Manitoba pre-election throne speech targets domestic violence, foster care
Manitoba's NDP government will deliver a pre-election throne speech Monday that will promise new help for victims of domestic violence, children in foster care and others, sources told The Canadian Press.
The annual throne speech, which outlines the government's agenda for the coming year, will promise paid leave for victims of domestic violence, one government source said Sunday.
The measure, which appears to be the first of its kind in Canada, will allow abused partners to take time off work to get legal and other counselling. It will also allow them to avoid the daily routine of travelling to and from work, where they may be further victimized.
A survey last year by the University of Western Ontario and the Canadian Labour Congress found one-third of the 8,400 respondents suffered domestic violence at some point. Of those, more than half said the abuse and harassment continued at the workplace via stalking, phone calls and other means.
For NDP Premier Greg Selinger, the promise may also be an olive branch to party members who tried unsuccessfully to oust him in an internal revolt a year ago.
Thersa Oswald, a former minister of jobs and the economy who also served in the health portfolio, came within 33 votes of toppling Selinger at a NDP convention last March. The promise for assistance to domestic violence victims was part of her campaign.
The throne speech will also give more power to First Nation communities over aboriginal kids in the province's child welfare system, another government source said.
There will be greater use of options such as customary care, which allows leaders in a First Nation community to determine a suitable home for children taken into care, the source said. It's an alternative to shipping children to Winnipeg or other faraway places, and a key demand from aboriginal leaders who are frustrated that the overwhelming majority of children seized from their families are aboriginal.
Both sources spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to publicly divulge details in advance of Monday afternoon's speech.
The throne speech comes just five months ahead of an election slated for April 19, and with the governing NDP facing an uphill battle to add to its 16 years in power. Opinion polls have suggested the NDP has been running far behind the Opposition Progressive Conservatives since it raised the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven in 2013.
Selinger said last week the throne speech will not just cover the coming year, but also serve as a notice as what the New Democrats plan for the next four years if they are re-elected.
"We'll be looking several years ahead. We'll be showing where we can take the province."
Opposition Leader Brian Pallister said the government has repeatedly broken promises — such as one in the last election to not raise the sales tax — and cannot be trusted now.
"That deception — breaking that trust — makes it very hard for people to take seriously the promises the government is making currently."
The throne speech is also expected to promise movement on several issues that Selinger has focused on in recent years: a Green Economic Action Plan that focuses on creating jobs in the renewable resources sector, new infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy while fixing roads and bridges, and water-protection research to find ways to stop the deterioration of Lake Winnipeg and other lakes and rivers.