Manitoba legislature starts winter break with many bills not passed

The Manitoba legislature has started its winter break with bills still in limbo on everything from Sunday shopping to public cannabis consumption.

Law to expand leave for victims of violence is only bill to get final approval

Premier Brian Pallister and other members of the Manitoba Legislature listen at his government's 2019 throne speech is read on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The Manitoba legislature has started its winter break with bills still in limbo on everything from Sunday shopping to public cannabis consumption.

Politicians gave final approval to only one of the 20 bills put forward by the Progressive Conservative government — a law that expands employment leave for victims of violence.

Until now, leave of up to 17 weeks had been offered to victims of domestic violence, but will be offered as well to victims of sexual violence and stalking.

"It's leave that they can use for counselling, to seek legal services (or) medical treatment," Cathy Cox, minister for the status of women, said Thursday.

Among the bills left until next spring or fall is one to loosen restrictions on Sunday and holiday store openings.

Many Manitoba retailers face restrictions on Sunday and holiday hours and a grocery store owner lobbied the province to level the playing field. Premier Brian Pallister agreed that it seemed unfair to force a grocery store to close at certain times when casinos and other businesses are allowed to remain open.

Another bill in limbo until next year is one seeking to expand the province's ban on public consumption of recreational cannabis. The province bans smoking and vaping marijuana in public, but the bill proposes the restriction be extended to include edible products, oils, gels and all other formats.

The government has also yet to pass a bill that would set limits on salaries and other benefits for senior executives at Crown corporations, school divisions and other public bodies.

For the Opposition New Democrats, the three-week fall sitting was a chance to press the government about reforms to health care and education. The government has closed some hospital emergency rooms in Winnipeg and is in the middle of reviewing education in the province as it closes in on a balanced budget.

"What we're trying to do at this point is to just put down markers, so that we can figure out where exactly the agenda of cuts and privatization that Pallister is putting into place is going next," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

The Tories were re-elected to a second majority in September when they won 36 of 57 seats.

The legislature is to reconvene March 4.


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