last week we also announced the changes will add the canister's serial number to the required data collected when the bear spray is purchased. This will not incon­venience legitimate purchasers, but will mean we can link each can sold to whomever purchased it.

      We are focusing on how to crack down on those individuals that use this product criminally without impacting legitimate users for Manitoba. On this side of the House, we're making Manitoba safer, Madam Speaker.

Con­ser­va­tion Officers
Recruitment and Wages

MLA Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon): Con­ser­va­tion officers are 'intregal' to ensuring Manitobans are able to safely hunt, fish and other outdoor things like that.

      Previously we've shown FIPPA docu­ments that the PCs still have not filled the con­ser­va­tion officer vacancies. The minister may claim that they want to add new positions, but sadly they have not.

      When will this minister actually commit to hiring new con­ser­va­tion officers and getting them in the field?

Hon. Greg Nesbitt (Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development): On this side of the House, we're–very, very much support our conserva­tion officers. That's why we've recently recruited nine officers. They're away for training now, and we expect them to be in the service later this fall.

      Our con­ser­va­tion officer service was decimated under the NDP. We've taken steps to rebuild it. We'll look after our con­ser­va­tion officers moving forward now and into the future.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: I think there's probably–there was one minute–or one second still showing. So, I'm going to allow the member for Flin Flon to ask his sup­ple­mentary question.

MLA Lindsey: Manitobans don't trust this PC gov­ern­ment when it comes to protecting our environment or our natural resources. The Natural Resources Minister has said that, quote, we'll certainly be close to Saskatchewan in the end and comparative with Alberta, as well, when it comes to the salaries for COs.

       Well, we all know that this is not actually the case. For all the minister's talk, the miniscule increases that they've given won't come close to getting them any­where close to the salary of Saskatchewan or Alberta. How can anyone believe this PC gov­ern­ment when they ignore the fact that con­ser­va­tion officers are paid so much less?

      Will the minister commit to actually paying them competitive salaries to attract more officers?

Mr. Nesbitt: As the member will know, the con­ser­va­tion officers are represented by a union. My under­standing is that the contract ended March 31st and they're currently in negotiations, so I'm not going to comment on that.

      What I will say, though, is that we've invested $1.7 million for pro­tec­tive clothing, safety equip­ment, tactical tools and com­muni­cations tech­no­lo­gy so the service can carry out its duties effectively. We've also committed $300,000 to a helicopter contract to catch poachers with infrared tech­no­lo­gy.

      We're–we've got much more to come. Stay tuned.

Madam Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.


Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

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

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

      We therefore petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

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

      This petition is signed by Prabhjot Singh, Chandeep Kaur and Rajdeep Kaur as well as many other Manitobans.

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

Afghan Refugees in Manitoba

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

      Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, Afghan citizens and their families have been subjected to persecution and human rights atrocities because of their faith, gender and former associations with organi­zations thought to be friendly with the previous gov­ern­ment and its allies. This abuse has taken the form of public assaults, kidnap­pings and killings.

      Many Afghans have left or are attempting to leave Afghanistan to find safe refuge in neighbouring coun­tries. This undertaking is difficult due to the Taliban's activities and their presence in countries like Pakistan.

      Many Afghans who are looking to leave Afghanistan and come to Canada are educated and ex­per­ienced and, as such, would prove to be a–valuable assets to Manitoba, con­sid­ering its current labour shortages and challenges to its economy.

      Educated Afghans have usually studied for four to six years in a specific field of study and spent a sig­ni­fi­cant amount of time and money for that edu­ca­tion. However, these people still face barriers to obtaining em­ploy­ment in their field of expertise, as Canada has very strict rules regarding the use of that edu­ca­tion and ex­per­ience.

      Many Afghans are refugees in other countries and are currently jobless, which is an added barrier for them under the current criteria of the Prov­incial Nominee Program.

      Some Afghan new­comers who face literacy issues because they came from a non-developed country would benefit from an in-depth infor­ma­tional course to assist them with acclimation into Canadian life­styles.

      The Interim Federal Health Program provides limited, temporary coverage of health-care benefits to refugees who aren't eligible for prov­incial or territorial health insurance. However, the refugee must apply for discretionary coverage and provide a list of com­pelling personal circum­stances in order to qualify, but for urgent medical circum­stances, such as root canals, unanticipated life-threatening and emergency medical con­di­tions.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to work with the federal gov­ern­ment to prioritize the evacuation of the imme­diate and extended family of Afghans who now call Canada home, and to facilitate their coming to Manitoba, including helping Afghan refugees in other countries such as Pakistan.

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to expand the Manitoba Prov­incial Nominee Program and re-evaluate the accreditation of edu­ca­tion and jobs to assure–ensure all immigrants and refugees can utilize their skills more easily and readily in work for–in Manitoba for work.

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to have fewer rigid criteria for Afghans under the Prov­incial Nominee Program, and having a connection to Manitoba, family members or friends should be a key criteria.

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to enhance adequate acclimation services for new­comers through com­mu­nity-based support programs and increase their health-care coverage to meet their urgent health-care necessities.

      Signed by Nigar Irandost, Qatawesh [phonetic], Fazel Irandost and many others.

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

MLA Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station): I wish to present the following petition to the Legis­lative Assembly.

      The back­ground–sorry, to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba–the background to this petition is as follows:

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

      (2) Thousands of Punjabi new­comers are coming to Manitoba as students and as immigrants, looking to call this province home. People of Punjabi origin–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

MLA Asagwara: –contribute a great deal to the social and economic dev­elop­ment of Canada and Manitoba in fields such as edu­ca­tion, science, health, busi­ness and politics.

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

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

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

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

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

      This has been signed by Lori Brar, Manveer Kaur, Fateh Singh and many other Manitobans.

Prov­incial Road 224

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

      The back­ground to this petition is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

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

      Madam Speaker, this petition has been signed by many, many fine Manitobans.


Security System Incentive Program

Mr. Jim Maloway

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

      The back­ground of this petition is as follows:

      (1) Cities across Canada and the United States, including Chicago; Washington DC; Salinas, California; and Orillia, Ontario, are offering home security rebate programs that enhance public safety and allow for more efficient use of their policing resources.

      (2) Home security surveillance systems protect homes and busi­nesses by potentially deterring burglaries.

      (3) Whole neighbourhoods benefit when more homes and busi­nesses have these security systems.

      (4) A 2022 Angus Reid In­sti­tute poll found 70 per cent of Winnipeggers surveyed believed crime had increased over the last five years, the highest percentage found among cities in Canada.

      (5) The same survey reported half of Winnipeggers polled do not feel safe walking alone at night, and almost 20 per cent of them said they were a victim of police-reported crime in the last two years.

      (6) Although the public understands what the criminologists and com­mu­nity advocates point to as the main drivers of crime, namely the larger issues of lack of food, addictions and poverty, they support rebate programs like these as they help the most vul­ner­able in our com­mu­nity by removing financial barriers for personal protection.

      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to work with munici­palities to esta­blish a province-wide tax rebate or other incentive program to encourage residents and busi­nesses to purchase approved home and busi­ness security pro­tec­tion systems.

      This petition's signed by many, many Manitobans.

Madam Speaker: Grievances?




House Business

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Government House Leader): On a couple of matters of House busi­ness.

      Pursuant to rule 34(7), I'm announcing that the private member's reso­lu­tion to be considered on the next Tuesday of private members' busi­ness will be one previously put forward by the hon­our­able member for Dauphin (Mr. Michaleski). The title of the reso­lu­tion is Calling on the Federal Gov­ern­ment to Absorb the Cost of Increased RCMP Salaries.

Madam Speaker: It has been announced that the private member's reso­lu­tion to be considered on the next Tuesday of private members' busi­ness will be one previously put forward by the hon­our­able member for Dauphin. The title of the reso­lu­tion is Calling on the Federal Gov­ern­ment to Absorb the Cost of Increased RCMP Salaries.

Mr. Goertzen: I'd like to announce that the Standing Com­mit­tee on Legis­lative Affairs will meet on Monday, April 24th, 2023, at 12 p.m. to review The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, as required by section 40 of that act.

Madam Speaker: It has been announced that the Standing Com­mit­tee on Legis­lative Affairs will meet on Monday, April 24th, 2023, at 12 p.m. to review The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, as required by section 40 of that act.

* * *

Mr. Goertzen: Madam Speaker, for this afternoon, and any further time there needs, could we please continue with second reading debate and votes on specified bills 10, 23, 26, 29, 2 and 24.

Madam Speaker: It has been announced that the House will consider second reading of the following specified bills: 10, 23, 26, 29, 2 and 24.

Second Readings

Bill 10–The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act
(Social Responsibility Fee Repealed)

Madam Speaker: So, I will therefore call second reading of Bill 10, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Social Responsibility Fee Repealed).

Hon. Cliff Cullen (Minister of Finance): I move, seconded by the Minister of Labour and Immigration (Mr. Reyes), that Bill 10, The Liquor, Gaming and  Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Social Responsibility Fee Repealed), be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

      Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been advised of the bill, and I table the message.

Madam Speaker: It has been moved by the hon­our­able Minister of Finance, seconded by the hon­our­able Minister of Labour and Immigration, that Bill 10, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Social Responsibility Fee Repealed), be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

      Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been advised of the bill, and the message is tabled.

Mr. Cullen: Madam Speaker, this bill amends The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act in order to repeal the social respon­si­bility fee on cannabis retail­ers operating here in Manitoba.

* (14:50)

      The social respon­si­bility fee ensured that cannabis retailers con­tri­bu­ted to the social cost associated with cannabis legalization, including increased health costs, public edu­ca­tion and addiction services.

Mr. Andrew Micklefield, Deputy Speaker, in the Chair

      After a few years, the cannabis market has matured considerably. The regula­tory and social cost to the pro­vince have now stabilized, opening up the possi­bility of repealing the social respon­si­bility fee. Repeal­ing the social respon­si­bility fee will continue to reduce legal cannabis costs to consumers looking to switch from the illegal market. And once the sociability fee is repealed, Manitoba will have one of the lowest cannabis taxation regimes in Canada.

      This initiative is another step towards our gov­ern­ment's goal of supporting legal cannabis operators as they compete with and displace the illicit cannabis market in Manitoba.

      Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions can be addressed to the minister by any member in the following sequence: first by an op­posi­tion member–an official opposition critic or designate; subsequent questions asked by critics or designates from other recognized opposition parties; subsequent questions asked by each independent member; remaining questions asked by any opposition members. And no question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

      The floor is open for questions.

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): I'd like to ask the minister if he'll disclose to Manitobans how much revenue was generated through the social respon­si­bility fee over the last fiscal year.

Hon. Cliff Cullen (Minister of Finance): We anticipate the revenue generated on an annual basis over the past year will be approximately $10 million.

Mr. Sala: I'd like to ask the minister if he can share how much of that $10 million that was collected was actually spent on social respon­si­bility-related items.

Mr. Cullen: Obviously, when we got into the discussion about legalizing cannabis, we recog­nized there was going to be regula­tory costs. There was going to be health-care costs and the potential of policing costs as well, and, quite frankly, edu­ca­tion costs.

      So we did put a lot of money into all of those areas upfront and over the last few years. We–recog­nizing some of those costs are actually going down. The regula­tory costs associated with the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Author­ity have remained relatively con­stant in the million-dollars area, and part of that budget includes edu­ca­tion as well.

      It's a detailed answer to the question. May seem like a simple question, but it is a detailed–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Minister's time has expired.

Mr. Sala: I'd like to, again, give the minister an oppor­tun­ity to share with this House how much of those $10 million were actually invested in social respon­si­bility-related items.

Mr. Cullen: I think maybe the member should also recog­nize that there's a fee assessed by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries in terms of the wholesale com­ponent. And Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, in terms of their net income, have to invest 2 per cent of that back into social respon­si­bility fees. So we would have to have a discussion with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries in terms of some of the revenue that was gleaned through the cannabis sales. And the exact programs that went into the–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Minister's time has expired.

Mr. Sala: I do ap­pre­ciate that the minister is sort of sharing infor­ma­tion more broadly about L-G-C and some of the funds they're collecting for this, but the question spe­cific­ally was about funds collected as part of the social respon­si­bility fee, which is what we're here to discuss today.

      So, could the minister please offer infor­ma­tion–I've asked him about this year, related to the $10 million that were collected. We know $8 million was col­lect­ed in the last fiscal.

      Can he share how much of those $8 million were invested in social respon­si­bility-related items?

Mr. Cullen: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I don't have the exact figures at my fingertips, but I will certainly will under­take to get that infor­ma­tion that the member is asking about.

Mr. Sala: I have to say it's–given we're here discussing a bill which proposes to repeal the social respon­si­bility fee, which I think the average Manitoban would presume or assume that that means that we're not spending those dollars or that there isn't another good use for those dollars, that the minister would come today prepared to share with the House how much was actually spent. So I have to say that's quite con­cern­ing that the minister is not prepared.

      We are here to discuss a bill that proposes to repeal a fee. I think Manitobans would expect that a minister would come to that discussion prepared to discuss how much money his gov­ern­ment has spent on that.

      So I'd like to, maybe, I guess, given it's clear that they haven't spent those dollars, we'll move on to another area of questioning.

      Will cannabis sales now–

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

Mr. Cullen: I guess that's why we're here today, quite frankly, is this legis­lation is actually repealing the social respon­si­bility fee.

      Clearly, we didn't know what we were getting into when we–the federal gov­ern­ment asked us to come up with a framework to legalize cannabis; we didn't know what those costs were going to be. And we set up a framework here in Manitoba.

      Again, revenue that's generated by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, 2 per cent of the net income from Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries is used in terms of social respon­si­bility pro­gram­ming. We have set aside about a million dollars on the regula­tory front through the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Author­ity. Certainly, that's the regula­tory piece of it.

      There's also an edu­ca­tion component to that–

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

Mr. Sala: So we know the minister and his gov­ern­ment have been collecting reve­nues from small busi­nesses that they apparently haven't been using and have no idea how much they've been spending.

      I'd like to ask, in relation to the federal excise tax, we do know that the gov­ern­ment has been collecting 25 cents on every gram of marijuana sold in this pro­vince and holding those dollars back for many years.

      I'd like to ask the minister, what has happened to those dollars, and what does his gov­ern­ment intend to do with those reve­nues that were collected?

Mr. Cullen: Yes, so the 25 cents that the member's alluding to is actually a federal excise tax. That's the federal gov­ern­ment is collecting that tax, so you could ask the NDP-Liberal coalition what they're doing with that 25 cents.

Mr. Sala: The minister just stated that they're collecting that tax.

      Can the minister state on record whether or not the federal gov­ern­ment is currently collecting an excise tax on marijuana sales in Manitoba?

Mr. Cullen: That's, in fact, true. The federal gov­ern-ment are collecting a 25 cents–sorry–25-cents-per-gram excise tax to the federal gov­ern­ment.

      A lot of other juris­dic­tions are moving into agree­ments with the federal gov­ern­ment. That is where we're proposing to go as well. Then there would be–once we get to sign that agree­ment, there would be probably 75 cents coming back to the Province of Manitoba.

      So we're having discussions with the federal gov­ern­ment on the excise tax component. The federal gov­ern­­ment is currently tweaking the rules around that, so we're allowing them to go through their process before we sign an agree­ment with them.

Mr. Sala: It's extremely confusing. At the begin­ning he confirmed that they were collecting the excise tax, and then at the end of the response, he said that they're actually in discussions with the federal gov­ern­ment to deter­mine how that tax would be collected.

      So I'll just go to the–we do know that there is no excise tax which is currently being applied or col­lect­ed by the federal gov­ern­ment. This current gov­ern­ment is collecting those funds and keeping them in an account somewhere, maybe applying those towards other expenses, as they can sometimes be known to do.

      I'll give the minister an op­por­tun­ity to share: what's the total value of the excise taxes that they've collected and put away in an account?

* (15:00)

Mr. Cullen: The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries are collecting a 75-cents-per-gram tax currently that goes to Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. And if the minister wants to come back in the Estimates process or during a period, we can have a discussion with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries in terms of what that parti­cular dollar figure is.

      I don't mind having that same discussion with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and see what–in terms of what that value is.

Mr. Sala: I think the im­por­tant question here is that, just like with the social respon­si­bility fee, which we've seen this gov­ern­ment has been collecting lots of dollars through that but hasn't been spending, it's the same thing that we're seeing here with the excise tax. We know they've been collecting these funds; we have no idea how much that is.

      We have no idea how much they're planning on sending to the federal gov­ern­ment, if and when that agree­ment is signed with them. That's a concern–more secrecy, more lack of trans­par­ency, more of the same with the PCs.

      What measures are being taken to use reve­nues from the social respon­si­bility fee to address the addictions crisis in Manitoba?

Mr. Cullen: Well, I think we have to make sure we 'differention' between the social respon­si­bility fee, which we are eliminating to Manitobans and Manitoba retailers.

      We're hoping that Manitobans will respond by purchasing more of the legal cannabis as opposed to the illegal. That is why we're making changes, now that we fully understand some of the extra costs that Manitobans are–Manitoba, as a gov­ern­ment, are facing.

      I will say, revenue, again, goes through the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Cor­por­ation. They are collecting a 9 per cent surcharge on that, also collect­ing 75 cents per gram.

      They are mandated to provide 2 per cent of their net income–

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

Mr. Sala: I'd like to offer the minister an op­por­tun­ity to clarify. So, the funds that have been collected over the last year, we know last fiscal, $8 million; this year, $10 million.

      The minister has failed to be able to offer up even a single example of how those funds are being spent.

      So I would like the minister, as the Minister of Finance (Mr. Cullen), to clarify for the House: What happens to the remainder of those funds that were collected from small Manitoban busi­nesses? Have they gone back and have been applied toward general revenue? Where have those dollars gone?

Mr. Cullen: Yes, that money goes back to general revenue so that we can make a record and historic invest­ments in health care.

      I reflect on the $668 million in health care to deal with some of the challenges we're facing in the health-care front.

      I also point to record invest­ments in mental health and addictions, and increased pro­gram­ming that we've brought forward in this year's budget. That money can be used for those goods and services as well.

      So that money is going back into general revenue that can be used for pro­gram­ming for Manitobans facing addictions and other mental health challenges.

Mr. Sala: I ap­pre­ciate that the minister's clarifying that he's using reve­nues from that fee towards pur­poses that they weren't intended for, and it's good to see them come clean on that.

      I would like to give the minister an op­por­tun­ity, although he wasn't able to talk about it at a higher level, to offer the House one single example of how they invested those social respon­si­bility fees in any­thing that helped to make Manitobans safer from–safe from addictions or make Manitobans safer, as it relates to cannabis sales.

Mr. Cullen: Well, I can point to a number of under­takings that our gov­ern­ment had since back in 2019 when cannabis was legalized here in Manitoba.

      And, clearly, our Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Author­ity did tre­men­dous amount of advertising to warn about the dangers of cannabis use, especially among youth, especially among those that were driving.

      Liquor and gaming and cannabis author­ity had an advertising campaign. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries also had an advertising campaign warning about the dangers of consuming cannabis. The Gov­ern­ment of Manitoba itself undertook advertising campaigns to warn against the issues around cannabis use–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The minister's time has expired. [interjection]

      Are there any further questions?

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): It's my under­standing that the social respon­si­bility fee was to address major problems, which the gov­ern­ment expected in the social structure of Manitoba as a result of the intro­duction of cannabis.

      Can the minister tell us whether there were sig­ni­fi­cant social problems as a result of the intro­duction of cannabis and what did the gov­ern­ment do about them?

Mr. Cullen: Yes, the premise behind the question and the premise behind esta­blish­ing the social respon­si­bility fee was that we were getting into an area that we really didn't know anything about. Cannabis hadn't been legalized in this country.

      So we did set aside a fee to under­take, to mitigate some of the damages that could occur. I would say, luckily, hopefully, some of our advertising invest­ments had paid off. We didn't see as many broad repercussions of cannabis once it was legalized as we thought might occur.

      So I would think our campaigns had been relatively suc­cess­ful in that regard. We've come to a stabilization in the market–

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

Mr. Gerrard: I'm glad that the minister admitted that the gov­ern­ment had no idea what it was doing when it started. But I'm also pleased to hear that there weren't the massive social upheavals and problems that the gov­ern­ment had wondered and figured might happen.

      And it is, you know, many people at this point review this social respon­si­bility fee as a tax and as a problem, that the gov­ern­ment has attacked small busi­nesses. So I'll give the minister a chance to talk more about the problems which didn't occur and what, in fact–

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

Mr. Cullen: I thank the member; I think he approves of our eliminating the social respon­si­bility fee.

      Obviously, our goal now is to make sure that we–those Manitobans that wish to consume cannabis use the legal stream as opposed to the illegal stream, which we think will be more safer for them.

      So we're excited about bringing in this reduction and elimination in the social respon­si­bility fee, which we think will make–will help retailers as well and make it more competitive for them. So I know some of them are struggling, and then they certainly were strong proponents of eliminating the social respon­si­bility fee.

      Thank you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The time for questions has expired.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: The floor is open for debate.

      Are there any–is there anybody who wishes to speak to this bill?

Mr. Adrien Sala (St. James): It's great to have an op­por­tun­ity to put some words on the record about Bill 10, which, of course, proposes to repeal the require­ment that a social respon­si­bility fee be col­lect­ed from cannabis store operators.

      I do want to start by just saying upfront a thank you to my colleague, Lisa Naylor, who recently has done a great job engaging with–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Just a correction to the member: you cannot refer to another member of the House by their first or full or surname, only by their con­stit­uency or portfolio.

Mr. Sala: I apologize, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much.

      I would like to thank my colleague, the MLA for Wolseley, for their work in engaging with cannabis retailers. I know, as of late, she's had a lot of meetings with retailers through­out the sector to learn about their perspective on the social respon­si­bility fee, to learn about their concerns about some of the things that are happening right now within our cannabis sector.

      And many of the problems that they're facing right now as a result of some of the decisions that this gov­ern­ment has made in terms of how they've gone about setting up cannabis sales in Manitoba. So I do want to thank her for her work.

      And I do also want to thank those retailers myself. I've had that op­por­tun­ity to have many discussions, along with some of my colleagues, to learn about the challenges and the ways that this social respon­si­bility fee has impacted them.

      So I do want to state upfront that this bill does take us in the right direction, but there are some very im­por­tant concerns that need to be mentioned when talking about the repeal of the social respon­si­bility fee on cannabis.

      The first question that we really need to focus on here and raise–and which of course we didn't really hear the minister take any account­ability on–is a question of why gov­ern­ment has waited so long to remove a fee which they weren't using for the pur­poses for which it was intended.

* (15:10)

      And we know that in 2019, which was the first year that these funds began to be collected, from 2019, 2020, 2021 and now 2022, the amount of funds that were collected through this fee have continued to grow and grow and grow, of course, as cannabis sales have continued to grow in Manitoba.

      And we know in the 2021 fiscal year, as was men­tion­ed during questioning, the gov­ern­ment collected $8 million total through this fee, and we did hear the minister today share that they are expecting to collect over $10 million in relation of this social respon­si­bility fee for 2022.

      Now, we did hear again, clearly, the minister state he was not able to offer any examples of how this gov­ern­ment has been spending those dollars. So it's clear the minister, on record today, outlined that, for years now, the gov­ern­ment has been taking these reve­nues and has not made a decision, ultimately, to spend those dollars on things related to social respon­si­bility.

      So there's a very real question here, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about this form of taxation without any rela­tion to a parti­cular expenditure. And we've seen this gov­ern­ment do this for years, and that's certainly been a concern. And the reason it's been such a concern is because there's been a complete and total lack of trans­par­ency around how they've managed this file, and spe­cific­ally how they've managed questions related to this social respon­si­bility fee.

      We know that for years the retailers, and, of course, others have been forced to resort to freedom of infor­ma­tion requests to get clarity over dollars collected, to get–to attempt to get clarity over how those dollars were spent. And, unfor­tunately, not a lot of clarity was gained. We still don't really have any under­standing about how much of that money was actually spent.

      And today–and I would again say that it's quite con­cern­ing that the minister respon­si­ble for this file didn't come today to the House prepared to share with members and to share with Manitobans just how much money they've actually spent on social respon­si­bility given their gov­ern­ment is proposing to repeal that fee.

      So it does appear that they have been just simply absorbing those fees to pad their bottom line. The minister said some nice things about what they were investing it on. We, of course, know that this gov­ern­ment has been busy making cuts to health care, unlike what the minister suggested they were doing with these fees.

      So we've seen, again, just years and years of con­tinued secrecy about what they've done with these fees, and that's created no shortage of challenges for retailers, and a lot of confusion for Manitobans.

      So this is really part of a pattern, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This failure to be trans­par­ent, this pattern of secrecy. This is some­thing that Manitobans have unfor­tunately become accustomed to when it comes to this Conservative gov­ern­ment.

      And we know that, you know, not only are we seeing–have we seen secrecy as it relates to the way that these dollars were spent, but we've seen the same pattern of a lack of trans­par­ency and secrecy in a number of other instances. I can think of two right off the top of my head.

      One was when the federal gov­ern­ment sent $40 million to support im­prove­ments to efficiency, home efficiency, for Manitobans to help them save some dollars and to reduce their energy bills, and we know that that $40 million was sent to the Province of Manitoba and mysteriously went into a black box.

      It was supposed to go towards adding to the pro­grams that were offered by–in our case, Efficiency Manitoba, to help Manitobans, again, save money and to improve efficiencies in their home by supporting home retrofits. But, instead, those dollars were never spent in that way. They disappeared into a black box. Again, as with many things, we asked the gov­ern­ment about those dollars, the way that they were spent.

      We asked for some record about–records to prove that they spent them in a way that the federal gov­ern­ment had expected them to spend those dollars.

      And, unfor­tunately, they weren't able to provide that, and that's because they know that the gov­ern­ment didn't use those dollars as they were supposed to. They did what they often do, and they shroud every­thing in secrecy, and they absorb those dollars, and, again, just did what they've always done, which is continue to make cuts to programs across the province.

      Another example off the top of my head: everyone in this House will remember that the federal gov­ern­ment sent approximately $85 million to Manitoba to support the im­prove­ment of safety in our schools through­out COVID–to make our schools safer, to improve ventilation, $85 million that was supposed to go towards supporting the im­prove­ment of safety in our schools.

      Unfor­tunately, again, this is another example where this gov­ern­ment was in receipt of a sig­ni­fi­cant amount of funds, and Manitobans unfor­tunately have no clarity as to how those funds were spent. We certainly know that they were not spent in improving safety in our schools. We haven't seen any evidence of that. We haven't seen this gov­ern­ment speak to any of those invest­ments or given–give us any evidence to suggest that they have made those invest­ments.

      And so, again, yet another example of dollars coming to the province and then disappearing in a black box and then no account­ability on the part of this gov­ern­ment as to what they've done with those funds.

      So, there's a pattern here, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It's a pattern of collecting funds for a specific purpose and then misusing those funds in secret, behind the curtain where Manitobans, unfor­tunately, have no visibility. That's what they've come to expect when it comes to this PC gov­ern­ment, this con­cern­ing pattern.

      And, look, that's what Manitobans have ultimately become accustomed to. It's very sad to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but when we're out in com­mu­nities and we speak with people, that's what we hear from people. They have become trained to think that this gov­ern­ment will do things in secret, that they're behaving in a way that's non‑trans­par­ent. And that's where Manitobans are at.

      And, ultimately, Manitobans deserve a lot of better. They deserve to be able to know that they can trust in their gov­ern­ment. They deserve to have a gov­ern­ment that they can believe in and that they know will do what they say they're going to do, and that they know when they make an an­nounce­ment will actually follow through on an an­nounce­ment, or they know when they collect funds for a specific purpose that they'll actually use those funds for that purpose. And, if not, they'll pivot and maybe make a better decision.

      So today, you know, I–we know the gov­ern­ment is trying to position this as a gift to those in the cannabis sector. The reality is those in this sector have been burdened with this fee for many years that, apparently, was not being used at all for the purposes for which it was intended.

      Lack of trans­par­ency. No ability to trust this gov­ern­ment. That's a shame.

      This takes us steps in the right direction. Unfor­tunately, this bill is being brought forward under a pall of a huge lack of trust and con­fi­dence in this gov­ern­ment.

      I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the op­por­tun­ity to offer words here.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, a few comments on this bill, which removes the social respon­si­bility fee from cannabis–from the sale of cannabis.

      Now, a number of years ago, quite a number of years ago, the gov­ern­ment intro­duced the social respon­si­bility fee on cannabis sales, and this was at the time that cannabis sales were legalized in Canada. The social respon­si­bility fee, as we were told at the time, was put on the sale of cannabis in order to have dollars to address the expected widespread social prob­lems that the Conservative gov­ern­ment expected to be rampant when cannabis was legalized.

      In fact, as the minister indicated in his comments today, he acknowl­edged that the gov­ern­ment didn't really know what it was doing. Further, following the intro­duction of cannabis, there wasn't the widespread social disruption that the gov­ern­ment had initially expected. And so, over time, the small busi­nesses who were selling cannabis saw that there wasn't the wide­spread social disruption that the gov­ern­ment, in its approach, had expected. And, of course, they began to question what the gov­ern­ment is doing in collecting this money.

      It was seen, in­creasingly, as a tax. There was no evidence that the gov­ern­ment was using the money to address social issues as they had promised. In fact, as–we have seen in the last few years that many of the social issues in Manitoba have got worse and not better. And certainly, where we are now, the small busi­nesses–and I think rightly so–see this law as an attack on the small busi­nesses and there's clearly a conflict between this gov­ern­ment and legitimate Manitoba busi­nesses.

* (15:20)

      And the gov­ern­ment was sending this message: we just want to collect money from you. We're not going to tell you where we're going to spend it on. We're not telling you that this is a legitimate ad­dressing social respon­si­bility as we–as the gov­ern­ment had tried to claim.

      And so, here we are today, and the gov­ern­ment is confessing that it made a mistake in putting this fee on in the first place and is now taking it away, and so we will watch with interest. We're going to support this legis­lation because the gov­ern­ment still hasn't pro­vided any evidence that the money is going to address these social issues that they said that it was going to address.

      Indeed, although there are plenty of social issues in Manitoba, they don't seem to have dramatically increased with cannabis, although some of them have increased because we don't have a gov­ern­ment which knows what it's doing in a number of areas, including addressing and helping–trying to help those who are ex­per­iencing homelessness, as an example.

      The gov­ern­ment, instead of trying to help people as soon as they become homeless, is only spending money to address the situation once they are chronically home­less for at least six months. And this is an odd way to go, but it means that we've got a lot of people who are homeless for quite some time in Manitoba.

      In any event, enough said about this bill. We're going to support it and we look forward to it moving forward. We look forward to comments that may be said at the com­mit­tee stage, and we'll move on and I expect move on to the next bill shortly.

      Thank you.

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

Some Honourable Members: Question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 10, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amend­ment Act (Social Respon­si­bility Fee Repealed).

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

      I declare the motion carried.

Bill 23–The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Amendment Act

Mr. Deputy Speaker: As previously announced, we will now move to Bill 23, The Vul­ner­able Persons Living with a Mental Dis­abil­ity Amend­ment Act.

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister respon­si­ble for Accessibility): I move, seconded by the Minister of Health (Ms. Gordon), that Bill 23, The Vul­ner­able Persons Living with a Mental Dis­abil­ity Amend­ment Act; Loi modifiant la Loi sur les personnes vulnérables ayant une déficience mentale, be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

Motion presented.

Ms. Squires: Bill 23 addresses several recom­men­dations made by the Vul­ner­able Persons Living with a Mental Dis­abil­ity Task Force. The task force was appointed in September of 2020 by the minister of Families to review policies and practices related to services for adults living with intellectual dis­abil­ities in Manitoba.

      The under­taking of such a serious task was accom­plished, thanks to the dedi­cation, efforts and expertise of a nine-member team of com­mu­nity experts who researched, studied and consulted widely on sig­ni­fi­cant issues affecting adults living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity.

      In December of '21, a final report titled Pathways to Dignity: Rights, Safeguards, Planning and Decision Making was released alongside a series of recom­men­dations and a two-year imple­men­ta­tion plan. Several aspects of the task force recom­men­dations touched on legis­lation. The proposed amend­ments before you are a reflection of changes to the act that were recom­mended by these com­mu­nity experts.

      The Vul­ner­able Persons Living with a Mental Dis­abil­ity Act came into force in 1996 as a way to meet the needs of a distinct popu­la­tion of adults living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity who were previously covered by the Manitoba Mental Health Act.

      At that time, the act brought in a regime that was considered progressive for its time and is still, in some respects, unique across Canada. Despite the act's focus on best practices, it has not been updated in the past 26 years. Elements of the act are out of date and we recog­nize that the gov­ern­ment must evolve as the under­standing of dis­abil­ity changes.

      The amend­ments recog­nize that adults living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity are people first, and are entitled to the same rights as all other adults. This is reflected in two new principles at the begin­ning of the act. New references to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Dis­abil­ities and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been added to the act, and will play a strong role in aligning our legis­lation with inter­national standards.

      Bill 23 also introduces a people-first statement that ensures an adult's wishes, values and beliefs will guide all forms of decision making relevant to their well‑being. Whether these decisions are made in­de­pen­dently or with assist­ance from others, we recog­nize that an adult's right to be treated the same as any other adult should always be the primary focus.

      We heard from the task force that some of the lan­guage within the act is outdated, and that some terms, such as vul­ner­able persons and mental dis­abil­ity, hold negative connotations for the dis­abil­ity com­mu­nity. The proposed amend­ments will modernize the act's language to address these concerns, including the new titles for the Vul­ner­able Persons' Com­mis­sioner and the act itself, which will now be referred to as adults living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity act.

      A major component of the task force recom­men­dations concern the pro­tec­tion for adults living with intellectual dis­abil­ities. The act determines how we define abuse and neglect, and sets out procedures for mandatory reporting, in­vesti­gation and emergency inter­ven­tion. In order to clarify and expand on these pro­­tec­tions, certain aspects of the act's pro­tec­tion man­­date have been updated to best–to reflect best practices in other juris­dic­tions.

      New definitions of abuse and neglect, modelled after Nova Scotia's pro­tec­tion of persons in care act, will acknowl­edge concerns from the task force that the act creates an overly strict test to prove that an adult has been abused. Under the current definition, for example, a slap across the face would not meet the legal threshold, since it does not lead to serious or lasting physical con­se­quences. The new definition reduces the threshold from serious harm to harm, so instances such as these are now captured. The de­part­ment will be able to proceed with more cases, and include those previously considered as unsub­stan­tiated or inconclusive.

      Bill 23 also includes con­se­quen­tial amend­ments to definitions of abuse and neglect in the pro­tec­tion of persons in care act, as both acts contain pro­tec­tion mandates and refer cases to the adult registry–Adult Abuse Registry Com­mit­tee. After consulting with the De­part­ment of Health, we felt that these amend­ments were necessary to ensure con­sistent reporting across de­part­ments, and that all adults receive equal treat­ment regardless of capacity or setting.

      We also heard from the task force about a lack of infor­ma­tion on what happens during and upon con­clusion of an in­vesti­gation. The task force noted that victims and their families are often left without im­por­tant details or follow‑up regarding their cases, and so this act addresses that.

      Mr. Deputy Speaker, I'm pleased to present this bill for the House's con­sid­era­tion.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions may be addressed to the minister by any member in the following sequence: first question by the official opposition critic or designate; subsequent questions asked by critics or designates from other recognized opposition parties; subsequent questions asked by each independ­ent member; remaining questions asked by any oppo­sition members. And no question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

      The floor is open for questions.

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): Could the minis­ter tell us what else her de­part­ment and herself have heard from dis­abil­ity advocates on how to promote acceptance in respect of dis­abil­ity, and really move towards ending ableism?

Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister respon­si­ble for Accessibility): That is a really good question, and I think ending all forms of discrimination is certainly some­thing that every­body on the task force and in the de­part­ment are working towards addressing.

      And I–we do believe that updating the language to be more reflective of the com­mu­nity's wishes goes a long way. We also believe that including language from the declaration–the United Nations declaration on people with–living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity–be reflected as well as moving to ensure a better sub­stitute and assisted decision-making efforts and initiatives are in place, so that people can fully realize their potential in Manitoba.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask the minister: This is an act which covers people–persons with a mental dis­abil­ity; would it cover people who have a learning dis­abil­ity?

* (15:30)

Ms. Squires: So, it is spe­cific­ally for people living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity and the definition of an intellectual dis­abil­ity.

      But certainly, this act provides protocols and the threshold for in­vesti­gations by the de­part­mental branch whenever there is an abuse that would occur against a person living with a dis­abil­ity in the province of Manitoba and certainly does provide a framework for all individuals in Manitoba to achieve their highest destiny regardless–or irrespective of a dis­abil­ity.

MLA Fontaine: Could the minister share with the House whether or not Manitobans with dis­abil­ities were consulted on in respect to Bill 23, and overall, what was the consensus whether or not that they were sup­port­ive of the changes in the bill, and did they have any other ad­di­tional recom­men­dations?

Ms. Squires: Indeed, there were several con­sul­ta­tions that had occurred with families and self advocates from the Family Advocacy Network, Com­mu­nity Living Manitoba, Continuity Care, Inclusion Winnipeg, Winnipegosis and District Resi­den­tial Support Services, Com­mu­nity Venture, Life's Journey, epic smile St. Malo, Westman Parkland Network and Abilities Manitoba.

      They were all sup­port­ive of these proposed amend­­ments and we will be following up with these groups when we develop the related regula­tions and policies for this bill.

      And there are also other measures that will be taken to address the com­pre­hen­sive task force report that we've received earlier last year.

Mr. Gerrard: So, it's clear that, from the minister's statement, that most people with a learning dis­abil­ity, at least who don't have an IQ below–what is the 'i‑cloo' level that is considered under this act? Is it 70 or 75 or 80? Because we've heard a lot of different con­di­tions.

      And why is the minister spe­cific­ally excluding people with learning dis­abil­ities? Because these are clearly brain dis­abil­ities, and some people would classify them as mental dis­abil­ities.

Ms. Squires: So, this–we are not looking to expand the eligibility criteria for CLDS pro­gram­ming. That is not what this legis­lation is attempting to do. And we recog­nize that there are broader questions that need to be asked and answered in regards to who the act should serve.

      And we recog­nize that that would involve a com­pre­hen­sive analysis and con­sul­ta­tion, which we will certainly be endeavouring to do, but in this specific bill, that is not covered and that is not what we'd consulted on, and that was not what the task force had recom­mended at this parti­cular juncture.

MLA Fontaine: Could the minister share with the House what else she heard from dis­abil­ity advocates about how to promote acceptance of dis­abil­ity and ableism? So, by that I mean, like, what other recom­men­dations have come forward in respect to that?

Ms. Squires: So, there are numer­ous things that we can all work towards to ensure that everybody has the op­por­tun­ity to achieve their full destiny in Manitoba.

      We heard very loud and clear that everybody who is living with a dis­abil­ity wanted to see the CLDS sector fortified. And that is why we enhanced those wages to $19 effective on April 1st of this year, a sig­ni­fi­cant increase in the CLDS budget for enhancing and stabilizing that sector.

      We also know that there was a need for ongoing funding for busi­nesses and munici­palities and others to apply to so that they can receive funding to make sure that their place of busi­ness, their websites, their physical–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Gerrard: In the–this act, it's my under­standing that the mental dis­abil­ity, so-called or defined, has to be manifested before the age of 18 years. And so it's leaving out people who are identified after 18 years, and in my ex­per­ience, that the gov­ern­ment is inter­preting this as diagnosed before 18 years. Because I've had examples of people who were over 18 but had a history of having the mental dis­abil­ity before 18–

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

Ms. Squires: So, I do want to remind the member that this bill is specific about modernizing the act when it comes to the language that we use when talking about people with dis­abil­ities, as well as provi­ding more tools to deal with allegations of abuse.

      Under the former act, some­thing that would be, like, for example, a slap that would not cause serious harm, did not meet the threshold to be investigated by the De­part­ment of Families' pro­tec­tion unit.

      And also, under the former act, caregivers and the person with a dis­abil­ity them­selves were not able to get infor­ma­tion about an ongoing in­vesti­gation. We thought that that was–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Gerrard: There are some positive things in this bill, that I'm really astounded that the gov­ern­ment has left so much unattended to.

      I brought up earlier today the fact that the gov­ern­ment is currently not concerned about people with learn­ing dis­abil­ities. And, in fact, this is proof posi­tive, because the gov­ern­ment has completely omitted people with learning dis­abil­ities who don't have a low IQ, and that is the majority of people with learning dis­abil­ities.

      I ask: How could the gov­ern­ment have not paid any attention to people with learning dis­abil­ities?

Ms. Squires: You know, I ask the member how he can politicize such an im­por­tant bill and put such comments that he just made on the record.

      This bill was a direct response to the 18 recom­men­dations that were put forward by the vul­ner­able persons task force, nine of which are being fully addressed through these proposed amend­ments; six were addressed through changes to the CLDS policy; and two will be addressed in an upcoming legis­lative proposal.

      Now, I wish that this member opposite really put his money where his mouth is and voted in favour of the many substantive changes that we've brought for­ward as a gov­ern­ment, including increases in budget to enhance people's lives who are living with dis­abil­ities in the province of Manitoba. If he–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon­our­able minister's time has expired.

Mr. Gerrard: The–you know, we don't have a prob­lem with what's in the bill; we'll support it. But what we are very concerned about is the gov­ern­ment is leaving out so much that needs to be addressed.

      And as I have, you know, illustrated in numer­ous petitions and in questions and in various other ways, there is a sig­ni­fi­cant problem in the way that this gov­ern­ment is failing to address people with learning dis­abil­ities, with dyslexia, with dysgraphia, with a nonverbal learning dis­abil­ity, with dyscalculia and so on, and–

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

Ms. Squires: The member opposite talks about a failure. Let me you about a failure.

      This gov­ern­ment put forward a pilot project to support adolescent kids with high intellectual and developmental dis­abil­ities–a pilot project so that they could receive those services and not have to go into CFS care to receive those enhanced respite services. It was an $8‑million pilot project.

      And what did that member do? He voted against it. He voted against getting supports for children with dis­abil­ities. Shame on him.

Mr. Gerrard: All right, let's be clear: I voted against the budget. It didn't mean that I don't agree with every tiny item in the budget.

      This is–[interjection] Yes, and it was so small that some people who tried to apply quickly were–it was already totally used up. I mean, it really is a problem when this gov­ern­ment can't get their act together when they're dealing with people with learn­ing dis­abil­ities, with executive function dis­abil­ities.

      You know, it's a real problem. This gov­ern­ment just can't do what needs to be done.

      Why is this gov­ern­ment falling so far short? [interjection]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

* (15:40)

Ms. Squires: Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the member for River Heights to stand up and say that an $8‑million commit­ment to helping children and adolescents with extreme developmental and intellectual dis­abil­ities, an $8‑million pilot to support those families is a small, inconsequential item, is shameful.

      And I would like to get–ask him to get up and apologize for putting those reprehensible comments on the record, and I'd like him to apologize to those families who are being supported by that $8‑million bridge program pilot.

Mr. Gerrard: When we're talking about $8 million in an eight–more than $8‑billion budget–$16‑billion budget, it's small, it's not inconsequential; that's a different word. Let's put it–let's make it clear.

      But there is a big problem if this gov­ern­ment is not doing its job when it comes to helping people with learning dis­abil­ities, and we have a bill here which, sadly, although it has some good, positive things in it, is not addressing some of the major issues that we're facing in Manitoba today with children with learning dis­abil­ities; they're not being properly screened.

      When will the gov­ern­ment, if it's interested in–

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

Ms. Squires: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to put on the record that our gov­ern­ment will always stand up for people with dis­abil­ities.

      We enhanced our budget this year–$640 million in the budget this year alone–to supporting families and individuals with dis­abil­ities. We also included $104‑million‑item increase to stabilize the sector for enhancing people who are living in com­mu­nity with dis­abil­ities.

      These are not inconsequential initiatives; these are substantive changes that our gov­ern­ment has made in the funding for people with disabilities and the pro­gram­ming that people with dis­abil­ities can receive.

      What did the member do when it came time to–

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Minister's time has expired.

Mr. Gerrard: I'm going to ask the minister–[interjection]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Order.

Mr. Gerrard: –when is she going to do some­thing that's going to make a difference for all the kids in Manitoba with learning dis­abil­ities? When is the minister going to take the broader view that's necessary when we're looking at children and adults with dis­abil­ities?

Ms. Squires: Of course our gov­ern­ment is taking a broader view. That is why we did come–have the $8‑million bridge pilot program that we had imple­mented over a year and a half ago. That is why we formed the task force on these issues, and the report, the 18 recom­men­dations that they had reported back to us are being imple­mented.

      That is why we have grown the Families budget by 25 per cent since we took office. And the member opposite has continuously voted against a 25 per cent increase in the budget for social initiatives and for supporting people with dis­abil­ities.

      I say–

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

      And the time for questions has expired.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: The floor is open for debate. [interjection] Order.

MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns): I'm just going to put a couple of words on the record in respect to Bill 23.

      However, and I don't do this very often, but I will back up the member for River Heights (Mr. Gerrard) in respect of some of the concerns that he's raising with children with learning dis­abil­ities.

      I want to remind Manitobans and, certainly, mem­bers opposite that it was under Brian Pallister that this gov­ern­ment and each and every one of those mem­bers, save for maybe a couple, actually celebrated and supported cutting supports in school for children with learning dis­abil­ities. And I think that that's really im­por­tant to put on the record today, that that is actually the legacy of this gov­ern­ment in the work that they've done for children with learning dis­abil­ities.

      In respect of this parti­cular bill, I think it is really im­por­tant that–and I think it's reflected in the bill–that as we learn more about using inclusive language and terminology that is disrespectful and disparaging and socially constructs Manitobans with dis­abil­ities as less than and contributes to ableism, when we learn that we can do better. And I would suggest that this is what this bill is aiming to do, and I fully support that.

      I have said many, many times that there is power in the language that we use. The discourse and the language that we use informs the way that we see and feel and ex­per­ience the–in the world. And so, I think that this is a good bill in that sense, that we're going to be changing language, and on this side of the House we will certainly support that.

      I think it's im­por­tant to put on the record in respect of Manitobans with dis­abil­ities will often face higher rates of abuse than Manitobans with no–that are not disabled. And I want to put on the record here that women with dis­abil­ities ex­per­ience higher rates of intimate partner violence than non-disabled women. And that's from–a statistic from 2018.

      As well, in 2014, it showed that women with disabil­ities were twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime than non-disabled women. The report also found that women with dis­abil­ities were nearly twice as likely as women without dis­abil­ities to have been sexually assaulted in the last 12 months, and women with dis­abil­ities were also more likely to have been victimized multiple times.

      And then, as well, that abuse against Manitobans with dis­abil­ities can take many forms, and does not always result in physical harm. So, expanding the definitions of abuse and neglect is an im­por­tant part of recog­nizing the prevalence of all forms of abuse, and certainly fighting and working to end it here in Manitoba.

      Again, I also–this bill looks at the term vul­ner­able, and how we have shifted away from that language as well. It–the terminology vul­ner­able portrays persons with dis­abil­ities as being produced by external cir­cum­­stances and is not innate or intrinsic to the person them­selves. So, moreover, everyone can be vul­ner­able in a given situation or over a period of time.

      So, to that end, some persons with dis­abil­ities may be more vul­ner­able than the rest of the Manitoban–Manitoba in certain times, such as gender-based vio­lence, but less vul­ner­able to others, such as identity theft. And because there–the lack of–there is a lack of societal supports and systemic ableism that makes persons with dis­abil­ities vul­ner­able when the specific barriers and circum­stances causing vul­ner­ability are addressed, they are no longer vul­ner­able.

      So, we know that the United Nations has put forward the dis­abil­ity inclusive language guide­lines as part of their efforts to implement the United Nations Dis­abil­ity Inclusion Strategy, which was launched in 2019. And the United Nations suggested as general principles to use people-first language.

      And some examples of that is that people-first language is the most widely accepted language for referring to persons with dis­abil­ities. People-first language emphasizes the person, not the dis­abil­ity, by placing a reference to the person or group before the reference to dis­abil­ity. For example, Deputy Speaker, we can use expressions such as children with dyslexia, women with intellectual dis­abil­ities and, of course, persons with dis­abil­ities.

      However, the person-first rule does not neces­sarily apply to all types of dis­abil­ities. So, if in doubt, you should ask the person or group how they choose to identify. Persons with dis­abil­ities are not a homo­genous group, and they may self-identify in a variety of different ways. These identities should be respected and recog­nized.

* (15:50)

      And then, I think some­thing that is very im­por­tant, and there's been a lot of movement in the last many years, is, you know, avoiding labels and stereo­types and, as well, do–not using condescending euphemisms. And I think that that's really im­por­tant because I do note that there has been a couple of incidents over the last many years, and including myself in a tweet that I had said, and somebody actually corrected me and I apologized and promised to do better in respect of that.

      And that is really the bare minimum that we can do in steps to ending ableism, is to be very self-conscious–or to be very conscious of the language that we use and to not use these condescending euphemisms.

      So, I'm not going to repeat any of them in this House, but I think it is incumbent on each and every one of us to ensure that we're reaching out to folks if we don't know if a certain thing is okay to say or if we shouldn't be saying it, and to get that infor­ma­tion from folks with dis­abil­ities, who are more than willing and able to share those teachings and that knowledge and that infor­ma­tion.

      So, to that end, Deputy Speaker, I–we will, on this side of the House, be supporting Bill 23.


Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to begin by thanking those members of the Family Advocacy Network and others who put a lot of effort into provi­ding a report and to provi­ding comment and ideas, in terms of this bill.

      It is a step forward in many respects, even though I have been and continue to be critical about it omitting so many children with learning dis­abil­ities. At least the change to–of the title to vul­ner­able persons living with a–the adults living with an intellectual dis­abil­ity act is more con­sistent with the popu­la­tion that we're dealing with; that is, those with an intellectual dis­abil­ity.

      I'm curious as to why the children are not included but, be that as it may, the effort that has been made to help individuals with 'lintellectual' dis­abil­ity must be acknowl­edged and must be supported; and individuals who are involved must be thanked for their effort.

      I believe one of the major problems was that the gov­ern­ment started with a narrower mandate than they should have because they have completely omitted recog­nition of the importance of the individuals with learning dis­abil­ities, which is, in fact, one of the most common dis­abil­ities. And so, it is sad that there has not been the attention to individuals with learning disabil­ities who have an IQ above 70 or 75 or 80, depending on who's assessing it, it appears.

      So, I look forward and we look forward, as Liberals, to this bill moving forward, but we are noting that there is a large amount of work that has not been done in the last two decades dealing with and helping children and adults with learning dis­abil­ities. I have advocated for those with learning disabilities on many occasions, including many occasions in this Chamber, and I have noted, as the minister has acknowl­edged, the importance of addressing individuals who have learning dis­abil­ities who are adults and provi­ding a way for helping them.

      Interestingly, the gov­ern­ment in Newfoundland and Labrador has decided that is it not a strict IQ‑based criteria that should be used, but that it should be based on what the needs of individuals actually are. And that would certainly be a recog­nition which is long overdue.

Madam Speaker in the Chair

      When I have been helping individuals who have had learning dis­abil­ities and–what is interesting is that they may be very low on some aspects of the IQ test and very high on other aspects of it; and it's generally agreed that when you get this kind of variation, that you really shouldn't be relying on IQ and the IQ test as the deter­mining factor. Because, as indeed some of the reports that I have seen for such individuals, they say, well, you have a caution here that you should be very careful about applying the mean IQ deter­mined in this way as a single number to a person in this circum­stance.

      I have been helping an individual who has an executive-function dis­abil­ity, who in many respects has done–and is an in­cred­ible individual with amazing talents–but he's not able to–doesn't have the adaptive functioning to be able to do well as an adult without some help. And it may be that, over time, he can learn that and do very well, but at this point, he's certainly struggling and, without help, could very easily end up homeless.

      I refer members of this Chamber to a study that was done by Linda Siegel of individuals who are ex­per­iencing homelessness in Toronto. And what she found was that 83 per cent had some sort of a learning dis­abil­ity. And the point that she made is that they were homeless–ex­per­iencing homelessness–not be­cause they were raised in a home that was poor, not because of the many other things that could explain this, but they were there because they had a learning dis­abil­ity and that they had not been adequately helped.

      We clearly need to make major changes in this province to help those with learning dis­abil­ities who are falling through the cracks. I spoke earlier today in–to recog­nize the work that Twila Richards has done in advocating for those with learning dis­abil­ities. She has lived ex­per­ience in this respect; she has a child with a learning dis­abil­ity and another child with autism. And it has been a struggle: a struggle to get a proper diagnosis, a struggle to get assessed by a school psychologist in the school, a struggle even when there was a diagnosis, to get the help that is needed.

      And there are certainly reams of work and good studies that have been done showing the kind of teaching, the kind of help that is necessary for a child with a–dyslexia, as an example–and I am told that in too many places in Manitoba that the schools are not really provi­ding the kind of help that these kids really need. There are con­sid­erable variations from school division to school division, with some school divi­sions doing pretty well and quite a number of school divisions not doing the job that's needed in screening and in making the diagnosis, and in helping these kids to succeed.

      What is remark­able is how well kids with dyslexia can do–kids with learning dis­abil­ities. Winston Churchill had dyscalculia, and he certainly did pretty well. Picasso had a learning dis­abil­ity. And–go on and on, and Malcolm Gladwell talks about the many entre­preneurs who have dyslexia, and how well people with dyslexia can do, if given half a chance.

* (16:00)

      It's time for us as Manitobans to give people with–children and adults with dyslexia half a chance, so that they can do well and be im­por­tant contributors to our society. It's time that we made that shift from where we are now.

      So, with those comments, we look forward to this going to com­mit­tee stage, and we look forward to the next steps for this legis­lation.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker. Merci. Miigwech.

Madam Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 23, The Vul­ner­able Persons Living with a Mental Dis­abil­ity Amend­ment Act.

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

      I declare the motion carried.

Bill 26–The Limitations Amendment and Public Officers Amendment Act

Madam Speaker: I will now call second reading of Bill 26, The Limitations Amend­ment and Public Officers Amend­ment Act.

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I move, seconded by the Minister of Families (Ms. Squires), that Bill 26, The Limitations Amend­ment and Public Officers Amend­ment Act, be now read a second time and referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

Motion presented.

Mr. Goertzen: The Limitations Act received royal assent on May 20th, 2021, and came into force on September 30th, 2022. The act replaced the existing Limitation of Actions Act, and modernized the law pertaining to the limitations of actions in Manitoba.

      Members, I'm sure, will recall that the new act brought Manitoba in line with other provinces' legis­lation on limitation periods and was informed by recom­men­dations made by the Manitoba Law Reform Com­mis­sion, an entity we spoke about this morning during private members' busi­ness.

      Among other changes, the new act replaced a range of different limitation periods with a uniform two-year limitation period for most claims, making it more understandable and uniform. Importantly, this general two-year limitation period under the act begins to run from the day the claim is discovered, not when the cause of action arose, as was the case for most claims under the old act.

      The amend­ments in this bill serve to enhance and clarify the legis­lation. These amend­ments address two issues that I'm pleased to provide a brief explanation regarding.

      Claims against public officers are governed by The Public Officers Act. Currently, this includes a two-year limitation period that commences when the event giving rise to the claim occurs, not when the individual is–comes into knowledge of the event.

      Under the former limitations regime, a court had a limited ability to extend this limitation period where the claimant was delayed in discovering material facts about their claim. This bill repeals the limitation period in The Public Officers Act, and brings these claims under the new Limitations Act, where they will be subject to the general two-year limitation period that commences from the date the claim is discovered.

      This creates further uniformity and consistency among the law of limitations in Manitoba and responds to recent judicial comments con­cern­ing the need to modernize this parti­cular limitation period.

      This bill includes transitional provisions that are intended to ensure that no potential claimants under The Public Officers Act are prejudiced by the transi­tion to the new regime. Excuse me.

      The amend­ments provide potential claimants an extension period to file a claim that is equal to the balance of the 12-month period that they lost, if any, when the section 14 of the former act was repealed.

      For consistency, these transitional provisions are also extended to 14 other acts that contain similar statute-specific and strict limitation periods that were previously repealed by The Limitations Act.

      Another clari­fi­ca­tion is provided about the effect of the transition to the new legal regime of previously issued judgment orders for the payment of money. Under the 'forement' act–former act, claims to enforce a judgment were subject to a 10-year limitation period. Under the new Limitations Act, judgments are no longer subject to any limitation period.

      The amend­ments in this bill are intended to clarify that judgments that remain enforceable on September 30th, 2022, are no longer subject to a limitation period. They will be treated in a manner 'con­sistense' with how judgments issued after the coming into force of The Limitations Act are treated.

      I now conclude my comments and look forward to speedy passage of this bill at second reading.


Madam Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions will be addressed to the minister by the official opposition critic and an independent member in the following sequence: first question by the official opposition critic and the next question by the independent member. And no question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

Mr. Matt Wiebe (Concordia): Madam Speaker, who was consulted on this bill and do they support the changes that it makes?

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): As indicated in my comments, this was recom­mended through judicial rulings and I imagine that the judges who ruled such would support it.

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): Can the minister explain what types of specified claims would benefit from an extended period of limitations under this act?

Mr. Goertzen: Those individuals who are public officers who might have a claim made against them, this changes the limitation period such that the individual who's making the claim has two years from the time of the incident of which they want to make a claim about, when they become aware of the incident, not when it happened, because sometimes people don't know of it until some time later.

      So, it makes a general two-year limitation period from the time a person becomes aware of it.

Mr. Wiebe: We know that the PC gov­ern­ment here failed to consult with First Nations for Bill 51, The Limitations Act.

      Did it consult with First Nations com­mu­nities with regards to Bill 26?

Mr. Goertzen: Again, this is filling a gap that exists because it didn't include from the previous bill public officers or limitations against public officers.

      There was judicial comment made about it, and we are following that advice.

Mr. Wiebe: So, did the gov­ern­ment consult with First Nations with regards to Bill 26?

Mr. Goertzen: As I've indicated, it is filling a gap that existed from the previous amend­ment and there was judicial advice that was given. If the member has a problem with following judicial rulings, he could put that on the record.

Mr. Wiebe: Well, in 2021, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs raised serious concerns about how The Limitations Act would affect claims made by Indigenous peoples regarding historical abuse.

      So, again, the question for the minister is: Did he consult with First Nation com­mu­nities with regards to Bill 26?

Mr. Goertzen: This bill fills gaps that exist because it didn't include actions against public officers. This follows judicial advice that was provided.

Mr. Wiebe: Well, this is con­cern­ing, Mr.–or, Madam Speaker. As we know, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs raised serious concerns about this back in 2021, and I'm not hearing from the minister that there's been any con­sul­ta­tion.

      Will the changes in this bill address the concerns of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs?

Mr. Goertzen: I take the point that the member does not believe in following judicial rulings and I would note that for future comments.

Mr. Wiebe: So, I mean, what I'm hearing from the minister is he wasn't willing to consult with First Nations; he wasn't willing to address these issues.

      Is the gov­ern­ment con­sid­ering further amend­ments or other measures that would address those concerns?

Mr. Goertzen: I'm hearing from the member that he doesn't believe in following judicial rulings. I wonder if he wants to get rid of the judiciary.

Mr. Wiebe: Was there any con­sul­ta­tion, any con­ver­sa­tion what­so­ever with the Manitoba chiefs? Was he aware of the concerns that they had and that they raised in 2021?

Mr. Goertzen: I answered that previously.

Mr. Wiebe: I must have missed the minister answering my question, unless his answer is that there were no con­sul­ta­tions.

      Can I confirm with the minister that there were no con­sul­ta­tions with First Nations with regards to Bill 26?

Mr. Goertzen: I answered it five times previously; he may wish to consult with Hansard when it's published.

Mr. Wiebe: Can the minister clarify if environ­mental cases are subject to these limitations?

Mr. Goertzen: This is spe­cific­ to The Public Officers Act, amend­ments under that.

Mr. Wiebe: Sorry, I couldn't hear the minister, if he could repeat it?

Mr. Goertzen: These are amend­ments to The Public Officers Act.

* (16:10)

Mr. Wiebe: Okay so, I'll ask again: Can the minister clarify if environ­mental cases are subject to the limitations?

Mr. Goertzen: Perhaps he wants to give a specific example so that we can provide that advice.

Mr. Wiebe: I think the question is quite clear. I'm asking if environ­mental cases are subject to this–to the limitations as outlined in Bill 26.

Mr. Goertzen: Environ­mental case is a pretty broad breadth. Perhaps he wants to provide an example.

Mr. Wiebe: Once again, you know, this is quite a precedent for a minister to come before the House at second reading, not have the infor­ma­tion in front of him. I think the–Manitobans would certainly be, you know, quite interested to know that the minister doesn't have his infor­ma­tion.

      Will he at least commit to be bringing some of these answers to com­mit­tee so that the public can hear what this minister has to say with regards to the questions that are asked?

Mr. Goertzen: He actually has to pose the question.

      I've already indicated to him, if he wants to give an example of a parti­cular type of environ­mental case, we can provide that infor­ma­tion. If he doesn't want to ask the question, then he can't provide–be provided an answer.

Mr. Wiebe: Well, this is embar­rass­ing, Madam Speaker. I'm assuming that the minister is saying that he's not going to bring this infor­ma­tion forward at com­mit­tee.

      It's a simple–[interjection]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr. Wiebe: –answer–it's a simple way that he could possibly give some Manitobans some kind of con­fi­dence that he knows what he's doing with regards to this and that he doesn't actually just want to sweep these issues under the rug.

      So I'll ask once again: Can the minister clarify if environ­mental cases are subject to the limitations as outlined in this bill?

Mr. Goertzen: I have no idea why the member doesn't want to provide an example. Maybe he didn't come prepared with one.

      If he hasn't come prepared with one, he can come to com­mit­tee and prepare properly for com­mit­tee.

Mr. Wiebe: Well, I mean, this is a–you know, usually the minister's–you know, maybe I'm being generous here–but quite reasonable and someone who I think, you know, Manitobans would expect would be prepared and come to this debate with some infor­ma­tion.

      So, I'll–just for this–to the record, I'm going to say once again. Did he–I'd like an answer at com­mit­tee, if he could bring, on these two questions: Did he consult with First Nations com­mu­nities with regards to Bill 26, and can he clarify if environ­mental cases would be subject to these limitations?

Mr. Goertzen: If he provides an example at com­mit­tee, I'm happy to provide an answer for him.

Madam Speaker: Are there any further questions?


Madam Speaker: If not, debate is open.

Mr. Matt Wiebe (Concordia): You know, I think we had–in the minister's opening statements, I heard him say, you know, he was looking forward to swift passage of this bill. And certainly, that's the posture with which we came to these–this debate, to see this bill move forward and to have it come to com­mit­tee. And I do hope that we have some further discussion there.

      My concern here is that the questions that I asked, I didn't expect that they were controversial, that they would be difficult for the minister to grasp or to be able to answer. These are pretty straight­for­ward questions; these are pretty straightforward items that we had asked the minister to under­take getting an answer to.

      I guess what happened here, Madam Speaker, is that the minister got his back up when we asked about how this would impact First Nations com­mu­nities.

      And, again, while we're happy to move this bill forward and we were excited to actually get this moving along here this afternoon–I know there's a Jets game on later, and many members want to make sure that we're out there–what I'm concerned about now is that because the con­sul­ta­tion hasn't been done, because the minister isn't being forthright about the infor­ma­tion that we're asking for, not even just committing to bringing that forward to the public hearing so that Manitobans can hear for–it–he doesn't have to answer me in this House. He certainly hasn't ever done it before, so why would he start now? But maybe he could come to com­mit­tee and maybe he could actually answer questions there.

      And giving him that op­por­tun­ity–you know, it's very simple for the minister to just say, well, I don't have that in front of me; I will go back; I'll consult with real lawyers to find out exactly how this will impact. You know, I think there would certainly be a way that the minister could do that, but he certainly didn't do that here today.

      So, I'm shocked and, you know, I guess after the performance of other ministers here in this place, you know, yesterday sort of moving through the bill debate and wondering, you know, how we're going to get everybody in place to make that happen and wondering where people are.

      You know, that's, I think, a good example of where this gov­ern­ment is at. They're tired; they're out of gas; and they have no grasp on what Manitobans are really asking for.

      So, it's very con­cern­ing to hear that with regards to Bill 26 and–The Limitations Amend­ment and Public Officers Amend­ment Act. We do think that this bill is a good act and a good bill in order to allow Manitobans to give access to the justice system for all Manitobans.

      Limitation periods create a maximum length of time that can be brought forward against somebody. It's im­por­tant that enough time, of course, is allowed for a claim to be brought forward, especially when the effects may not be noticed for some time. It's also critical that con­sul­ta­tion is done to ensure limitation periods are not preventing legitimate claims from being brought forward.

      We've all heard stories; we've all seen situations in news coverage, or heard anecdotally, where a victim comes forward years or even decades after being abused, disclosing what's happened, and then wanting to start a claim. Sometimes criminal charges are laid; sometimes civil claims are filed, and sometimes both actions are needed and do occur.

      People often ask if there is a limitations period that would apply in these cases and, you know, wonder why the victims are then entitled to bring forward and proceed so long after the alleged abuse took place.

      We know that in the United States, for instance, there is a statute of limitations on criminal pro­ceed­ings, but in Canada there is no such thing. This means that serious criminal charges can be investigated anytime after the crime occurs. Anyone can contact the police in Canada to report a crime that took place, even if it is years ago. The police can in­vesti­gate such crimes and lay charges if the perpetrator is still living.

      In simplest terms, a limitation period sets out a time limit as to when legal proceedings can be 'commended' by filing a claim. It defines the time in which an aggravated person can initiate a claim arising from any injury, loss or damage that occurred as a result of the act or omission. Limitation periods do apply in Canada to civil suits. Each province has its own rules, but the rules are similar across the country.

      So, as I said, I–we came to this debate really in a spirit of bipartisanship and not expecting any kind of fireworks here this afternoon, Mr. Deputy Speaker–sorry–Madam Speaker. But, what we've in fact seen is, is a minister who refuses to answer various basic ques­tions about how this will impact environ­mental cases and how it will impact First Nations com­mu­nities.

      And I would expect–I would imagine that most Manitobans would think that im­por­tant concerns being brought forward by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs back in 2021 would be some­thing that, if the minister didn't–wasn't able to capture that in this bill, in Bill 26, that he, at the very least, would give some assurances that he's aware of the problem, that he's done the con­sul­ta­tions and that it is some­thing that is, you know, his de­part­ment would like to bring forward in the future.

      But we haven't heard that here once again, Madam Speaker. It's con­cern­ing. Maybe–again, I'm being way too optimistic again about this minister and about this gov­ern­ment–but there is a chance at com­mit­tee; I do hope that that infor­ma­tion would be shared there.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Ms. Cindy Lamoureux (Tyndall Park): Happy to rise and just put a few words on record this afternoon.

      The new limitations amend­ment act allows claimants to start a claim two years after discovery, rather than at the occurrence of the event. This act is fairly straight­for­ward. I think it is a positive change and it brings Manitoba up to speed with respect to other provinces, Madam Speaker. It is also very im­por­tant, though, that all members of the House are aware of who was consulted in the process of this legis­lation.

      Madam Speaker, it allows for individuals to have time to be on their sides more and not to be forced to make decisions about disclosure so quickly after an incident may occur. This is extremely im­por­tant. Everyone processes experiences differently. Some are able to talk about an ex­per­ience imme­diately–this might even be a form of coping–while others may need some time to process or cope in other ways before being able to talk about certain things.

      And, Madam Speaker, this legis­lation creates more respect towards this process. We know that many people do not wish to revisit traumatic incidents in the past, or perhaps might feel unsafe or uncomfortable to speak about incidents of the past. And that often–triggering events can occur much later on in a person's life. And again, that's why this expan­sion of time to be able to bring a claim forward is very im­por­tant.

      This is also a very good reason as to why we need to work on regulating therapy here in the province of Manitoba, Madam Speaker. And whenever I have the op­por­tun­ity, I do like to raise this idea: the importance of regulating therapy, not only to make sure that all Manitobans have access to it and that it's affordable, but it would also ensure that those who are practicing and provi­ding therapeutic services to individuals in the province are properly trained to do so for incidents such as these.

* (16:20)

      I do ap­pre­ciate the op­por­tun­ity to share a few words, and I look forward to this bill going to com­mit­tee.

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 26, The Limitations Amend­ment and Public Officers Amend­ment Act.     

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

      I declare the motion carried.

Bill 29–The Life Leases Amendment Act

Madam Speaker: I will now call second reading of Bill 29, The Life Leases Amend­ment Act.

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): I move, seconded by the hon­our­able Minister for Families, that Bill 29, The Life Leases Amend­ment Act; Loi modifiant la Loi sur les baux viagers, be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

Motion presented.

Mr. Teitsma: I'm honoured to present this bill today. It will address recom­men­dations from stake­holders, as well as advance some more efficient and effective ways to administer The Life Leases Act and life lease regula­tion.

      This bill will ensure the tenants' interests in a rental unit during a change in owner­ship by increasing a new owner's obligations as a landlord of a life lease complex. Spe­cific­ally, the amend­ment will ensure that a new owner, due to mortgage sale tax, sale or foreclosure, is respon­si­ble to refund the life lease tenants their entrance fees if the existing life lease tenancy is terminated.

      This bill will also require landlords to conduct regular reserve fund studies to ensure that a reserve fund can maintain and replace assets of the complex at all times. Furthermore, this bill will also add require­ments surrounding the pre­par­ation of audited–annual audited financial statements so that they are pre­pared in accordance with generally accepted account­ing principles.

      Madam Speaker, our gov­ern­ment is proposing these changes so they align with the priorities of improving consumer pro­tec­tion, addressing stake­holder feedback and promoting greater under­standing and trans­par­ency.

      I look forward to a brief debate and moving this legis­lation along to com­mit­tee.

      Thank you.


Madam Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions will be addressed to the minister by the official op­posi­tion critic and an in­de­pen­dent member in the following sequence: first question by the official op­posi­tion critic and the subsequent question asked by an in­de­pen­dent member. And no question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

Mr. Mintu Sandhu (The Maples): I would like to ask the minister: How many Manitobans are currently part of the life lease agree­ment?

Hon. James Teitsma (Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services): I thank the member for the question and will also compliment the member on his choice of clothing. Go, Jets, go. I'm glad he took your instructions so quickly to heart and showed up in this Chamber already with a Whiteout jersey on.

      But, in any case, difficult question to answer because life–these organi­zations are not necessarily required to register or to say how many members they have, but I think it's safe to say that there's at least several hundred and possibly over 1,000 people in these situations.

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Could the minister just describe a recent situation to which this act may have been applicable?

Mr. Teitsma: I cannot.

      So, the members that were–the matters that were brought forward to me and, I think, to the minister prior to me was by the life lease association. I guess they came forward with some sug­ges­tions.

      We also met with some other stake­holders in terms of the landlords, I guess, and the property managers as well, to understand some of the interactions that were there.

      I'm not aware of a specific case that this may apply to–perhaps the member is–but in any case, the recom­men­dations that we're putting forward, we think, are common sense. They certainly, I think, will help on a go-forward basis and ensure the tenants' rights are protected and that tenants have access to the access to the infor­ma­tion they need.

Mr. Sandhu: Maybe can the minister provide some infor­ma­tion–probably some people don't know what is the difference between life lease and the condos.

      Can he provide the infor­ma­tion to the House?

Mr. Teitsma: I thank the member.

      Yes, it's interesting that the member would ask, what's the difference between a life lease and a condo when, actually, life leases are more similar to rental units than they are to condos.

      So, a condo is owned by the individual who lives there, typically, right? So they're purchasing the condo; they have owner­ship rights and they have owner­ship obligations.

      With a life lease, that owner­ship capacity is not there. They're essentially giving a deposit to a land­lord. That landlord is using that deposit to, you know, reduce the amount of rent that they have to charge and to help fund the cost of the building. Often, it's done by non-profits and it can be quite an effective living situation.

      But it is more like renting and less like owning.

Mr. Sandhu: As the minister said, this was more like apartment blocks or renters.

      I have a question: Does the minister think his gov­ern­ment is doing enough to help renters who are struggling with above-guide­line increases, increasing hydro rates and inflation?

Mr. Teitsma: I believe the Minister of Justice (Mr. Goertzen) is calling for a penalty for roughing or inter­ference, perhaps.

      And I would–I could question the relevancy of the question, but at the same time, I do ap­pre­ciate the member's en­gage­ment and he seems to be chuckling along with me, so I'll just say that our gov­ern­ment has indeed offered plenty of support for renters, freezing rent for two years straight and making permanent the renters tax credit.

Mr. Lamont: Can the minister just explain how this act might help facilitate a request for an audit by tenants?

Mr. Teitsma: Certainly, yes, I ap­pre­ciate the question.

      I think the tenants don't necessarily have the right to request such an audit, but they do have the right to receive audited financial statements. And they do have the right to ensure that there is a reserve fund study done, and that the rents that are being charged and the amount of money that's going into the reserve fund is ap­pro­priate.

      So, those are all things that are going to enhance tenants' rights.

Mr. Sandhu: Why did the minister and his gov­ern­ment raise taxes on the renters?

Mr. Teitsma: Madam Speaker, I would certainly ask the–question the efficacy and the honesty of that initial assertion. What we have done is lowered the PST. We did that many years ago; that saved renters and all other Manitobans hundreds of dollars on an annual basis.

      We've also, this year, increased the basic personal exemption. That is putting hundreds of dollars in the pockets of all Manitobans, and as part of our edu­ca­tion property tax benefit–which of course does not directly benefit renters because they don't own the property or pay the property taxes–but we did ensure that some of the benefits of those edu­ca­tion property tax benefits went into tenants' pockets.

      And we did that by freezing rents in years where, if we had allowed the–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

      Yes, I just–[interjection]

      Order. I do want to just caution members about throwing around the word honesty in this House. It tends to get going in the wrong direction, so I just ask for everybody to be cautious, please.

Mr. Sandhu: I just want to remind the minister that renters used to get $700 tax credit. Now they are getting $525. They are losing $175.

      So, isn't–if this is not a tax on the renters, then what it is?

Mr. Teitsma: I, you know, I had hoped to have that question from the Finance critic. I am happy to accept it from this member. Either way, they both don't seem to be capable of doing math because, fun­da­mentally, freezing rents for an average apartment building, and for an average tenancy agree­ment in this city and in this province, is going to save renters a whole lot more than what the item that these members are referring to.

      So, when we intro­duced the Edu­ca­tion Property Tax Credit, we ensured that renters would benefit by freezing their rents, by ensuring that they would not have an increase from year to year.

* (16:30)

      That is way, way more impactful to the average 'landlor'–or, average tenant that it is–than what they're referring to.

Mr. Sandhu: I also want to remind the minister there were, like, 100 per cent above-guide­line rent increases. There were 310 applications, all 100 per cent they were gone up. And the rent was gone up 30 to 50 per cent.

      Can the minister explain how that went up?

Mr. Teitsma: Well, Madam Speaker, I–it probably would be wise to question the relevancy, but I'm not sure I caught all that.

      I do recall a question by the member for St. James (Mr. Sala) a few weeks back, where he said that under our watch, rents had gone up by about 10 per cent.

      I believe that's what he had said but–and then he claimed that was somehow more than inflation, but inflation was actually 20. So, again, I question the ability of the Finance critic and the member opposite with their mathematics; it's not quite up to snuff.

      We've gone now for probably almost a month with a budget in front of this House, and we've had almost no questions about the budget. It's a great budget, it does a wonderful job for Manitobans. I could see why they'd have nothing to say about it.

Madam Speaker: Any further questions?


Madam Speaker: If not, debate is open.

Mr. Mintu Sandhu (The Maples): It is an honour to rise in the House to put a few comments on Bill 29, The Life Leases Amend­ment Act. The purpose of this bill is, this bill amends The Life Leases Act to enhance the rights of tenants under life leases.

      Under this–under the existing act, when a person acquires a landlord's interest in a life lease complex on a mortgage sale, tax sale or foreclosure, the subsisting leases are terminated and the person has no obligation regarding the tenant's entrance fee, which it is–some­times it is a–quite a large amount, Madam Speaker; I think it's around $50,000. I was searching a few of those buildings.

      Bill 29 ensures that the person acquiring that interest in–treated as a new landlord under the sub­sisting life leases, but automatically terminates those leases unless the person agrees otherwise. Such a termination no longer relieves the person of the land­lord's obligation to refund on entrance fees.

      Currently, a non-profit landlord of a life lease com­­plex is requred to maintain a reserve for main­taining, and replacing when necessary, the assets of the complex. Under the–under Bill 29, the landlord must ensure that the reserve fund study to deter­mine the amount of money to be maintained in the fund is conducted and updated from time to time in accordance with the regula­tions.

      If requested by a majority of the tenants of the life lease complex, the landlord is required to provide audited financial statements for the complex for each year until the request is withdrawn by the majority of the tenants. The bill requires these financial state­ments to be prepared in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles.

      Madam Speaker, the Manitoba NDP is in support of this bill. As I think the minister mentioned, there was lots of con­sul­ta­tions and Manitoba Life Lease Occupants Association was also written a letter, probably to–every member has seen this letter.

      And there are a few requests from the association, and probably like to put it on the record. I hope the minister can maybe provide a bit more infor­ma­tion if he's going to be amending the bill or bringing some amend­ment at the com­mit­tee level.

      Those are: failure to meet quorum, trans­par­ency of action, tenant repre­sen­tation, security for tenant financial interest, good gov­ern­ance.

      So, those are the few requests from Manitoba Life Lease Occupants Association, but I'm sure the minis­ter also said he's also been consulting with the landlords, too.

      And again, Madam Speaker, when it comes to the PC gov­ern­ment, they recently–not recently, actually–this is the second year in a row that–where Manitobans are paying $175 tax credit. What used to be $700 now is $525; $525 is a $175–a tax on those people who are living in apartment blocks. And who are those people, Madam Speaker, those are living in those apartment blocks? Those are people on low income, seniors, new­comers.

      Those are the few comments I would like to put on the record. I'm sure we–as I said earlier–we are in support of this bill and looking forward to the com­mit­tee and to see if the minister will be bringing any more amend­ments to this bill.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): This bill ensures that the person acquiring a landlord's interest in a life-lease complex is treated as the new landlord under the subsisting life lease. Often, when we think about housing, we often think about either homeownership or rental; life leases are some­thing of an in-between between the two.

      Sponsors of life-lease projects, in many cases, are non-profit, so the prices of units generally reflect the cost of dev­elop­ment. With life leases, residents typically pay a refundable entrance fee, which helps cover costs associated with upkeep and affair–and repairs. This legis­lation would require owners to refund entrance fees to their tenants if their leases are terminated due to mortgage sales, tax sales or foreclosures.

      One potential concern is the require­ment for the landlords to maintain a reserve fund for maintaining and replacing the assets of the complex. The details of this reserve fund will invariably be different from complex to complex, but how much will the maintenance to this fund cost if it is passed along to tenants in addition to other property costs such as condominium fees.

      Many of these life-lease complexes' residents are seniors–or, 55-plus housing units in Manitoba. Getting out of the housing market–of owner­ship–can be a major financial relief for many people, and we want to avoid adding financial burdens, especially to seniors.

      While the require­ment to provide audited finan­cial statements is im­por­tant to ensure the trans­par­ency of a landlord's property operations, it is also positive that this measure can be requested through a vote by tenants of the complex. The only concern here is the ability to request an audit be ac­ces­si­ble to tenants, and that they are continually made aware during their residency of their right to do so should any issues arise.

      We look forward to supporting this bill, and in–seeing feedback in com­mit­tee.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 29, The Life Leases Amend­ment Act.

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

      I declare the motion carried.

Bill 2–The Official Time Amendment Act

Madam Speaker: I will now call Bill 2, The Official Time Amend­ment Act.

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): I move, seconded by the Minister of Trans­por­tation, that Bill 2, The Official Time Amend­ment Act, be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

Motion presented.

Mr. Goertzen: This bill will amend the–[interjection]–speaking of a time delay, that was a time delay right there.

      This bill will amend The Official Time Act to allow Manitoba to consider adopting permanent day­light savings time. Manitoba has historically main­tained a con­sistent-time-zone approach with our United States neighbours, easing busi­ness relations, travel and trade. And this bill will ensure Manitoba is in a position to maintain that approach should the United States choose to observe daylight savings time year-round.

      Other Canadian juris­dic­tions, including Ontario and British Columbia, have also prepared for this possi­bility, tabling legis­lation preparing for a potential shift to permanent daylight savings time. And I know some juris­dic­tions have matched that with the states that are imme­diately south of them; so, British Columbia to Washington state, as an example.

      Like Ontario and BC's legis­lation, Manitoba's legis­lation will only take effect if neighbouring juris­dic­tions adopt permanent daylight savings time and a majority of Manitobans agree to the change. Until that time, Manitoba will continue to observe daylight savings time from March to November, and standard time through­out the winter.

* (16:40)

      Currently, in the United States–and I know that the US House of Repre­sen­tatives, Congress have con­sidered a bill called the pro­tec­tion of daylight–the sunshine pro­tec­tion act–only the Americans come up with an act called the sunshine pro­tec­tion act–that would have permanent daylight savings time through­out the United States. It's been intro­duced a few dif­ferent times, made it to 'devarious'–different places within their legis­lative framework, but it's never been passed. But if it were to pass, then this would allow us to follow the United States on that.

      Previously planned public en­gage­ment on the pro­posed shift to permanent daylight savings time would begin when the neighbouring 'jurins­dic­tion' takes meaningful action to ensure the perspectives gathered for Manitobans are timely and relevant.

      So we wouldn't under­take public con­sul­ta­tions now, because we don't know when or if the Americans will actually pass that legis­lation moving to daylight savings times in the US, and we wouldn't want to have the con­sul­ta­tions now if it's not going to happen in the US for five years, but there'd be too much of a time gap between the con­sul­ta­tion and whenever it is that the Americans take action.

      So when we know that there's meaningful action being taken in the United States, that is progressing through their legis­lative scheme, then we would under­­take to get the views of Manitobans. In the interim, Munici­pal Relations–and I am tabling this, or, doing second reading on behalf of the Minister of Munici­pal Relations (Mr. Smith)–will continue to monitor dev­elop­ments and evaluate the best possible options for Manitoba.

      Pleased to present this bill today, and I look for­ward to seeing Manitobans engaged in this issue when and if the time comes.


Madam Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions will be addressed to the minister by the official opposition critic and an in­de­pen­dent member in the following sequence: first question by the official opposition critic and the subsequent question to be asked by an independent member. And no question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): Why did the gov­ern­ment decide that now is the right time to put forward this bill?

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): Well, if not now, then when?

      But the Americans, as the member may know, have brought forward a bill called the sunshine pro­tec­tion act. It has been intro­duced in their House of Repre­sen­tatives or Congress several times, so it made sense to prepare.

      And we're seeing what's happening in other juris­dic­tions. So Ontario has done this–some­thing similar; British Columbia has; Alberta's had a debate on this. So other provinces are preparing, and it seemed right for Manitoba to prepare, as well.

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): Just, in addition to the–and I know that the minister has named a number of other changes, are there any further legis­lative changes that actually would trigger–that he expects might trigger this, other than the–say, in Saskatchewan or in Ontario?

Mr. Goertzen: The bill is specific to changes in the United States. And so we know that, for example, Saskatchewan has stayed on one parti­cular time; I believe Arizona has done that, as well. But we really want to ensure we're aligned with our neighbours to the south to ensure that the borders are matched up in terms of time, trade, travel; I know it's im­por­tant for the airlines, as an example. So this is really only triggered by changes in the United States.

Ms. Naylor: Why has the gov­ern­ment decided to only change to permanent daylight time if the US does so? Why not just commit and make the change, as other jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan have already done?

Mr. Goertzen: I mean, this is–been debated a few different times, both in Manitoba and in this House. What we've seen is that other juris­dic­tions, like Ontario and like British Columbia, want to align for trade and travel reasons, parti­cularly with the United States. We don't want sort of a bingo card and a hodgepodge of different time zones through­out North America. So it seems like all of the provinces largely are aligning with this parti­cular process and this procedure and aligning with the American side of the border.

Ms. Naylor: Have Manitobans been consulted on whether they want to make the change to permanent daylight time? If so, what was the response? And if not, what is the gov­ern­ment's plan to consult the public about this issue?

Mr. Goertzen: So, the bill does contemplate con­sul­ta­tion with Manitobans before a change would happen.

      So if, for example, the sunshine pro­tec­tion act in the United States were to pass all of their legis­lative hoops or look like it was going to, it got sub­stan­tially along the path, then we would engage Manitobans in a way that would be deemed ap­pro­priate at that time to get their feedback on whether or not they want to go to a permanent daylight saving time.

Madam Speaker: Any further questions?


Madam Speaker: If not, debate is open.

Ms. Lisa Naylor (Wolseley): I ap­pre­ciate the op­por­tun­ity to put a few words on the record regarding this bill that amends The Official Time Act to discontinue the seasonal time change for daylight saving time.

      We know that daylight saving time is a divisive issue in Manitoba. I have to admit I didn't actually know that until I became an MLA and started getting the emails on that issue. They come pretty regularly when we spring ahead and when we fall back from a variety of con­stit­uents.

      But even this bill is conflicted over whether we should move away from daylight saving time. It doesn't fully commit to ending time changes and esta­blish­ing a permanent daylight saving time, instead leaving the decision up to the US where the bill is currently stalled in Congress.

      And we know that, as I already indicated, that thoughts on what should happen to daylight saving time in Manitoba are very mixed. Some Manitobans prefer permanent daylight time, which is what the gov­ern­­ment is sort of proposing, and this would keep the time, as it does, during the summer after the clocks are switched for daylight saving time, meaning that sunsets and sunrises would be later in winter and stay as they currently are in summer. Longer nights in winter is an obvious benefit of this system. One negative result of permanent daylight time, however, would be that some children and workers would have to make their morning commute in the dark during part of winter.

      However, others prefer permanent standard time. This would mean that the sunrises and sunsets in summer would be earlier and remain as they currently are in winter. Some sleep experts favour this, claiming it's healthier for people and it's more in line with the body's 'cicadian' rhythm.

      In Canada, daylight saving time is the practice of turning clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday of March and back one hour on the first Sunday of November. And, as we know, Canada has six standard time zones. The boundaries of the standard time zones are not necessarily as–the same as those of the cor­res­pond­ing daylight saving time zones. For example, the Mountain Time zone includes a portion of north­eastern British Columia [inaudi]–Columbia in the summer but not in the winter, and boundaries shift because some munici­palities chose not to partici­pate in daylight saving time.

      So, it's up to each province to decide whether to use daylight time, and not all do. Most, but not all, juris­dic­tions in Canada and the US have been moving their clocks ahead by one hour on the second Sunday in March and back by one hour on the first Sunday in November.

      The majority of Saskatchewan has followed Central Standard Time year-round since 1966. However, some towns along the Manitoba and Alberta border have chosen to follow the time scheme of the province beside them rather than staying with the rest of Saskatchewan.

      In 2020, Yukon Territory switched to observing Yukon Standard Time year-round, and in Canada, areas of Quebec do not change to daylight time and remain on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. Pockets of Ontario and British Columbia do not use daylight time.    

      The bill in the US Congress to make daylight saving time permanent, which would trigger Manitoba doing the same if Bill 2 is passed, has been stalled in the repre­sen­tative–House of Repre­sen­tatives since November 2022, although the US Senate passed the bill in March. Supporters of the bill in the US claim that the change will lead to brighter afternoons and increased economic activity.

      Because it's now a new year, supporters of the bill in the Senate will need to reintroduce it if they want the bill to eventually be passed. Supporters argue that, if approved, the so-called sunshine pro­tec­tion act would allow children to play outdoors later and would reduce seasonal depression. Critics, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, say it will force many children to walk to school in darkness during the winter since the measure would delay sunrise by an hour in some places.

      In US, President Biden has not said if he supports the bill to making daylight saving time permanent in the US. While this bill is currently stalled since 2015, about 30 states have intro­duced or passed legis­lation to end the twice-yearly changing of clocks, with some states proposing to do it only if neighbouring states do the same. So that sounds like what the gov­ern­ment's doing here, only wanting to make this change if our neighbouring country makes this change.

      So, I just wanted to kind of summarize how we understood the bill and to reiterate again that this is clearly a very conflicted, controversial issue among Manitobans, and I–on this side of the House, we think it's very critical that good, solid con­sul­ta­tion is done with Manitobans before the change is made.

* (16:50)

      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Dougald Lamont (St. Boniface): We've also received pleading and passionate letters, people begging us to change daylight saving, and other people who are not quite so ardent, I will say.

      This has been a long-standing debate. Certainly, the one challenge that we face in Manitoba, as we are, relatively speaking, some­what of a northern province and the difference between our shortest days and our longest days is about–is extremely extensive.

      But not only that; you know, it's also affected by how early the sun rises and how late the sun rises, which also sort of moves up and down during the year, as you–just because of the way the time works.

      So we do actually see this as being a positive measure. We do have to be synchronized with our fellow–with our fellows in–our trading neighbours in the United States. That's extremely im­por­tant; but of course, even just simply the size of the provinces that we have, the size of our province is sig­ni­fi­cant enough that there's a large difference within Manitoba from one border to the other, from the Ontario to the Saskatchewan border, of when the sun rises and when the sun sets, which also impacts–obviously it impacts everyone.

      So, we do have to acknowl­edge that, you know, it could–we have to make sure that it's not–we're not making life more difficult when we're doing this as well. I know that there's lots of times I–when it comes to daylight saving I don't–the one where I lose sleep, I don't like; the one where I gain sleep, I always ap­pre­ciate.

      But it's some­thing, basically, that we support, but we'll have to see whether anyone else to the south is interested as well.

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

An Honourable Member: Question.

Madam Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 2, The Official Time Amendment Act.

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

      I declare the motion carried.

Bill 24–The Wildfires Amendment Act

Madam Speaker: I will now call Bill 24, The Wildfires Amend­ment Act.

Hon. Greg Nesbitt (Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development): I move, seconded by the hon­our­able Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care (Mr. Johnston), that Bill 24, The Wildfires Amend­ment Act, be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

      Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been advised of the bill, and I table the message.

Madam Speaker: It has been moved by the hon­our­able Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Develop­ment, seconded by the hon­our­able Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care, that Bill 24, The Wildfires Amend­ment Act, be now read a second time and be referred to a com­mit­tee of this House.

      Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been advised of the bill, and the message is tabled.

Mr. Nesbitt: I'm pleased to stand up today for the second reading of Bill 24, The Wildfires Amend­ment Act. Proposed amend­ments to The Wildfires Act will strengthen officer powers to mitigate human-caused wildfire risks and toughen wildfire risk-mitigation require­ments.

      Every wildfire season our Manitoba Wildfire Service protects lives, property and our abundant resources from natural and human-caused wildfires. Our Manitoba Wildfire Service is respon­si­ble for controlling active fires, wildfire pre­ven­tion and mitigation activities. The service investigates all wildfire causes and leads wildfire-suppression operations through­out Manitoba, including within our beautiful prov­incial parks.

      Enacted in 1988, The Wildfires Act sets out the prov­incial respon­si­bilities, author­ities and require­ments regarding wildfire pro­tec­tion within Manitoba, in­cluding the require­ment for certain activities to follow prescribed con­di­tions that reduce fire hazards and protect people, buildings and timber resources.

      With increasing landscape pressures and con­flicts, there are growing concerns that the current officer author­ity set under The Wildfire Act are outdated, vague and open to inter­pre­ta­tion. It is of prov­incial interest to ensure that legis­lation governing wildfire-pre­ven­tion and -suppression operations is modernized and con­sistent with neighbouring juris­dic­tions.

      Wildfires can cause devastating social and econ­omic disruptions, displacing families, threatening lives, along with the loss of property and destroying valuable natural resources. It is esti­mated that almost half of all wildfires in Manitoba are human caused, and can cause up to $10 million per fire to suppress. Edu­ca­tion on mitigation measures and the en­force­ment of travel restrictions and con­di­tions on required wildfire work permits are the main measures currently available to officers to reduce human-caused wildfire events.

      To ensure officers have the right tools and author­ities for wildfire pre­ven­tion, mitigation and in­vesti­ga­tion, the de­part­ment is proposing amend­ments that will update the designation and ap­point­ment of officers and fire guardians, add separate officer inspection and in­vesti­gation provisions to provide clear officer author­ities to enter or cross lands, use equip­ment, con­duct tests and take samples and records, and update existing prohibitions and add the ability for an officer to issue stop-work orders for activities that contravene mitigation require­ments that will be set in regula­tion.

      The de­part­ment is also proposing increased max­imum summary conviction penalty amounts to $100,000 for individuals and $1 million for cor­por­ations. The maximum penal­ties have not been updated since 1998. These increases align our penal­ties with other prov­incial juris­dic­tions and better reflect the social, environ­mental and economic costs of human-caused wildfires.

      The Manitoba Wildfire Service works in close co‑operation with other forest-fighting agencies and juris­dic­tions. The service also supports munici­palities and other local author­ities who are generally respon­si­ble for wildfire suppression operations within their munici­pal boundaries.

      Enhancing en­force­ment and in­vesti­gative powers, along with increased penal­ties, is an im­por­tant fire pre­ven­tion and public safety mechanism to reduce the threat of human-caused wildfires.

      Finally, the proposed amend­ments will replace the wildfire work permit with a new regula­tion that prescribes fire safety require­ments for industry and individuals. All provinces west of Quebec, except Manitoba, prescribe wildfire safety require­ments in a regula­tion that are easily ac­ces­si­ble for industry and individuals to find and follow.

      In Manitoba, we use an outdated wildfire work permit system to manage activities in wildfire-prone areas. This can lead to inconsistencies between permits and industries, despite the applicants conducting similar activities. This change will remove that uncertainty and provide con­sistent standards for industry, Manitoba Hydro and municipalities. Existing burn permits and travel permits are not impacted and will still be required within the burn permit area to ensure activities are monitored through­out the wildfire season.

      In summary, Bill 24 aligns Manitoba with other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Alberta, by modernizing officer ap­point­ments, clearly identifying inspection and in­vesti­gation powers and moving all fire safety require­ments set under the current work permit system directly in a new regulation that applies to all industries and individuals. This will ensure regula­tory tools are available under The Wildfires Act for officers and fire guardians to mitigate human-caused wildfires that could lead to the loss of property, natural resources and, potentially, life.

      I want to end my comments by commending the work of the Manitoba Wildfire Service, our officers and de­part­ment staff who put their lives at risk to protect our com­mu­nities and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfires.

      This bill is im­por­tant and shows this gov­ern­ment's commit­ment to keeping Manitobans safe.

      Thank you.


Madam Speaker: A question period of up to 15 minutes will be held. Questions will be addressed to the minister by the official op­posi­tion critic and an in­de­pen­dent member in the following sequence: first question by the official opposition critic and the subsequent question asked by an in­de­pen­dent member. No question or answer shall exceed 45 seconds.

MLA Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon): So, the first question we always ask is who did the minister consult with prior to writing this bill, and were there some voices that were against the changes that the minister has proposed?

Hon. Greg Nesbitt (Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development): We talked to industry on this bill–mining, forestry, all types of industry up north, Manitoba Hydro–and we wanted to align with the other provinces and eliminate the need for the permits and just put it under regula­tion.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): To the minister: this is an example of a bill where the gov­ern­ment is trying to hide what it's doing in regula­tions. If you could at least give us some idea of what the regula­tions might be saying, then that would be helpful. Now–for example, the–there's a number of activities which are not permitted within a burning permit area, such as the construction of a damn, a bridge or a camp.

* (17:00)

      What sort of regula­tions would be put in place that the individual or the company would have to comply with?

Mr. Nesbitt: This bill requires the esta­blish­ment of regula­tions that clearly describe what wildfire sup­pression equip­ment and efforts are required by prescribed industries.

      Previously, these require­ments were only listed as a con­di­tion on a permit. If the client did not obtain a permit, there would not be any con­di­tions to follow and not make en­force­ment much more difficult.

      Amend­ments also clarify officer powers to in­spect and in­vesti­gate, like I said.

MLA Lindsey: So, the minister talks about the changing the permit system so that people are left to their own desires, needs, to make sure that they've got the require­ments in place because there's nobody going to be left anymore to tell them what they have to do.

      So, we know that we're so short of con­ser­va­tion officers already, adding more duties on, because now, will con­ser­va­tion officers have to go to these sites and do inspections to ensure that the proper things are in place prior to the incident happening, or will we simply be left to in­vesti­gate after the fire takes place?

Mr. Nesbitt: The industry sector in mining and forestry has felt that the existing permitting require­ments are overly 'time-consurming' and redundant. Repealing the wildfire work permit require­ment will help with these concerns by reducing red tape and time spent waiting to obtain a wildfire work permit.

      Since the equip­ment require­ments will be regulated, the require­ments to operate within the burn permit area will be known in advance. This will help with proper planning before operating.

Mr. Gerrard: The minister mentioned the power to in­vesti­gate. What sort of changes are envisioned in the regula­tions related to the power to in­vesti­gate the fires?

Mr. Nesbitt: Inspection powers: clean and–clear inspection powers were added to ensure officers have the author­ity is needed to ensure the operations comply with fire safety equip­ment and other require­ments as described in the act and regula­tion.

      The officer inspection powers are similar to what is currently found under The Fires Pre­ven­tion and Emergency Response Act and to those in other provinces.

MLA Lindsey: So, the minister talks about the officers now having duties similar to what other juris­dic­tions give their officers.

      Does the member agree that we probably need more officers to make sure they're doing those inspections in­vesti­gations? And does he believe that, seeing as we're copying what other juris­dic­tions are doing as far as duties, that perhaps maybe we should copy them when it comes to renumeration?

Mr. Nesbitt: We also–besides con­ser­va­tion officers, there's other officers that can enforce the regula­tions here. For example, fire guardians, fire commissioners, deputy fire commissioners, assist­ant fire commis­sioners, park wardens of a national park, police officers or any other persons designated under the act by the minister.

Mr. Gerrard: In a follow-up question, I'm just trying to understand the current policy or approach of the gov­ern­ment toward fires in the North.

      It seemed a number of years ago that the policy was if it wasn't close to a com­mu­nity, that there wasn't any rush to get in there and do some­thing about it.

      And there was a good example, I think it was near Wasagamack, it was east of the com­mu­nity. And it was a very small fire initially and it could have been put out fairly easily had there been quick action taken. But it–there wasn't quick action taken. As a result, the fire spread; there had to be a huge evacuation.

      I wonder if the policy has changed to get in very quickly with such fires, rather than to have–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr. Nesbitt: This really has no relation to the bill, but I'd be happy to try to explain what's going on.

      We have rapid response crews in the North that we're hoping to put into most com­mu­nities up there. They can get to the fire scene quickly if they can, if it's going to threaten a com­mu­nity before our response unit from our bases can get there.

MLA Lindsey: Thank you. That's an interesting answer that the minister just gave, because we've been trying to convince his de­part­ment that they need to have more initial-attack workers available in more com­mu­nities so that the fires don't get as big and as carried away before somebody actually gets there.

      So, did the minister just indicate that they are actually going to hire and train more of those initial workers, and station them in more com­mu­nities?

Mr. Nesbitt: I'm proud to be part of a listening gov­ern­ment. I've listened to the people of the North. And, like I said, we're planning to get back to esta­blish­ing crews in com­mu­nities that can do the initial response before our primary attack crews can come in from our bases, bring our water bombers and things like that.

      So, we're certainly moving that way.

Mr. Gerrard: So, to continue this line of questioning, concerned–which com­mu­nities would have this local, rapid-response team, and would one of these com­mu­nities be in the Island Lake area?

Mr. Nesbitt: I can't give you specifics today, but by the time we get to Estimates, I certainly will have some answers for you folks on that.

      I can't name com­mu­nities, but we're working with a number of com­mu­nities in the North, and we want to ensure they're properly trained before they're, you know, set in the com­mu­nities for the response.

      So, stay tuned on that one.

MLA Lindsey: So, I look forward to seeing this list of com­mu­nities that are going to have these initial-attack workers in them.

      And I'm left to wonder, the minister talks about all this stuff that's going to happen somewhere in the future, that he's had ample time to put some of that stuff in place already, and to make those an­nounce­ments. Is this just another case of, there's an election coming, so they're saying the right thing? Or will they actually do it?

Mr. Nesbitt: Well, Madam Speaker, the Wildfire Service–much like our con­ser­va­tion officer service–was neglected for 17 years. We've been busy picking up the pieces, re-esta­blish­ing our services under the great Natural Resources de­part­ment.

      And I want to assure the member across the road, we're taking the action for the North.

Mr. Gerrard: I–in a further question to the minister in terms of policy, I wonder what the minister's policy is with respect to fire boats.

      I was, a number of years ago, in an area of Saskatchewan, and there was an extremely effective use of fire boats on a northern lake. And it was not there to start with, but it was brought in and it was extremely infective in protecting cabins and preventing spread of–from one island or shore to another.

Mr. Nesbitt: That's the first I've heard of that, but I'd certainly be willing to take that back to the de­part­ment and see what the ex­per­ience has been in other provinces.

      We're always willing to take good ideas from our neighbours and implement them in Manitoba, if they're going to work here.

Madam Speaker: Any further questions?

Mr. Gerrard: Just to update the minister a little bit: there is a fire boat in the Whiteshell, which has been used quite a bit locally and been very helpful in addressing fires there.

      It is, I believe, permanently stationed right in the Whiteshell–I think it's not far from West Hawk Lake, if I'm not mistaken–and they're able to move it quickly to Falcon Lake, or to lakes nearby.

      But to my knowledge there hasn't been any attempt to have a fire boat that could, you know, be dropped in or–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr. Nesbitt: The member makes a good point, and some of this is new to me.

      I'll certainly check with my de­part­ment, check on that. I ap­pre­ciate the infor­ma­tion from him, and I promise I'll get back to him.

Madam Speaker: Further questions?

* (17:10)

Mr. Gerrard: I'll just finish what I was about to say, and that is that having a fire boat that would be in pieces that could be flown in and taken into a lake in the North where's there's concerns or where there's ability to use that to stop spread.

      The fire boat that was assembled quickly in northern Saskatchewan was able to send water about 300 feet, as I recall, and it was extremely effective in protecting cabins and human dwellings as well as in protecting the spread of the fire from one across–

Madam Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr. Nesbitt: I certainly ap­pre­ciate the cross-party co‑operation today, and thank my hon­our­able friend for the infor­ma­tion. And I will get back to him.

Madam Speaker: Any further questions?


Madam Speaker: If not, debate is open.

MLA Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon): I–my questions have kind of summed up where I'm going with this, is that this minister has proposed some changes, some of which we obviously agree with, some of which we have too many questions about, parti­cularly the doing-away-with-the-permit part is some­what troubling.

      I came from industry where not having the right inspection processes in place prior to cause problems, so I'm just concerned that not having someone check­ing before the burning takes place could be a problem. And I get the point that they're going to raise the fines after the fact, but after the forest burns is probably too late. So it–those are some of the concerns I have around the whole self-regula­tion aspect of it.

      The other problems I have, of course, are in rela­tion to the number of extra duties that are going to be given, potentially, to con­ser­va­tion officers, while we know that we're already so short of people to do those jobs and the minister's failing to actually employ and get those numbers up where they need to be. And now we're adding more duties onto the officers that are already stretched too thin.

      So those are some of the concerns I have. I mean, at the end of the day, we're probably going to let this bill pass, but I really wish that the minister, in the spirit of co‑operation that he's talking about, would have taken some of those concerns and really focused on addressing them with the con­ser­va­tion officers, addressing them with the people that are actually going to do the work.

      I get that he's consulted a lot with industry, but he really needed to consult with some of the Indigenous groups in the North to get their thoughts on some of these changes. He needed to focus on talking to some of the front-line staff that will be in charge of trying to carry out some of these changes.

      So, hopefully, before he gets into regula­tion, which we're supposed to trust him to make sure he does the right thing with the regula­tions, hopefully he has the proper con­ver­sa­tions with the right people to come up with the right regula­tions. I'm very concerned about that.

      Thank you.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes, just a few comments on this bill. The minister, as I interpreted his comments, was suggesting that the moving away from a permit to presumably what will be an online stan­dard­ized system, minister's suggesting that this gives greater flexibility.

      What concerns me is that we've got very different circum­stances in different parts of the province as it applies to having, you know, industries or building of bridges or what have you, the kind of precautions that would be needed. And one advantage, potentially, of a permit is that it would allow greater flexibility to individualize situations.

      So, I think it's going to be rather im­por­tant to, in making this change, to, you know, review it very early on to make sure that it is actually effective and working, because if you have a standard or a permit by regula­tion and you may end up with situations where it doesn't work as effectively as you want, and that you may need to have some more individual con­sid­era­tion just because of the tre­men­dous variability in the terrain that we're dealing with in different parts of Manitoba and the different kinds of pro­tec­tion that you need depending on whether it's a–you know, a grass fire in southern Manitoba or a forest fire in northern Manitoba, et cetera.

      I think the move that the minister is talking about to have individual com­mu­nities able to have the capa­city to respond quickly, I think that can be an im­por­tant advantage and it could potentially, in the circum­stance that I was talking about, have prevented evacuation of several thousand people. And, you know, that's saving a lot of cost by acting quickly and being prepared.

      And although it may be possible to get, you know, 90 per cent of that cost recovered from the federal gov­ern­ment for emergency preparedness, you know, that's not really the best way to do this if we can improve the lives of people by not having to evacuate them to begin with. And there should be–and maybe the minister, when he's talking with his federal counterparts, there should be better funding for pre­ven­tion op­por­tun­ities when we're talking about wildfires because that can save a lot of dollars, and many of those dollars would be federal and not just prov­incial.

      I did–had the op­por­tun­ity, with my colleague from Tyndall Park a number of years ago, to visit with several Cabinet ministers. And I think at that point it was Ralph Goodale who was respon­si­ble for emer­gency measures, and talked to him about the need for fire-safety plans and fire-safety training for all the com­mu­nities in the North because, as we saw with the Fort McMurray fire, that–it can–fires can move very quickly and they can do a lot of damage.

      And there are, you know, safety measures that can be taken–the esta­blish­ment of firebreaks, for example. Many of the areas in northern Manitoba which haven't been burned for some time build up a lot of under­storey that can burn very quickly.

      But, you know, actually sometimes in the North, quite simple measures can have quite an impact. In other words, that it's the area imme­diately around a cabin, for example, or a home, if that–if there is dry material which is susceptible to getting light by a spark right adjacent to a home, then you've got a situation where you may have–are more likely to have problems.

      And so, one of the first things to do is to, you know, clear the area around a home and then to wet it down. And it's interesting that, even with quite big fires, a modest amount of wetting the area around a home like this and protecting it can actually be remark­ably effective in having the fire move away, because many of these fires are moving along the ground as well as going in the trees. And–but if you can protect and get the ground wet, it can make a big difference.

      One of the interesting things that I learned, as an example, is that–one of the people that I was with at the time, that there was fire where I was in northern Saskatchewan, told me that the first thing that he does is, when the–a fire near a home is to rip off the eaves­troughs, because the eavestroughs tend to accumulate dead leaves and things like that that are burning. And the moment you get a fire in those eavestroughs, it has a chance to get right into the roof.

* (17:20)

      And, of course, putting metal roofs on can help, but if you wet down the roof and you take away the eavestroughs or completely clear them out, and you can make a, you know, a small thing like that can actually make quite a big difference.

      So, there is lots that can be done by people locally, not just making sure that you've got a rapid response for the com­mu­nity when the fire is small, but also in the com­mu­nity itself, to protect homes and people from damage to the fire.

      It's interesting, I watched–in the Fort McMurray example, I watched some video footage, and it was really interesting the way that, you know, sparks got into an area right beside a home and–where there was dead–deadwood and dead trees, dead shrub. And, you know, imme­diately–because it, you know, was sort of like setting a match–I mean, it got burning and it got into the home. And where homes were prepared, had cleared the area around the home, where they had wet them down, those homes were protected. And so, even with a fire the size of Fort McMurray, doing some sensible but modest things can make a big difference in terms of protecting homes and com­mu­nities.

      I pass that on, just by way of comment and some ex­per­ience. I just happened to be in northern Saskatchewan at time that they had some very extensive fires and was there, you know, watching to see what people were doing.

      Anyway, with those comments, I will–we should move on. I look forward to this bill being passed and into law, but I do believe–as I said–that it needs to be looked at closely in case that some issues come up.

      Thank you.

Madam Speaker: The question before the House is second reading of Bill 24, The Wildfires Amend­ment Act.

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

      I declare the motion carried.

* * *

Madam Speaker: The–that concludes the busi­ness of the House.

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



Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Vol. 43b


Introduction of Bills

Bill 239–The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act (Application Fees and Deposits)

Micklefield  1587

Tabling of Reports

Klein  1587

Ministerial Statements

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Khan  1587

Brar 1588

Lamont 1588

Members' Statements

Super-Spike Volleyball

Morley-Lecomte  1589

Klinic Community Health Centre

Naylor 1589

Team Terrick

Michaleski 1590

Twila Richards

Gerrard  1590

Renters Town Hall in St. James

Sala  1591

Speaker's Statement

Driedger 1591

Oral Questions

Misericordia Sleep Clinic

Kinew   1591

Stefanson  1591

Grace Hospital

Kinew  1592

Stefanson  1593

Grace Hospital

Asagwara  1594

Gordon  1594

Allied Health Professionals

Marcelino  1595

Teitsma  1595

Manitoba's Crown Prosecutors

Wiebe  1596

Teitsma  1596

Goertzen  1597

Five-Year Review of Accessibility for Manitobans Act

Fontaine 1597

Squires 1597

Family Physician Shortage

Lamont 1598

Gordon  1598

Children with Learning Disabilities

Gerrard  1599

Ewasko  1599

Sale and Purchase of Bear Spray

Wowchuk  1599

Johnson  1599

Conservation Officers

Lindsey  1599

Nesbitt 1599


Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

Altomare  1600

Afghan Refugees in Manitoba

Gerrard  1600

Punjabi Bilingual Programs in Public Schools

Asagwara  1601

Provincial Road 224

Lathlin  1602

Security System Incentive Program

Maloway  1602




Second Readings

Bill 10–The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Social Responsibility Fee Repealed)

Cullen  1603


Sala  1603

Cullen  1603

Gerrard  1606


Sala  1606

Gerrard  1608

Bill 23–The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Amendment Act

Squires 1609


Fontaine  1610

Squires 1611

Gerrard  1611


Fontaine  1613

Gerrard  1614

Bill 26–The Limitations Amendment and Public Officers Amendment Act

Goertzen  1616


Wiebe  1617

Goertzen  1617

Lamoureux  1617


Wiebe  1618

Lamoureux  1619

Bill 29–The Life Leases Amendment Act

Teitsma  1620


Sandhu  1620

Teitsma  1620

Lamont 1621


Sandhu  1622

Lamont 1623

Bill 2–The Official Time Amendment Act

Goertzen  1623


Naylor 1624

Goertzen  1624

Lamont 1624


Naylor 1625

Lamont 1626

Bill 24–The Wildfires Amendment Act

Nesbitt 1626


Lindsey  1628

Nesbitt 1628

Gerrard  1628


Lindsey  1630

Gerrard  1630