Premier ends session with a pat on his government's back but warns of 'potential coming storm'

It took until the wee hours of the morning to conclude the second session of Manitoba's 41st legislature. But the Tories and the NDP have different versions of the success of the session.

Manitoba NDP labels Tories 'undemocratic' as government pushes 9 bills through in 3 days

Premier Brian Pallister warns of a 'potential coming storm,' but says Manitobans should, like a bison, face into it. (CBC)

A late night didn't cool Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister's fire or NDP Leader Wab Kinew's resolve to extinguish it.

It took until the wee hours of Friday morning to conclude the second session of the 41st legislature and the Progressive Conservative government's third round of law-making since being elected.

In three short days leading to the session's end, the Tories passed nine bills.

Pallister says his government has "accomplished much," but prefaced his end-of-session remarks with a gloomy look at a future that holds a "potential coming storm."

A rise in interest rates, trade agreements being torn up and a stormy international scene could buffet Manitoba's fragile economy, the premier opined.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew, with a rookie session under his belt, peppered his comments with words such as "undemocratic," calling the Manitoba PC government "Harper-like."

Rhetoric aside, perhaps the two most profound policy moves this session (outside of ongoing "once in a generation" changes to health care) have no legislation yet — legalizing marijuana and the government's climate change package.

The throne speech on Nov. 21, and the session to follow, may answer some of the myriad questions on both those files. Or not.

In the meantime, the aftertaste of the session and the bills that were passed is settling in the mouths of those affected by the legislation.

A rise in interest rates, trade agreements being torn up and a stormy international scene could buffet Manitoba's fragile economy, Premier Brian Pallister warns. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

As Pallister delivered his session-ending remarks Friday morning, the tire tracks from dozens of Winnipeg taxis could be seen from his office window on the circular driveway of the legislature.

A parade of cabbies snaked a route down Broadway to Main Street, as the taxi drivers tried their luck Friday afternoon with city hall, in their efforts to get what they call a "level playing field" against new ride-hailing services in the province.

Bill 30, passed just hours before in the aforementioned marathon sitting, opens the car door to companies such as Uber. 

Owners of cab licences accuse the PC government of not listening to their concerns (though Pallister says he's met with "several") and ignoring their calls for more comprehensive legislation.

Pallister wasn't having that, and — as the province's legislation on ride sharing does — punted the taxi football at Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

PCs, NDP agree Ottawa needs to cough up more pot revenue

Pallister also wasted little time throwing a bomb at Ottawa on the pot file. He called the federal government's pitch to tax legalized marijuana a "plan the gangs would appreciate."

Pallister says he's never had a toke, but the Manitoba premier believes he knows a thing or two about the weed business. In his opinion, the federal government is moving too fast on grabbing a piece of the pot-tax pie and success can be measured in how effectively legalization gets the bud out of the black market.

"If legalizing cannabis is going to work there has to be a product of quality at a low price," Pallister said with authority.

Less clear is what profit the next big dealer of weed in Manitoba — the province itself — is willing to share with municipalities. But Pallister is certain the provinces will bear the lion's share of the expenses of dealing with legal marijuana and he wants the bulk of the revenue.

It's one issue the premier and the leader of the Opposition appear to agree on.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew accuses the Pallister government of being 'undemocractic.' (Wendy Bulow/CBC)

Kinew also feels the province will carry the bag on legal pot in terms of services and costs (he sees an emphasis on mental health and addictions supports as an important focus for any weed windfall) and thinks Ottawa should cough up the revenue.

But that's about as much common ground as the two men share as the session becomes history.

NDP criticizes cut to transit cost share

Kinew sees the Tory government's removal of a 50-50 cost share on transit funding for municipalities as a major issue, especially for Winnipeggers.

"If there is cuts to the service that [Winnipeg] Transit offers in the city, if there is fare hikes that come down the line soon, Winnipeggers should draw a direct line between that and Pallister's budget," Kinew says.

He also charged the PC government with shutting down committees and limiting presentations, cutting down the scrutiny on the budget and not allowing young student protesters to show their displeasure with a rise in tuition fees by booting them from the legislature last week.

The next session may fill in some details on how health-care reform is moving along, and more specifics on climate change policy and pot plans, but don't expect Brian Pallister and Wab Kinew to rideshare to an event anytime in the near future.

About the Author

Sean Kavanagh

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Sean has had a chance to live in some of Canada's other beautiful places (Whistler, B.C., and Lake of the Woods, Ont.) as well as in Europe and the United States. In more than a decade of reporting, Sean has covered some of the seminal events in Manitoba, from floods to elections, including a stint as the civic affairs reporter responsible for city hall.