Manitoba government blocked from releasing budget for 3rd straight day
While bickering continues, parties agree to relocate legislature sittings if needed during coronavirus
Manitoba's budget will be kept from the public once again.
On Monday, the Opposition New Democrats stalled the business of the legislature for a third day, preventing the release of the province's spending plan for 2020.
The budget was supposed to be made public last Wednesday, but procedural delays halted the release for two days in a row.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said last week the Opposition isn't stopping the budget's release, but trying to halt several pieces of legislation from being introduced.
NDP members haven't read the proposed bills they are trying to kill, but say they are uneasy because the bills' titles suggest they may be harmful to working families.
On Monday, the province tried again to table its budget, and made the same offer as before: it asked the Speaker of the House to keep the business of the legislature running late until the budget is presented, but the NDP turned them down.
Budget release should be normal: Tories
House Leader Kelvin Goertzen called on the Opposition to cease its stalling tactics while fears around COVID-19 escalate.
"This has to stop," Goertzen told a news conference. "At times like this, we as legislators have to rise to a different level and to show Manitobans that we are there working for their best interests."
Kinew said the Progressive Conservatives are treating the coronavirus as a political ploy.
"Right now, the government is trying to use COVID-19 to ram through their legislative agenda and we don't think that's right," he said in an interview.
Kinew argued his party is doing its job as the Official Opposition by holding the government to account. They aren't interfering in any coronavirus preparations, he added, pointing to all-party support last week for a $35-million bulk buy of supplies such as gloves and masks.
Some of the blocked bills concern public schools, civil service and public health.
"We're not going to let the government sneak a bunch of measures through while people are paying attention to other things," Kinew said.
The new budget comes as the province's economy is hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is closing businesses, shuttering classes and grounding flights.
When asked if the budget will be amended as a result, Finance Minister Scott Fielding told a news conference Monday there will be some information provided later in the week.
In the midst of the stalemate, the Liberals asked for an emergency debate concerning preparations for COVID-19, which was also denied. Goertzen said the government is open to it, but question period must be permitted first.
Legislature may relocate
Meanwhile, the three house leaders reached a deal to ensure the business of the legislature continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A motion was introduced to allow the government to alter the dates, times and even location of the sitting legislature during the coronavirus emergency, if a consensus is reached with other political parties.
WATCH | Ian Froese's report: