Manitoba

Manitoba politicians head back to legislature to pass budget

Manitoba politicians return to the legislature today for the first time since the provincial election three weeks ago.

Opposition New Democrats look forward to grilling government on health-care reforms

Premier Brian Pallister's main focus is to get the budget, introduced in the spring, passed before the legislature rises again Oct. 11. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Manitoba politicians return to the legislature today for the first time since the provincial election three weeks ago.

Premier Brian Pallister has said a short throne speech laying out his priorities will start an abbreviated, two-week sitting.

Pallister's main focus is to get the budget, introduced in spring, passed before the legislature rises again Oct. 11.

With so much time required to debate the budget, the Progressive Conservative government is not expected to introduce many bills.

One possible exception is a bill containing Pallister's promised end campaign expense rebates for political parties and candidates.

The Opposition New Democrats have agreed to let the budget pass by the end of the sitting, and say they are looking forward to question period and grilling the government on its health-care reforms.

"We're going to be focusing heavily on health care," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said last week.

"Other issues we heard during the campaign — around meth, around climate change — we're going to be bringing those forward (as well)."

Pallister's Progressive Conservatives are in the middle of health-care reforms that have included downgrading three Winnipeg hospital emergency departments into urgent care centres, which do not handle life-threatening cases such as heart attacks.

The Tories have said the changes are needed to concentrate emergency rooms where support services exist, but opposition parties have said the changes will result in longer wait times and reduced care.

The Tories won their second straight majority mandate with 36 of the legislature's 57 seats, down from a historic high of 40 in the last election. The NDP gained a handful of seats to reach 18, while the Liberals secured only three and lost official party status.

They already have had to move to a smaller office space in the legislature and will receive less funding for staff, less time in question period and fewer seats on committees.

The first matter of business Monday afternoon will be the election of a Speaker to enforce the rules of the legislature and oversee question period.

Tory Myrna Driedger, who was Speaker, was re-elected, but there has been no indication whether she will seek the job again.

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