Speech from The Last Tory

As a general philosophy, I will be approaching issues with compassion, fiscal responsibility and on environmental issues, as a right-of-centre naturalist.

Honourable Steven Fletcher MLA for Assiniboia

November 2018

 

Madame Speaker and members of the Manitoba Legislature,

I wish to thank the people of Assiniboia, Manitoba and Canada for their support during the twists and turns of my life’s journey.

As leader of the Manitoba Party, our team of dedicated individuals, will improve our democratic systems and processes in Manitoba.

There is no way I can repay society for the opportunities that I have had in my life. However, public service allows me the opportunity to pay down some of my debt to all.

I wish to share with Manitobans and the legislative assembly, the public policy goals I will pursue in the upcoming year.

As leader of the Manitoba Party and as many have suggested, “The Last Tory”, I look forward to working with everyone on an issue-by-issue basis.

A large group of dedicated and passionate Manitobans have grouped together to create a better vision for Manitoba. This group of individuals cannot be placed on a political spectrum. They are individuals. They believe in individuals, they believe in themselves. They believe in Manitoba and the people of Manitoba. These individuals have voted for all parties, but have become disenchanted with all powerful political parties that ignore the people.

Our Mission

Our mission is to strengthen democracy in Manitoba by engaging the people we serve and recognizing their value as individuals. We exist to serve, not to dictate to those who work tirelessly to care for themselves, their families, communities and our Province.

Our Vision

Our vision is for a prosperous, thriving Manitoba, limited only by the efforts of Manitobans with the freedom to maximize their opportunities and contribute to our society. Neighbourhoods and communities are the core of our economic and social progress. We will work with the people to achieve a peaceful, prosperous, safe, secure and stable society.

Our Values

We value government as an agent of the people of Manitoba, duty bound to act in best interest of Manitobans at all times.

We value the ties between government and the people; it is the people’s government, not their overlord.  

We value a government that is open, honest and communicates effectively and in plain language.

We value compassionate, ethical and honest dealing by government, all crown corporations, agencies, departments, elected representatives and workers at all times.

We value elected representatives who represent their constituents and are free to challenge policies publicly and debate issues regardless of our caucus stand on a particular subject.

We value the role of the opposition in our legislature in providing constructive and reasonable alternatives to government; we reject obstruction and opposition without just cause. 

We value our freedom and we recognize that freedom is not given to people by their government, but that people delegate some of their freedom to government, and may revoke that delegation.

We value an educated workforce.

We value government, acting as an agent for Manitobans, that cares for those who cannot care for themselves.

We value a fiscally responsible government that cares for taxpayer dollars as an agent of the people, exercising common sense and employing efficiency and prudence in all budgetary decisions.

We value self-reliance, and one way that we will measure our progress toward our vision of a prosperous, thriving Manitoba is for Manitoba to become a net contributor to federal Equalization payments.

These values are integral to implementing our vision for Manitoba.

Current Leadership

Many of these principles and policies have collapsed under the current provincial leadership.

It seems that in order for the Premier to listen to MLAs, they must be removed from caucus. Manitobans see the flip-flops, the fudging, the fiddling and fondling of public funds leading to financial fiasco.

More will be said on this topic later in this speech and document.

Interestingly, last month the Premier finally took my advice and dropped the carbon tax. The government also copied my private members bill to bring back the Queens Council1 designation to Manitoba to be awarded to those who have distinguished themselves in the legal profession.

This Past Year

I will address the issues not raised in the throne speech or issues the government has misinterpreted or ignored.

But first, let’s examine the situation since the last throne speech. Unfortunately for Manitobans, the situation is far more dire than the government tried to suggest through the Throne Speech just a few days ago.

The fact that the government has refused to listen to Manitobans, has led to abysmal cross departmental mismanagement and gross government failures.

Manitobans touched by the economy, the public sector, crown corporations, the environment and priority social programs have all been let down by this government.

Manitoba Hydro

  • The en masse resignation of the entire Manitoba Hydro board. The main reason for this given by the very well respected Manitoban, Sandy Riley, is that the government just would not listen to the Board. In fact, the government would not even meet with the Board. Unprecedented in Manitoba, and perhaps Canadian history, the entire Board of respected Manitobans resigned because of the neglect of the government.
  • The government unaware and caught flat footed, appointed an incomplete board. The replacement board had to publicly plea to the government to take action and appoint individuals with the skill sets necessary such as accounting and engineering, that are essential for a Board such as Manitoba Hydro to operate.
  • It is a terrible state of affairs when the government loses an entire Board and replaces it with a Board missing the essential knowledge and experience.

Therefore, we have learned beyond a doubt that the Hydro Board is only for optics. Manitoba Hydro is run by the Premier’s office.

This Premier has made Manitoba Hydro an extension of his office and demonstrates the politicalization of everything the government touches.

Since it is the Premier who is running Manitoba Hydro, it is the Premier that must be held to account.

Every opportunity since the 2016 election to set Manitoba Hydro on the right path, or mitigate the mistakes of the past have been missed, or the mistakes of the past have been expanded on and made worse.

Some examples include attacking the Metis Federation, a matter that is now in the courts. The continuation of the Minnesota Line, failure to address Bipole III, land expropriations or Manitoba Hydro restructuring.

Since the government’s first Throne Speech, Aboriginal and Metis people of Manitoba have been acknowledged and recognized as the first inhabitants of the land we call Manitoba. However, not this year. The government in it’s petty and personal approach to politics excluded the mention of the Metis. This is likely due to the court action the government brought on to itself by provoking the Metis federation.

The Hydro related failures continue. The list continues.

Creation of Creepy Crown corporation of Efficiency Manitoba

  • The creation of a useless new creepy crown corporation called Efficiency Manitoba.
  • This new crown corporation is mandated to reduce the consumption of green hydroelectric power, in spite of the fact that Manitoba Hydro has too much power generation and nowhere to sell its clean power. According to the Public Utilities Board and Manitoba Hydro’s own numbers, this policy alone will cost Manitoba Hydro billions of dollars in lost revenue, while actually increasing the cost of hydro power to Manitobans.
  • Efficiency Manitoba is an extraordinary example of government not understanding its responsibilities. In addition, this new crown corporation will bring in additional costs to people who heat their homes using natural gas. It will bring red tape and additional costs to the transportation industry, which it will somehow regulate. And drinkable water will be regulated through this crown corporation. All of which will be paid for by Manitoba Hydro.
  • This inefficient crown corporation will also regulate potable water. The government has failed to explain why such a provision exists. Is it the government’s intention to put a price on water? Is it the government’s intention to monitor the water people use in their private lives? In Manitoba homes? In Manitoba kitchens? In Manitoba bathrooms?
  • A creepy crown corporation indeed.
  • Efficiency Manitoba will fail with its current mandate, but will be a case study for future political science students and MLAs in mission creep, mismanagement; missed opportunities and general government mess-ups.

Time does not permit a complete summary of the Hydro fiasco.

Citizens Inquiry

This is why in the last reply to the Throne Speech in 2017, I am committed to conducting a citizen inquiry into Manitoba Hydro. This task has been undertaken with considerable success and will continue in the upcoming year.

The citizens’ inquiry has heard from many Manitobans, it has broadcast its hearings live over the Internet and will present a written report.

The government, embarrassed by a single MLA conducting a successful inquiry into Manitoba Hydro, has decided to bring a well-respected Canadian to review a little portion of the hydro fiasco.

However, the scope and nature of this project falls far below the expectations of Manitobans. Given the mandate and scope of work, the government risks the charge that is not serious about fixing the many problems that exist with Manitoba Hydro, while politicizing any critiques.

Fiscal Fiasco

Fiscal policy in the past year has been a “Made-in-Manitoba fiasco”.

The budget implementation bill was introduced in the middle of August.

The government refused to admit what everyone can see; the government does not have its act together when it comes to the budget or financial planning.

Perhaps the most obvious example of a government that does not know where it is, nor does it know where it is going, is the “Made-in-Manitoba” carbon tax fiscal flip-flop fiasco.

In my reply to the Throne Speech last year, I made it clear that I was opposed to the government’s plan to introduce a carbon tax.

In fact, I was the only MLA to take this position.

The government MLAs howled and mocked me and my position on the carbon tax. The Premier even had me removed from the Conservative caucus for asking questions about this policy.

Today the Premier has embraced my common sense position on this issue, but the result is a major fiscal hole in the budget and a green plan that is in tatters and decomposing.

This is a classic example of the self-inflicted trouble the Premier creates when he ignores everyone. The Premier’s style of being too political rather than principled or practical or both, has demonstrated who-is-who.

The former board of Manitoba Hydro, Metis federation, PC Manitoba membership, public servants and many in his own caucus, have realized the Premier is wrong far more often than he is right.

I am pleased with my principled position on the carbon tax, Efficiency Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, Democratic reform and conflict-of-interest legislation, to name a few.

Forcing the government to flip-flop on the carbon tax has been a great personal vindication. I wish to thank the people of Assiniboia and all Manitobans for their support on this issue over the last 2 years.

Undermining everyone who is opposed to the Carbon Tax in Canada

The Premier has provided Prime Minister and the Federal Liberal Party a huge gift by taking the position he did on the carbon tax.

The damage done to those who oppose the carbon tax across the country, including the Premiers of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan and federal MPs and parties opposed to the carbon tax, is profound.

Any conceivable jurisdictional legal argument that these Premiers may have had, have all been undermined by our Premier.

Poor public policy can create huge problems for the common person and provinces.

Manitoba’s position on the carbon tax will be the legacy of this Premier.

He established the principle in agreement with the Federal Liberal Party, but could not agree on how fast to pay the price. The Premier wanted to charge 250% more on Manitobans than even Ottawa was asking.

He lost the principle and the public will pay the price for this Premiers checker game.

Conflict-of-Interest

Manitoba’s conflict-of-interest legislation is woefully inadequate and must be modernized. This issue should have been one of the first items for the new government when it was elected.

The principles of “trust and verify” should be cornerstones of our conflict-of-interest Legislative framework.

The government still refuses to introduce comprehensive conflict-of-interest legislation.

There is no mention of this issue in the speech from the throne. In the last year I have introduced legislation which the government has ignored.

I have introduced resolutions on conflict-of-interest which the government has ignored.

The government promised on May 18, 2018 that it would introduce legislation in the fall. We now know the government has no intention of introducing any kind of conflict-of-interest legislation. The government should introduce legislation immediately. Implement it immediately. Manitobans will not be ignored, nor do they tolerate a government that talks about integrity but has none.

The conflict-of-interest Commissioner has agreed with my statement from several years ago that the conflict-of-interest legislation in Manitoba is the worst in the county.

The Commissioner brought forth a report with 83 recommendations on how to improve the legislation.

The government announced the day after they defeated my bill that they were going to introduce conflict-of-interest legislation this fall- they have not nor do they intend to introduce the promise legislation.

Another promise made, another promise broken.

Beware of government standing committees in the middle of summer

In typical style, July 29, 2018 on a beautiful summer evening, the government tried to pass a motion at a standing committee that could be the instrument the government would use to dismiss the conflict-of-interest Commissioner in some sort of retribution for his thorough report with its 83 recommendations on conflict-of-interest.

The conflict-of-interest Commissioner raised some uncomfortable truths for some MLAs. But rather than listen to the recommendations, the government refused to receive the report. This left the only option for the conflict-of-interest Commissioner which was to provide the report directly to MLAs.

Thank goodness, he made MLAs aware.

This is a case study of why independent officers of the Legislature, need to be independent.

This is also a lesson to all MLAs, especially opposition parties, if the government is calling committee meetings in the middle of summer, out-of-the-blue, the government is likely up to no good.

Looking forward

As we move forward, in this session, I will also focus on policy areas where the government has remained silent.

As a general philosophy, I will be approaching issues with compassion, fiscal responsibility and on environmental issues, as a right-of-centre naturalist.

Empathy will be used for good decision making rather than temporary “feel-good” initiatives but ultimately poor decisions for individuals and Manitobans.

Democracy

On the issue of democracy, I will follow the long-held traditions of Toryism.

The most important Tory principle is representing the people who do the voting.

As Edmund Burke suggested, Queen and country first, the people who elect you directly second and somewhere after that is the party.

I will enhance government performance by providing constructive comments on policy.

The government has ultimately taken my advice over the past year on major issues such as the carbon tax.

Although the government still fails to follow through on the entire scope of various suggestions. Again, on the carbon tax, the government has left a huge fiscal hole and refuse to take other MLA suggestions on the environment.

I get my advice from the people of Manitoba. If the government wishes not to take my advice, they should simply listen to Manitobans in the first place.

Hopefully, we will help guide the government to a more inclusive and transparent method of government.

Low standard for success

The government states its goal to be “the most improved province in Canada”.

This is a dismal statement.

Perhaps the government is happy with a “participation badge” at the end of its term.

To say that we want to be the most improved province is just fluff, blue skies and puffy clouds, with unicorns hopping in the fields.

Improve?

Sure, but to compare to other provinces is an easy test to pass.

Manitoba can be the best and if it is not, Manitoba can become the best.

A standard of success that can be measured, a standard that is meaningful, a standard worth being proud of in the Canadian federation is let’s make Manitoba a ‘’have’’ province and a net contributor to equalization payments rather than the current situation where forty cents of every dollar spent by the provincial government is every dollar spent in Ottawa.

Analysis

However, first we need to understand why the Manitoba economy is not reaching its full potential.

We need to understand how Manitoba Hydro has found itself in a fiscal disaster zone in the order of billions of dollars.

With an understanding of the causes of mistakes of the past, we can better ensure that those mistakes made do not happen again.

Simultaneously, new good decisions need to be made in public policy.

In the past, Manitoba could afford costly mistakes, but those days are gone.

The government must get it right the first time.

As member of this grand assembly, we must endeavour to create a society to allow each individual to reach their full potential as human beings. Things will work out with effort, as Manitobans we must embrace personal responsibility with a collective sense of purpose.

Taxes

Last year I said the following in my reply to the Throne

“I will oppose the carbon tax'’

I continue to state the following ‘’Manitoba should not impose a tax onto ourselves. If Ottawa wants to impose a tax, they have that power, but Manitobans and their MLAs must not be complicit in Ottawa’s poor public policy.

Bringing a so called Made-in-Manitoba climate change plan, one that introduces a federal driven tax at two and a half times of what Ottawa suggests for 2018, will lead to one certain outcome. The outcome is Manitobans will pay more tax forever.

If the federal policy changes after the next federal election, Manitobans will still be paying far more than most provinces.

Moreover, and best to remember, the Progressive Conservative party of Manitoba, pledged before being elected, less than two years ago, not to increase taxes. Instead, within 24 months of assuming Government, it is increasing taxes just as its largest crown corporation seeks massive rate hikes.

This is ironic. The new tax will raise approximately as much money per year as the 1% Provincial sales tax increase the government correctly railed against when they were in opposition.

The argument that Ottawa made Manitoba do it does not hold water. If Ottawa decides to tax Manitobans for our green economy, they have the power. Let Ottawa make their case and incur the corresponding public reaction.

Ottawa says that any money raised by carbon pricing will be returned to Manitoba. This makes the Manitoba government position on this issue smoggy at best and pollutes its public policy decisions.

These are the facts on taxes under this government. Their pledge on a referendum on tax increases is non-sense. Manitobans cannot take the Premiers comments on taxes seriously. The government is simply being silly and simple.

Crown corporations

There have been calls from all sides for there to be an inquiry into Manitoba Hydro. Manitobans demand answers about not only Bipole III, but also the decision-making that led to the over-building of generating capacity without identifying customers willing to pay for the cost of that power, resulting in Manitobans facing massive increases in utility bills. Yet, the government has chosen not to conduct an inquiry, why?

I will conduct a citizens’ inquiry which will have all the hallmarks of a regular inquiry.

The meetings are public, transcripts will be published, and a report produced.

Much of the evidence placed before the Public Utilities Board will be available in the citizens inquiry.

The Public Utility Board (PUB) has made numerous observations that make the government approach to Hydro impossible.

In addition, the public hearings will also bring to light the truth surrounding the new crown corporation created under the Efficiency Manitoba Act.

This unnecessary act is a notable example of government mission creep and is creepy as previously mentioned.

The new crown corporation is expected to be constituted in the coming months.

Through public hearings I will initiate along with willing MLAs and other Manitobans will be able to discuss the bill in a manner that is far more respectful to Manitobans than the disgraceful process that occurred when the bill went in front of the legislative committee last April-May 2017.

The Environment

My policy on the environment will be aggressive, informed by science, with solutions seen through the lens of a right-of-center naturalist.

I will be clear about the distinction between greenhouse gases and pollution.

Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are invisible and occur naturally. Pollution comes in many forms, but for the purposes of the current debate, the most obvious form of pollution in the atmosphere is seen in the form of smog.

Smog consists of particulates, nitric oxides, and sulfur oxides. (Sometimes referred to colloquially as SOx and NOx.)

Smog is often created by the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity and power our vehicles.  I agree that methane and carbon dioxide are gases that can affect global climate and other gases such as nitrates can also contribute.

If Manitobans and Canadians are serious about reducing greenhouse gases, all sides need to be serious about the solutions.

For too long this debate has been us against them; do-or-die; empty platitudes from all sides; all giving the appearance of dealing with this important issue while in reality doing nothing. This is not a binary, yes-no issue.

Putting a price on carbon does not reduce greenhouse gases. The provincial governments plan to introduce a carbon tax will cost Manitobans a quarter of a billion, not counting a quarter of a billion for Hydro bills over the next two years. While not one single molecule of GHG’s will be reduced.

Last December at the invitation of the federal government of Germany, I attended a week long energy study and education program. The knowledge gained was very useful and can be found on my website.

I will continue my decade long campaign to use clean, Manitoba electric power to displace the fossil fuels used in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and in the US, while improving our utilities outlook.

Investments in interconnecting Manitobans electricity grid to be compatible with the grids of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and our neighbours to the south will be an investment worth making for Canada and the world. The Canada West foundation has recently released a report that echoes my sentiments on this issue last month.

The government has picked up some of the jargon but continues to fail.

As I said last year ‘’The Manitoba government should cancel the carbon tax and the “Made-in-Manitoba-climate plan” and replace it with an active policy of insisting the federal government, through its powers through the national energy board, convince, if not force other provinces to accept relatively cheap and certainly clean Manitoba power.’’

As a Federal Cabinet minister, I shared the responsibility with my colleague, Honourable Dennis Lebel, in creating the Building Canada Fund. As we both represented federal ridings in Hydro rich provinces, we understood the important role clean Hydro power generation can have on the environment and economy.

This is why we made sure that at least 6 billion dollars, through the Building Canada Fund, could be accessible for the use of transmission interconnection between provinces. (4 billion dollars can be found in “projects of regional significance” and another 2 billion set aside for “green initiatives” for the economy and environment).

These funds are booked and as far as I am aware, are still available, but have not been accessed.

I will encourage the federal government, this provincial government, Manitoba Hydro and other stakeholders to pursue all options for the huge surplus of clean power that Manitoba will be generating for decades to come.

What we do need for sure, are creative and innovated ideas that achieve results and do not increase taxes unnecessarily.

Manitoba mining industry and natural resources

The provincial government has failed the mining industry.

There has been nothing substantive suggested in Throne speech.

We were promised a clear plan and Manitobans have received nothing. I have begun a “mindful mining Manitoba initiative”. The elements of this will be unveiled over the next period of time.

At www.mindfulmining.com people can catch up on my latest policy proposals and commentary. This effort is far more than the government has offered.

The Manitoba mining industry is near collapse.

In the Throne Speech, the government could only name one project in Manitoba in the mining sector. There should be scores of mining projects, each worth millions if not billions of dollars.

Vale is shutting its smelter, refinery and current nickel belt is depleting fast. Hudbay has already shut down its smelter. Exploration is slowing. Mining has been the third largest industry in the province. Billion future dollars of royalties and tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.

The government must do the following immediately or risk all major mining companies moving their capital investments of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to other countries.

The government must publicly condemn clearly and without equivocation to stakeholders that the federal announcement of creating a national park right on top of the extension of the Thompson nickel belt will not happen.

Only after the province and the federal government both agree to place future national parks away from the Thompson nickel belt or other mining opportunities will there be confidence by investors, mining companies, prospectors, and others to make the massive investments necessary to keep mining alive in Manitoba.

It was a mistake to announce such a park in such an economically vital area.

To further the mining industry in Manitoba the government must also do the following:

  • Ensure that duty to consult First Nations is done in a meaningful and proactive manner.
  • Create a framework that protects greenstone belts and other potential resource rich areas for the express purpose of mining. These mining “parks” will provide opportunities for those who live in our north and bring needed assurances to those who invest in the mining industry that their efforts will be protected from uninformed public policy - such as the lowlands park announcement by the federal liberal government in their 2017 budget.
  • Create a user pay fund to be set aside for the future rehabilitation or remediation of mining sites.
  • Bring about a reintroduction of the Geological Engineering program to the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba.
  • Creating capacity in geoscience at the university and college level.
  • Demonstrate support for the mining industry, the cancellation of the annual Manitoba mining conference by the government sends very negative vibes to the industry.

Parks

Manitoba has many opportunities to create unique parks, and on a large scale. I will advocate for parks, ones that do not interfere with resource development and are also important.

On November 9th, 2017, I raised a matter of urgent public importance. Since my statement, I have written in well-known publications related to mining about the need to ensure that viable mining opportunities remain in Manitoba.

This year, the federal government announced a United Nations World Heritage park on the east-side of Lake Winnipeg with corresponding buffer zones.

Almost sixty thousand kilometers have been set aside in Manitoba for parks. If Manitoba is being required to preserve land areas larger than many European countries, Manitoba should be compensated by the federal government and/or the world community.

In the November 9 statement, I explained that Manitoba has the unique opportunity to preserve one of the last untouched watersheds in the world. The Seal river watershed offers the unique opportunity to protect 50,000 square kilometers of virgin wilderness.

At present, there are no mining claims in the watershed.

There is no prospect that there will be any mining development there for centuries. Working with the First Nations there is an opportunity that comes once in a civilization, that is to create a “canoe park:” where people will be able to drink the water from the side of their canoe, knowing that neither motors nor human activity will ruin the original authenticity of this natural area. 

I will encourage the province and the federal government to work together with First Nations and Manitobans to explore how this watershed can be preserved forever.

Given the parkland areas announced by the federal government this year in Manitoba, it may be appropriate to insist that Manitoba is compensated financially for the lost economic opportunity, including mining and forestry.

Another approach may be to create ‘’mining parks’’ as previously mentioned.

These approaches are ‘’out-of-the-box’’ suggestions that can meet the needs and desires of everyone.

Let us take up the goodwill of those wanting to have protected areas and focus everyone involved in protecting what can be protected without sacrificing unnecessarily either the environment or economic development.

Given the huge tracks of land that have already set-aside in Manitoba, any future parks including the Seal River watershed should be a showcase of where the environment and mining can co-exist in the 21st century. One not affecting the other.

Pledge to Reduce Red Tape

In the throne speech, the government stated that it had 50 suggestions from the public to reduce red tape. Wow, 50! The average Manitoban can provide 500 suggestions off of the top of their head. When did the Manitoba government lose its head? April 2016?

I will continue efforts to reduce red tape.

Unnecessary regulatory barriers cause inefficiency and undue costs to Manitobans and businesses, and can literally prevent success. The government has made some strides to reduce red tape in some areas of government. I will support these efforts.

However, the government has created red tape in other areas. The creation of a new crown corporation called Efficiency Manitoba will be exactly the opposite of what the name suggests. This crown corporation will create a larger bureaucracy, and create regulations where there had been none before and none are needed.

Autonomous vehicles

It is good that the government has autonomous vehicles on its radar and is mentioned in the Throne Speech. A major issue on autonomous vehicles is insurance. Manitoba may have a solution for the rest of the world with its unique no-fault insurance frame-work.

There are many problems with Manitoba’s no-fault insurance Personal Injury Protection Plan. But, with the appropriate adjustments, the principles of the no-fault insurance can be very helpful in society’s transition to autonomous vehicles.

I have introduced legislation to improve Manitoba Public Insurance legislation and it pertains to young people and/or the catastrophically injured.

This is a Made-in-Manitoba approach that could be the model for other jurisdictions in North America while avoiding the very litigious culture of our friends south of the border.

Organ Donation

The government promised a task force, a report and an action plan, they have failed.

I had submitted a comprehensive submission to the supposed task force and like every other Manitoban that did as well, we have heard nothing back from the government.

Until recently, the government has been silent on the issue of Organ Donation. I am pleased to say, and in reaction to a private members bill that I introduced in the last session, the government announced a special Legislative committee to examine the issue of Organ Donation.

The government then downgraded the standing committee to a task-force and we hear nothing on this issue in the Throne Speech.

Unfortunately, on the day of the announcement the government spokesperson seemed to limit the scope of the committees mandate by eliminating one of the most progressive suggestions around Organ Donation.

Sadly, the outcome of the committee seems to be pre-determined, I will continue to advocate for a debate that includes presumed consent for Organ Donation.

To this end I have already introduced the appropriate Legislation which I hope will widen the scope of the committee.  

 

Democratic reform

This past year, the forces of legal action, expect opinion and public opinion forced the government to remove section 53.2.1 from the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Act.

  • Demonstrate, through the courts if necessary, the unconstitutionality of Section 53.2.1 of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Act
  • Introduce legislation to reduce the number of MLAs by 18 in Manitoba. Obviously, the job of even the busiest and most important MLA can be done from thousands of kilometers away on a regular basis.
  • Manitobans are over governed. There are school boards which together have hundreds of trustees, 137 municipalities, First Nation governments, city councilors, Members of Parliament and Senators. Reducing the number of MLAs is a far more effective way to save tax payers money than the 1.5% “pay freeze” suggested by the government caucus. It is also a much more transparent suggestion and more difficult to make disappear as the government has done with it’s policy on salaries.
  • The election boundaries for the next provincial election will be announced in the next month. I was pleased to present to the Commission on the electoral boundaries.
  • I will make effort to, in consultation with Manitobans, to remove party names from the ballots. This will strengthen the role of MLAs and weaken the all-powerful political party institution. Our system of government is based on voting for the person. The party and the leader are secondary. I hope this modest and easily implemented suggestion is used in the next election. It may not be good for political parties, but it sure is good for the people who vote.
  • The manner in which the legislature conducts itself during normal sitting times and the legislative committees must improve. I look forward to working with MLAs who share this point of view to make the legislature more conducive to more input and debate. For example, the manner in which Bill 19 The Efficiency Manitoba Act was dealt with by the MLAs at committee was an embarrassment to any self-respecting elected official or member of the public.
  • I will be introducing legislation designed to increase voter participation. This legislation should be complete and ready for introduction in April 2019.

Transparency and Public Input

In principle, Manitobans need to be involved in change. The government is correct when they say, “change is difficult”, but it is ultimately made more difficult if the public perceives the process to be hidden or underhanded.

In the case of the Vimy Arena site, the allegation that the province and city conspired to avoid proper community input in the rezoning of the land has caused great concern amongst the people of Assiniboia and St. James. I hope that the Vimy site controversy will be a “learning moment” for both the City of Winnipeg and the province.

Since last year, the issue of the Vimy Arena site, the process to which the government is acquiring the land and the complete breakdown of an addictions strategy have become very evident.

In the past year we have learned that the entire addiction strategy of the government is a failure. The VIRGO report on addiction was the political equivalent of an indictment of the provincial government.

We learned that the government is using the Manitoba Housing Renewal Corporation as a vehicle to by-pass the people of St. James and all Manitobans.

Manitoba Housing Renewal Corporation does not have the legislative mandate to regulate, monitor, fund, or the skill set to approve architectural necessities required by best practices with addiction recovery facilities.

Manitobans have also learned this year that Manitoba Health is in no way involved with the Vimy Arena site. We have learned that Manitoba Health is not regulating the facility, we have learned that the treatment program is controversial based on empirical evidence.

We have learned that the government did not do a site analysis on the appropriateness of placing a drug recovery center in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.

We have learned that this provincial government is forcing the city of Winnipeg to sell land worth millions for one dollar.

The people of St. James are enraged everyday this house sits (bar 2 days). I have introduced petition after petition signed by thousands of residents. Since the beginning of this session, petitions have been tabled. Each one ignored by the government. It is particularly disappointing that the member from Kirkfield Park has initiated the provincial purchase of the Vimy Arena land. The MLA for Kirkfield Park who was minister responsible for housing failed to conduct due diligence on other property that is available and empty such as the old Children’s Hospital on Wellington Crescent which remains empty and owned by the province and zoned appropriately.

People must not be ignored and when they are, the people will, in the end, return the favour. Rather than creating harmony, deceit leads to societal breakdown. The ends do not justify the means in a democratic society.

Legislative Agenda

My specific Legislative agenda will be as follows with some additions to come.

  • The Manitoba Public Insurance Amendment Act2
  • The Legislative Assembly Amendment Act3
  • The Insurance Amendment Act4
  • The Electoral Divisions Amendment Act5
  • The Brookside Cemetery Recognition Act6
  • The Manitoba Electoral Finance Amendment Act7
  • The Conflict-of-Interest Act8
  • The Gift-of-Life Act (Human Tissue Gift Act Amended)9

Initiatives Beyond the Legislature

Citizens Inquiry into Hydro

Efficiency Manitoba

A Better Made-in-Manitoba Climate Plan-including expanded East-West Transmission Grid with Manitoba as the Centre for Clean Power

Transparency Accountability and Democracy

Legislature Reform

Regular Town Halls with the People of Assiniboia and Manitoba

Real Consultation vs Make Believe Consultation

Conclusion

In my new space in this great and storied Legislative chamber, I will give credit to the government on jobs well done, provide helpful proactive suggestions to improve public policy and, when and where, the government is off course, I will point to our North Star and give the opportunity for the government to find their way back on course.

It is my aim to create an environment in this place, the Legislature, that fosters thorough debate and good public policy. I will listen to the people of Manitoba and reflect on their commentary.

I am quite happy to have my own course corrected when the people, the science, our knowledge, our collective empathy and compassion suggest better solutions to the challenges that we face as Manitobans and as Canadians.

We all have a shared responsibility for our fellow human beings and for the future generations to come.

Every person should have the opportunity to reach their full potential as human beings.

Madam Speaker, we live in the best country in the world, at the best time in human history to be alive. Indeed, we have each won the lottery of life.

May we work together and as our Provincial motto says may Manitoba always be “glorious and free”.

 Thank you to the people of Assiniboia and indeed Manitoba for the opportunity to serve in this place. Only in Canada is it possible for anyone from anywhere to reach the highest offices in the land under circumstances, which in any other land, would destroy the human soul.

May God keep our land glorious and free, God Save the Queen.

 

 

Explanatory Notes

1. Queen's Counsel (Q.C.) is an honorary title bestowed on a lawyer to recognize exceptional merit in their profession.

A Queen's Counsel is appointed by Cabinet on the advice of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Before giving that advice, the minister must consult with an advisory council.

A new Act is established and consequential amendments are made to The Legal Profession Act.

2. This Bill amends The Manitoba Public Insurance Act.

To enhance its ability to gather information relevant to insurance claims, MPI is granted authority to obtain information from certain public bodies, persons who claim benefits and persons claiming payment for goods or services.

It will be an offence to knowingly provide false or misleading evidence in support of a claim for benefits or other payments relating to a claim. MPI's investigators may, in appropriate circumstances, obtain a search warrant or production order to assist in the investigation of an offence.

A number of changes are made to the no-fault accident benefit scheme under Part 2 of the Act.

  • Minor victims who are unable to continue their studies or hold employment are entitled to income replacement benefits based on the jobs they would have held while in school and to a lump sum indemnity benefit for each lost school year. Those benefits currently continue until the age of 16, after which the income replacement benefit is calculated on the basis of the average industrial wage. The age at which that transition occurs is raised to 18. 
  • It is clarified that injuries arising from golf cart accidents and accidents on closed tracks (such as a race track) are not covered. 
  • Catastrophically injured claimants who become employed are entitled to return to full income replacement indemnity in the event of the loss of their employment, whatever the reason for the loss of employment.
  • Death payments are increased to $13,154.
  • A temporary worker's entitlement to income replacement indemnity is clarified.
  • The caregiver weekly indemnity is made available to all claimants whose main occupation at the time of their accident was caring for another individual without pay for that care.

The process by which MPI may recover amounts from other insurers is specified. 

An amendment to clause 6(2)(h) of the Act extends MPI's ability to support programs relating to health, rehabilitation, safety and the reduction of risk in respect of insurance MPI provides.

3. After each general election, a commissioner appointed underThe Legislative Assembly Act decides on the pay and benefits for Members of the Assembly and then makes regulations to implement those decisions.

This Bill gives the commissioner the power to decide on an additional allowance for Members who have a disability, and to determine the circumstances in which it will be paid.

The commissioner's term of office is extended until dissolution of the Assembly. The commissioner will be allowed to amend the regulations that set MLA pay and benefits if the Assembly's management commission asks the commissioner to consider a circumstance that was not previously addressed.

4. This Bill makes significant amendments toThe Insurance Act and modernizes the wording of approximately one-third of the Act's provisions.

Some of the significant amendments are:

  • Many of the Act's provisions, including virtually all of Parts V and VI (life insurance and accident and sickness insurance), are harmonized with the Insurance Act of Alberta.
  • Part IV (fire insurance) is consolidated with Part III (insurance contracts generally) and harmonized statutory conditions are made applicable to most property and casualty insurance contracts. Parts VIII (livestock insurance) and IX (weather insurance) are repealed. The risks governed by these parts will be governed by the consolidated Part III.
  • Consumer protection enhancements include
    • better access for claimants to documents and information about life insurance and accident and sickness insurance contracts;
    • enhancements to dispute resolution;
    • protection for innocent persons from loss of coverage for intentional acts of co-insureds and other persons;
    • requiring the approval of the Superintendent of Insurance for fire exclusions;
    • authority to licence incidental sellers of insurance.
  • As in other provinces, insurers, brokers and agents will be permitted to offer reasonable customer inducements, such as loyalty reward programs.
  • A broker or agent is no longer prohibited from charging a fee on a commercial insurance transaction in connection with which a commission is also earned.
  • To promote greater risk-based self-evaluation, insurers who conduct their own compliance audits have a limited privilege in relation to the audit documentation.
  • Amendments are made to facilitate and regulate electronic transactions under the Act.
  • Regulations may be made about how insurers may use information about the credit status of policy holders and applicants for property insurance relating to a residence.
  • The procedure for appeals to The Insurance Agents' and Adjusters' Licensing Appeal Board is modified and additional guidance is provided for how the appeal board deals with issues that may arise in connection with an appeal.

The Bill also contains a consequential amendment to The Insurance Corporations Tax Act relating to the name of the class of accident and sickness insurance.

5. This Bill amendsThe Electoral Divisions Act to reduce the number of electoral divisions in Manitoba from 57 to 49 for the first general election that takes place after 2018. A consequential amendment is made to The Legislative Assembly Act.


6. This Bill recognizes Brookside Cemetery as Manitoba's provincial cemetery.


7. This Bill makes several amendments toThe Election Financing Act. 

Significant amendments to the rules governing contributions include the following:

  • The annual contribution limit for individuals is increased from $3,000 to $5,000, and is indexed for inflation.
  • All fees paid to attend a political party conference or convention, including a leadership convention, are now considered to be contributions.
  • A self-employed person is no longer considered to be making a contribution if they volunteer services for which they normally charge.
  • Cash contributions are limited to $25 or less.

Significant amendments to the rules governing advertising by candidates and political parties and communications made by third parties include the following:

  • Advertising expense limits that previously applied to candidates and political parties during the year of a fixed date election (outside the election period) now apply to the 90-day period before the election period of a fixed date election.
  • The definition "election communication" that applies to third parties is expanded to include communications about issues associated with a political party or a candidate.
  • Promotional materials such as signs and banners are no longer treated as election communication expenses for third parties or as advertising expenses for political parties.
  • The limits on third party spending for election communications is $25,000 during the election period for a general election, $100,000 during the 90-day period before the election period of a fixed-date election, and $5,000 for a by-election. These limits are indexed for inflation.

In addition, the number of names on the preliminary voters list (not the voter list from the previous general election) is to be used to determine the minimum election expense limits for candidates and parties. Constituency associations are now required to file unaudited financial statements with the Chief Electoral Officer.

8. This Bill establishes a scheme to prevent conflicts of interest for members of the Legislative Assembly. A Conflict of Interest Commissioner will be appointed. The Conflict of Interest Commissioner will be an officer of the Legislative Assembly and will have the power to inquire into the conduct of members of the Legislative Assembly.

9. This Bill amendsThe Human Tissue Gift Act. Currently, a direction needs to be made by or on behalf of a person that authorizes the removal of a person's organs after death for transplant and other therapeutic purposes. The Bill creates a presumed consent to the removal of organs after death for transplant and other therapeutic purposes. The Bill provides several methods for people to object to the removal and use of their organs after death.

A consequential amendment is made to The Anatomy Act.

 

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