NDP vows to build safe consumption site, slash cellphone costs in alternative throne speech

A Manitoba NDP government would build a safe consumption site in Winnipeg and a detox centre in Brandon to get a grip on the growing use of methamphetamine in the province, Wab Kinew says.

Wab Kinew's alternative throne speech promises to address addictions crisis, restore health-care system

NDP Leader Wab Kinew unveils his legislative priorities Thursday morning in a counter to the provincial government's upcoming throne speech. (Ian Froese/CBC)

A Manitoba NDP government would build a safe consumption site in Winnipeg and a detox centre in Brandon to get a grip on the growing use of methamphetamine in the province, NDP Leader Wab Kinew says.

The Opposition party also pledged Thursday in its alternative throne speech to force private cellphone companies to make low-price plans available to consumers and to end subsidies for oil and gas companies. 

The NDP unveiled its priorities to counter the provincial government's throne speech, which will mark the start of the Progressive Conservatives' fourth legislative session when it is unveiled next week. 

Kinew said he would reverse the government's cuts to health care, but acknowledged he might not be able to reopen shuttered emergency rooms after the 2020 election. 

"We should stand up now so we don't reach the point of no return," he said.

Kinew said the government must act now to combat addictions. As premier, he would have 50 more long-term treatment beds built, to augment the new harm-reduction facilities planned for Winnipeg and Brandon, he said.

New government ministry

The money would come out of a federal reserve committed to dealing with mental health and addictions, Kinew said.

An NDP government would name a minister specifically to handle addictions and mental health, he said. The new minister would work with multiple departments, including justice and housing, to address the problem.

"We need somebody to quarterback the meth crisis response."

The minister would push to build a safe consumption site in Winnipeg, which Kinew estimated would cost around $500,000 to $1 million annually to operate, and spend around $2 million on a detox centre in Brandon, which he pegged at a $500,000 to $750,000 cost per year.

The NDP would support the implementation of a carbon tax, and use the revenue to help families make environmentally conscious choices.

Kinew said his party would eliminate the PST exemption for oil and gas drill bits, which equates to around $750,000 in provincial revenue, he said.

His government would take gradual steps at first to make cellphone bills more affordable, such as requiring telecom companies to print the lowest monthly plan available on every cellphone contract and bill, and lobbying for "skinny" cellphone plans to be created.

An NDP government would push telecom giants to offer consumers lower cellphone prices, Kinew says. (CBC)

Kinew wouldn't say how he'd convince telecom giants to change their ways, but he said user contracts are legislated by the provincial government and they can force legislative changes. 

"If we don't see cellphone prices go down, we'll want to push the limits in terms of what we can do under provincial jurisdiction." 

The province is not doing enough, Kinew said.

"They're cheerleading these telecommunications companies. They're standing next to these executives at press conferences." 

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont isn't convinced the province can persuade telecom companies to offer cheaper packages.

"It's a fine thing to push for, but it's not actually anything the provincial government can do," he said in an interview.

He added a safe consumption site won't work for meth addicts. His party has been campaigning for a drug stabilization unit instead, which keeps users safe while they go through withdrawal.

Taps flow over: PC

The Progressive Conservatives shrugged off Kinew's throne speech, saying the NDP left the tap running and spent excessively until they were voted out in 2016.

"In the upcoming legislative session we'll continue the good work we've started in fixing the province's finances, repairing the services and rebuilding our economy," said a statement from Blaine Pedersen, minister of growth, enterprise and trade.

In their alternative address, the NDP also said it would reinstate coverage for outpatient physiotherapy, sleep apnea treatment and the special drug program.

And a review of the kindergarten to Grade 12 education system would bring parents, teachers and educational leaders to the table, Kinew said.

The government will present its fourth throne speech on Nov. 20. 


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at