Manitoba Legislature to resume Wednesday with pared-down assembly due to COVID-19
Opposition parties, critics looking for answers about cost-cutting decisions during pandemic
Politicians will be reconvening in the Manitoba Legislature on May 6 to resume the current session, which was adjourned in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each Wednesday in May will be a sitting day for MLAs. Generally, these sittings will operate as normal, with a question period at 1:30 p.m. and debate on government business later in the afternoon, the province said.
The difference is that fewer members will be in the chamber at any one time, in order to follow public health rules. The province says logistics are still being worked out, including how virtual legislative sittings might work.
"We recognize it is important to allow the opposition to fulfil its role regarding its questions of the government, as well as to protect the health of all members by limiting large gatherings," Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a media release.
The announcement comes at a time when Manitobans are looking for answers about the decisions provincial leaders have chosen to make.
"The PCs have a lot of explaining to do — especially about letting down small businesses and gutting post-secondary institutions," said Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont in a statement.
"On one hand Mr. Pallister is telling Manitobans it's time to return to work, but on the other he's saying thousands of people will have to be fired or have their wages cut in order to survive this pandemic," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said in a Thursday news release.
"The Premier owes it to Manitobans to tell the truth: how many Manitobans will see their salary cut or will lose their job?"
Others looking for answers include a group called Communities Not Cuts, which has held daily honk-a-thons in front of the legislative building over the past week to draw the government's attention to job and service cuts.
Some of the group's organizers believe the cuts don't align with what economists, academics, other governments and community agencies are recommending should be done to maintain a stable economy.
They also believe the cuts will hurt vulnerable Manitobans most.
In addition to regular sittings in the chamber, the province says meetings of the standing committee on Crown corporations will be scheduled for May 28, June 4 and June 11.
Discussions are also underway about scheduling a meeting of the public accounts committee, the province added.