Manitoba

'Very likely' Manitoba will seek intervener status in Quebec Bill 21: Pallister

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says it is "very likely" the province will seek intervener status in Quebec's controversial Bill 21 if the case heads to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Premier addresses conservative leadership, upcoming lawsuit costs in speech Thursday

Premier Brian Pallister is continuing his fight against Bill 21. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says it is "very likely" the province will seek intervener status in Quebec's controversial Bill 21 if the case heads to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"It's very likely but we'll wait and see what our partners are doing as we're trying to co-ordinate efforts in respect of gathering support to oppose this piece of misguided legislation," Pallister said Thursday after giving his speech at the state of the province event put on by the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce.

Bill 21 bans public school teachers, government lawyers and police officers, among other civil servants, from wearing religious symbols at work.

On Thursday, Quebec's top court refused to suspend the controversial ban. Pallister expects the case to end up at the Supreme Court.

He says it's essential Canadians stand up for the rights of others when they are threatened. His government has already taken out ads in Quebec encouraging civil servants to apply for work in Manitoba.

'He's trying to put the cape on'

NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew questioned Pallister's motive saying the Progressive Conservatives voted down an amendment that would call on the province to intervene in court cases for human rights and go against Bill 21.

"I don't know why they voted that down, and then now he's trying to put the cape on."

Pallister introduced his own religious freedoms resolution that opposed any law that would limit religious freedoms. The resolution didn't specifically mention Quebec and was adopted unanimously by MLAs. 

Pallister also dispelled any theory he could take a shot at running for federal Conservative leader to replace Andrew Scheer, who resigned Thursday.

"I actually just had the great pleasure of being re-elected to serve as the MLA for Fort Whyte, plan on completing my term and if the people will have me thereafter I'm excited to embrace the challenges," he said.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks to reporters about Quebec's Bill 21 Thursday. (Megan Goddard/Radio-Canada)

Pallister said Scheer faced an incredibly difficult decision in choose to step down as leader and congratulated him for his work.

"I would say most of all thank you to him. Thank you to him for his service, thank you for making the sacrifices that public life entails, thank you for doing that with a young family, and a growing family, and thank you for serving as a fabulous speaker of the House of Commons."

Pallister, a former MP, wouldn't say if he had a preference for Scheer's replacement and said his choice not to run for the federal Tories was made when he chose to run as leader for the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives in 2012.

Lawsuits against province to cost over $1B: Pallister

​During Pallister's speech, which focused largely on what his government has done since taking office in 2016, he said it's estimated that over a billion dollars is expected to be paid out in potential legal settlements for lawsuits against government departments, Crown corporations like Manitoba Hydro and regional health authorities, for example.

"We have gone into the process of evaluating the degree to which our legal experts anticipate there will be settlements required for these lawsuits. None of this was prepared for and so it's critical that we do that. That we have funds allocated to that purpose is really really important because otherwise then when they're settled in court, that's when the bill comes."

The premier said his government will still balance the books within two years and eliminate the province's deficit. 

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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