Opposition NDP delays release of Manitoba's budget for a 2nd day
Meeting between House leaders failed to reach compromise on releasing a budget Thursday
For a second consecutive day, Manitoba's latest budget was nowhere to be seen.
In a delay Manitoba legislators say is unprecedented, the government's spending plan for 2020 was not tabled on Thursday because of procedural delays from the NDP.
It was originally supposed to be released on Wednesday but has faced delays from the NDP, who are trying to stall government business to prevent several pieces of legislation from being introduced.
But Leader Wab Kinew insists his party's tactics are not keeping the budget from being released, nor are they hindering the government's response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
"For us, this is not about the budget speech — this is about the bills that the government is trying to ram through that [are] going to affect jobs, environment, schools and a bunch of other issues that matter to Manitobans," Kinew said.
The feud began Wednesday, when the New Democrats used procedural delays to prevent Finance Minister Scott Fielding from delivering his budget speech — the point after which the spending plan is traditionally made public.
The New Democrats say they are trying to prevent the government from introducing about 20 bills before Tuesday — the deadline to introduce bills in order to have them passed into law before the legislature's summer break.
On Thursday, both the Progressive Conservatives and NDP tried to broker a compromise.
The Tories asked the Speaker of the House to keep the business of the legislature going for as long as necessary to allow the budget to be presented, but the NDP turned the idea down.
In return, the NDP asked for a leave of the House — meaning all normal business would stop, and the House could resume for the purpose of reading the budget speech and tabling the budget. The Tories rejected that idea.
'Democracy is not a buffet'
Progressive Conservative House leader Kelvin Goertzen said the NDP shouldn't pick and choose which aspects of government business they want to see.
"Democracy is not a buffet," he said in question period Thursday.
The House leaders then met with House Speaker Myrna Driedger to try to reach a compromise, but no deal was achieved.
Several MLAs responded by raising points of privilege in the legislature Thursday afternoon until the clock ran out on the day.
Afterwards, Goertzen questioned the NDP's leadership.
"With all that's going on in the world, this is when people are looking for leadership, stability, and they're looking for an example from their elected leaders," he said.
"What we're seeing from Wab Kinew and the NDP isn't leadership and it's not what people expect in a time of significant uncertainty."
He said the Progressive Conservatives deserve to have a budget release.
"The budget isn't like a napkin on a restaurant table, where you just sort of throw it on the ground and sort of treat it as something that's not important. The budget needs to be properly introduced. There are messages and motions that come from the lieutenant-governor that are involved with that."
He added the budget is normally introduced with the bill that permits the spending plan's implementation, but the NDP is restricting that as well.
Before Thursday afternoon's wrangling, Premier Brian Pallister denounced the NDP for playing politics while the first presumptive cases of novel coronavirus are arriving in Manitoba.
"It's at times like these that you don't play to people's fears," Pallister told reporters during a conference in his office.
"That's exactly what the NDP is doing by stoking fear around our budget — it's an excellent budget. They've deprived Manitobans the opportunity to see it."
He likened the NDP's actions to the blockades that recently halted rail traffic across the country, in protest against the planned construction of a pipeline through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C.
"This is not a respectful way to conduct yourself, any more than a blockade on a rail line and breaking the rule of law is a respectful way to deal with some very legitimate concerns about the processes around resource extraction."
More than an hour later, the NDP publicly offered an olive branch by saying they'd permit the budget's introduction, but insisting they would still work to keep the proposed legislation from being introduced.
Kinew said the party changed its approach because of public concerns surrounding novel coronavirus.
He said his party's actions do not prevent the province from immediately responding to COVID-19.
There was all-party support earlier this week for a $35-million bulk buy for personal protective supplies like masks and gloves, he noted.
The earliest the budget can be introduced is Monday, March 16 when question period returns.
With files from The Canadian Press