Short on words, Manitoba government vows in brief throne speech to build on previous accomplishments
Re-election an endorsement of government's pledge to fix finances, speech says
The Manitoba government wasn't exactly verbose as it laid out its priorities for an abbreviated two-week sitting of the legislature.
In a mere 570 words, Brian Pallister's government offered a brief speech from the throne that was a mere fraction of the length of other similar addresses.
The government's first throne speech since their re-election three weeks ago was short on promises, as there's little time over the next two weeks. The short sitting, which began on Monday, will focus on passing the budget that was introduced in the spring.
Besides repeating election campaign pledges to fix the province's books and improve health care, the government vowed to complete implementation of the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, eliminate more red tape regulations and address the prevalence of addictions.
"It was a refreshingly succinct and focused throne speech, I thought," Pallister quipped afterwards.
Taking less, giving more
In the address, the government said its re-election is evidence that voters like the direction the Progressive Conservatives are taking the province.
"Manitobans have given your government the mandate to move Manitoba forward, toward a stronger economy, better services and better jobs," said Chief Justice Richard Chartier, who read the address in the absence of the lieutenant governor, who was away after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
"The work to achieve those goals resumes today; they will continue to guide the decisions of this government throughout its mandate."
The speech said the Progressive Conservatives will continue to do government differently, blasting the former NDP government for hiking the provincial sales tax before they were turfed from power in 2016.
"The previous government took more from Manitobans and gave less," the address said.
"Your government is committed to taking less from Manitobans and giving them more."
Afterwards, Pallister insisted his team's cost-cutting work is far from finished. Last week, his government stated the deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year is $163 million, while the auditor general disputed the accounting and argued the province had a $9 million surplus instead.
"There's a little item like the billion dollars of debt service charges that we shouldn't ignore," he told reporters.
"I don't think the job's over. I think the job's just beginning of fixing our financial system."
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the throne speech failed to address the issue of climate change, only days after more than 10,000 Manitobans protested inaction.
"If we've only got 11 years left to deal with the climate crisis, maybe Manitoba is only going to have seven because it looks like this government isn't going to do much."
Tory MLA Myrna Driedger re-elected as the Speaker.<br><br>As is tradition, the speaker is brought forward from her seat by the premier and leader of the Official Opposition. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mbpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mbpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcmb?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcmb</a> <a href="https://t.co/a2G7AjhnY7">pic.twitter.com/a2G7AjhnY7</a>—@ianfroese
Earlier in the morning, new and returning MLAs gathered to return Myrna Driedger, a veteran Tory, to her role as Speaker of the legislative assembly. Her job to enforce the rules and oversee question period will continue.
She has held the role since 2016, when the Progressive Conservatives were ushered into power with 40 of the legislature's 57 seats.
NDP MLA Bernadette Smith and Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux had put their names forward for consideration.
Status quo, despite losing party status
The opening day of the sitting had a back-to-school vibe with new MLAs settling into their roles and surroundings.
There was also a reshuffling in the seating chart. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont gave up his front-row perch, a consequence of his party losing official party status and with it, some of the Liberals' office space, funding for staff and time to speak in question period. The Liberals won three seats in the Sept. 10 election, but four are needed for official party status.
"We have to move offices, we lost some staff, but ultimately we keep on doing everything we were doing before," Lamont told reporters.
Rookie NDP MLAs Uzoma Asagwara, the new health critic, and Nello Altomare, education critic, received front-row spots with the Official Opposition. The party elevated the first-time MLAs into major critic roles, as well as Fort Garry MLA Mark Wasyliw, who's the party's deputy house leader and finance critic.
The Tories maintained their front bench as is and have largely maintained the same ministerial roles. The only change is Jeff Wharton, minister of municipal relations, absorbing the duties of overseeing Crown corporations as a result of former minister Colleen Mayer's defeat in the election.
Pallister also shared on Monday that the government hired consultant Robert Murray to build on its previous report of improving the planning and permitting practices in Manitoba. He hopes to have his findings in the next two months.