Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger vowed to make good on more than $1 billion worth of promises he made during this fall's election campaign — despite worldwide economic fragility.
Throne speech highlights
- Free cancer drugs.
- 2,000 more nurses, 200 more doctors.
- Rural MRIs and enhanced rural emergency care.
- Freeze tuition at rate of inflation.
- More childcare spaces.
- Cap kindergarten to Grade 3 class sizes at 20 students.
- Improve education facilities like gyms and science labs.
- Boost funding for the apprenticeship program and cash for a technology centre at Red River College.
- More prosecutors.
- After school programs for at-risk youth.
- Weekend courts.
- Guaranteed lowest utility and auto-insurance rates.
- Increased minimum wage.
- More businesses off tax roll.
- 50 more police officers.
- 25 new police cadets.
- Convention Centre expansion.
- More downtown rental units.
- Lake Winnipeg clean up.
- Build west side hydro transmission line.
- Build Keeyask and Conawapa hydroelectric dams
"I think the best way to deal with economic fragility on the global basis, is to have a strong program yourself," Selinger said as he kicked off a fall legislative session on Thursday with a six-page throne speech.
"[That is] why we're going to continue with our hydro construction program, and which is why we're going to continue to make Manitoba a place where people want to invest in businesses," he added.
Selinger said there are no surprises — the speech reiterates the many promises he made during the election campaign.
The government can do it all and remain on track to balance the budget by 2015, because the promises will be phased in over four years, he said.
Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen said the NDP is promising big spending and borrowing in order to fulfill its promises.
"The economy of Manitoba right now is built on the twin pillars of debt," McFadyen told reporters.
"This government borrows a lot of money that they're going to have to repay at some point, and [there is a] dependency on transfers from Ottawa, which is not sustainable."
McFadyen said the NDP is ignoring a $25-billion provincial debt that he said continues to grow.
Liberal leader Jon Gerrard said the throne speech failed to address the pressing issues in health care including long wait times and health prevention.
"This throne speech is more of the same failed NDP policies in health care," he said.
"It is so bad, it puts at risk the future of public medicare in Manitoba."
Nine-day session begins
No new legislation is expected in this short, nine-day fall session but the newly-elected MLAs have already made one decision. On Thursday morning, they elected Daryl Reid, NDP MLA for Transcona, as the new Speaker of the House.
McFadyen questioned why the government would even start a session at the legislature until results of a recount are in from the Oct. 4 election.
Ballots in Kirkfield Park and St. Norbert are being recounted because the difference between the NDP and the Tory candidates was less than 50 votes.
"There was a desire to get back to business and get on with the show and move forward with some of these priorities and everybody wanted to do the same thing, so here we are," Selinger said.
He leads the NDP into a fourth consecutive term and has one of the largest majorities in the province's history.
Selinger also has yet to name a permanent finance minister to replace Rosann Wowchuk, who did not run for re-election.
The opposition parties, meanwhile, are trying to recover from disappointing election results. The PCs will soon be looking for a new leader to replace McFadyen, who announced on election night his intention to step down.
And Gerrard surprised reporters on Thursday by announcing he will remain head of his party until a leadership convention in 2013, then step aside.
He was facing internal pressure to jump ship after capturing the party's only seat in the last election.
Still, Selinger said he does not expected an easy ride.
"Oh, I think you'll find them to be pretty feisty. I've never seen an opposition yet that didn't take full advantage of question period and all the opportunities available to them."