Manitoba

Manitoba MLAs to reconvene in October after opposition request for June sittings denied

Manitoba’s MLAs won’t sit until October after the Progressive Conservative government rejected a request for more sitting days this month from the province’s two opposition parties. 

Manitoba NDP, Liberals had requested sittings in June due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The legislative chamber is seen packed with MLAs, special guests and visitors in the gallery during the speech from the throne on Nov. 19, 2019. It will now be empty until October, despite a plea from opposition parties to gather in June. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's MLAs won't sit until October after the Progressive Conservative government rejected a request for more sitting days this month from the province's two opposition parties. 

The NDP and Liberals made the request in a joint letter to government house leader Kelvin Goertzen on Monday. 

"Discussions were held with the NDP and additional sitting time was offered," a spokesperson for Goertzen told CBC News via email. "They did not accept the offer. As a result, the Legislative Assembly's normal fall sittings will resume in October."

The opposition parties said the legislature has sat for just 26 full days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting the house seven weeks behind schedule. It convened for an emergency sitting in April, followed by four question period sessions in May.

A typical spring sitting would see MLAs gather four days per week. The NDP and Liberals say that is unacceptable.

"People want to see openness. People want to see government working together with opposition," NDP leader Wab Kinew said. "That's what we're proposing and hopefully we'll be able to get back to that soon." 

In a news release, the Opposition NDP said this will be the fewest sitting days in the Manitoba Legislature in years.

The government is on track for the fewest sitting days in a calendar year since 2003, under the former NDP government, when the legislature convened 35 times.

"We are basically locked out of work. There is seven weeks of session to make up, and we should be getting ready now for a possible second wave in the fall," Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights, said in a statement. 

The Manitoba NDP says other provinces — including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia — have sitting dates in June. 

"I do still hold some optimism that the government will recognize that it is in their best interest too to get back into the legislature and then hopefully we'll be able to say that we are working with the Conservative party soon enough," Kinew said.  

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said this is the fewest days sat in the Manitoba Legislature in several decades, according to a news release from the NDP. In fact, the NDP wasn't referring to the calendar year, but a different 12-month period. Within a calendar year, it is the fewest sitting days since 2003 — almost two decades.
    Jun 02, 2020 10:06 PM CT

With files from Ian Froese

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