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Province concentrating on priorities of Manitobans

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The throne speech, marking the commencement of the fourth session of the 41st sitting of the Manitoba legislative assembly committed to fixing the province’s finances, repairing services and rebuilding the economy.
The message was delivered by Lt.-Gov. Janice C. Filmon as she outlined the government’s plan.
Premier Brian Pallister noted there has been some progress in a number of fronts, with a lot more work ahead.
“Big challenges, but we take the approach that Manitobans elected us to tackle these challenges and not to dodge them or face the other way. So that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
“At the same time recognizing that we can not go back to the old ways of just simply raising taxes or running larger deferred tax deficits and expect that that was going to make us stronger.”
Pallister announced a Kindergarten to Grade 12 education review, adding the province is making communities safer, protecting vulnerable Manitobans and continuing to improve health care, education and social service by ensuring efficiencies and effectiveness in all programs.
The speech from the throne highlighted key government priorities, such as bringing forward a new Referendum Act to restore the rights of Manitobans to vote on major tax increases and provide a framework for calling and conducting a referendum.
The province committed to implementing a plan to reduce wait times for joint replacement, cataracts and diagnostic imaging, along with developing the first-ever provincial Clinical and Preventive Services Plan, implementing a plan to guide improvements to mental health and addictions services across government, enhance supports for victims of domestic violence with two new pilot programs and introduce legislation to pilot a first-in-Canada family resolution service.
The province is releasing an action plan for economic growth, establishing a lead entity to support economic growth and development in the north and delivering a renewed Travel Manitoba tourism strategy.
It committed to constructing 1,200 additional personal care home beds by 2025 and bringing forward legislative changes to The Child and Family Services Act and The Child and Family Services Authorities Act.
The province also committed to reporting annually on recidivism rates, time to disposition of offences and custody counts in 2019, plus introducing an Immediate Roadside Prohibition Program to allow police to address lower-level alcohol-related cases more quickly using administrative penalties and bringing forward legislative amendments to allow the safe testing of autonomous vehicles on provincial roads.
It was announced the province intends to suspend further expansion of gaming pending a review of the province’s gaming strategy and is preparing for Manitoba’s sesquicentennial by launching one of the first Manitoba 150 projects in partnership with the Hudson’s Bay Company History Foundation.
Other highlights include making new investments in capital modernization and training to assist the agri-food sector in capitalizing on global market opportunities in protein extraction, enhancing resiliency of the province’s natural infrastructure to climate-change challenges such as flooding, storms and wildfires, plus bringing forward regulations to better plan the use of water resources and enhance drainage, conserve wetlands and store water within local watershed districts.
Locally, Pallister said there are no immediate plans to address the proposed rehabilitation centre, or jail, in Dauphin, as the premier noted there is a greater need for health care services.
“So on the jail front, there is nothing in the immediate horizon on that. But again we are really focusing as much as we can, on making sure we have better care sooner for the people of the Parkland, throughout the province,” he said, adding initiatives, such as alternative sentencing and healing mechanisms are being pursued.
“One of the things that happened over the last 20 years is that the justice system under the previous government was, essentially, throw the book at people and throw them in jail. And in many cases that’s not necessarily the best course of action.”
The province has seen a reduced need for capacity in Manitoba penal facilities, Pallister said, adding it is important to recognize justice for victims of crime and work is needed on preventative measures.
“So I’m not saying no, but I’m saying that we have limited resources available to us. Our debt service costs this year are going over a billion for the first time in the province’s history and we just simply can’t afford to do all the things we’d like to do in infrastructure, at the same time.”
Pallister said the focus is on investing in upgrading health care and school facilities, repairing roofs, foundations, plumbing systems and electrical systems.
“But at the same time, recognizing we have to grow our economy, because ultimately it is that private sector investment that we depend upon to create jobs,” he added.
“Governments can’t just keep getting bigger as they were for years in our province and expect that that would work long term. We’ve found ways to trim in our government, while maintaining our services and improving on our fiscal well-being.”
Part of that, Pallister noted, is a long-term commitment to infrastructure by improving the process of reaching out to the private sector and ensuring good tendering.
“We’re shopping more like Manitobans do in a more disciplined way and we’re getting better value for the investments we’re making. And we’re doing it strategically, while we’re playing catch up on a lot of these items, as I mentioned, especially in education and in health care,” he said.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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