Under the Dome

After the first seven-week sitting of our first legislative session, our new government is well on its way to making Manitoba the most improved province in Canada.

Our Throne Speech on May 16 made clear our Progressive Conservative government’s vision for the initial steps we would take to deliver a stronger economy, better services and a brighter future for all Manitobans. The speech laid out initiatives for, in part, improving education and health care, rediscovering economic innovation and restoring responsible fiscal management.

Our Budget 2016, introduced on May 31, takes strong steps to correct the course of the previous NDP administration and its reckless waste, debt and broken trust. Moving our province back toward fiscal balance, our new government has reduced the core deficit by $122 million while avoiding tax increases and relieving the burden on families by indexing income tax brackets to the rate of inflation. The budget has also maintained the school tax rebate for seniors, reduced ambulance fees and boosted infrastructure spending and funding in several departments, including Families and Education and Training.

With the aim of strengthening Manitoba’s economy, our government, under Premier Brian Pallister’s leadership, is joining the New West Partnership to increase trade with Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The agreement will help create jobs in Manitoba while helping businesses expand and reach more customers across Western Canada. As well, we are pushing for greater international trade for Manitoba by calling on the federal government to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For businesses and their employees, our PC government has introduced important legislation that would ensure democracy in union certification decisions. The proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act would make secret-ballot votes among workers mandatory before unions could be certified to represent them.

Other important bills we’ve introduced are designed to better protect vulnerable Manitobans. The proposed Protecting Children Act calls for Child and Family Services, police agencies and schools to improve their sharing of critical information when it’s in the best interests of a child at risk. As well, changes to the Mental Health Act will allow qualified people other than police officers to remain with individuals waiting for involuntary medical examinations or psychiatric assessments, allowing police resources to be used more effectively.

Our government is, in addition, guaranteeing services to francophones with legislation that makes the French language a larger part of the province’s governance. The Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act better respects the French-speaking roots of many Manitobans.

We’re taking on these initiatives in partnership with Manitobans, and with inclusion, caring, integrity, common sense and teamwork. We’re making Manitoba better together.

New PC government setting a new course for the Future

Our new Manitoba government has taken firm steps in its first 100 days to begin making this the most improved province in Canada.

Our Progressive Conservative team has charted a course with a careful approach to ensure the protection of front-line services Manitobans rely on and the jobs of those who provide them. At the same time, we have launched initiatives aimed at eliminating government waste and developing strategic partnerships to put Manitoba onto a responsible fiscal path.

What we’ve achieved since forming the government after April’s election has set the course we will follow in the years ahead. In these first 100 days under Premier Brian Pallister, we have delivered the accountability and transparency that became lost under the previous NDP administration. Our Open Government Initiative has led to the release of ministerial mandate letters as well as the introduction of legislation for fixed dates for election campaigns and a six-month limit for calling by-elections.

To find efficiencies and savings, we have begun a comprehensive value-for-money review of government projects and have reduced the size of cabinet by one-third. We have also found savings for Manitobans in our first budget by indexing income tax brackets to the rate of inflation, and by reducing ambulance fees with a commitment to further reductions in coming years. As well, our new government has abolished the ‘vote tax’ subsidy for political parties and has committed to restore the right of Manitobans to vote on major tax increases.

We are giving municipalities the important ‘fair say’ they have called for in strategic infrastructure investments by holding regular planning meetings with them and with industry stakeholders, and by creating a single-window application system for cost-shared funding.

Our government is working in partnership with Manitobans. We’re building a foundation for a relationship based on trust with Indigenous leaders, which will involve our duty to consult them. We’re also consulting the tourism industry to develop a strategy for improved promotion and investment.

To bring more prosperity to Manitobans, we’re in talks with other provinces on trade opportunities and have made strong progress on joining the New West Partnership with Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, and on a new Canada Free Trade Agreement.

Despite inheriting a daunting fiscal challenge left by the previous government, we have begun to steer the province in the right direction. However, much work lies ahead. We will continue to build on our partnerships and consult Manitobans on their priorities as we fulfill our vision for a better Manitoba and a brighter future for those who live here.

Under the Dome

Rowat’s work pays off as all newborns will now receive hearing screening.

On Sept. 1 Manitoba joined the ranks of Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia in automatically administering hearing tests to newborn infants – all thanks to the work done by a now retired MLA.

On Sept. 1 Manitoba joined the ranks of Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia in automatically administering hearing tests to newborn infants – all thanks to the work done by a now retired MLA.

The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Act was introduced and passed in 2013 as a Private Members bill by then Progressive Conservative MLA Leanne Rowat. Since that time, regulations and standard processes and procedures were developed and the necessary equipment was installed throughout the province to provide services.

Our government knows that families in Manitoba will benefit from a universal program with consistent screening services across the province, so children with congenital hearing loss have the opportunity to develop strong cognitive, speech-processing and learning skills. It is a common misconception for parents that hearing loss in their children is easy to detect and many years often go by without properly discovering hearing loss in their child. Due to how varied our children’s language development is, early detection and diagnosis helps those with congenital hearing loss get the treatment they need as early as possible, as a child’s first two years are the most important for language development.

Thanks to Leanne for her work in getting Bill 202 passed through the Legislature three years ago and to our Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen for putting the law into effect.


RHA boards

Applications are currently open for residents to apply or be nominated to positions on the board of the Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority.Minister Goertzen announced on Aug. 11 that rural boards would be reduced from 15 to 12 and that applications to sit on the boards would be accepted until Sept. 16.

Minister Goertzen announced on Aug. 11 that rural boards would be reduced from 15 to 12 and that applications to sit on the boards would be accepted until Sept. 16.

Boards are responsible for the resources and performance of health authorities. The minister noted nominees must have a diverse range of backgrounds, skills, interests, experience and expertise, and share a strong sense of commitment to achieving the provincial vision of healthy Manitobans through an appropriate balance of prevention and care.

Nomination forms are available at local regional health authority offices, community health offices, in regional health facilities, or online at www.gov.mb.ca/health/rha/forms.html.


Ministers visit

As a rookie MLA it is certainly gratifying to have Ministers from our government visit the constituency. Since being elected on April 19, I have had the pleasure of having three Ministers visit, with another scheduled to visit in September. I believe this shows that all Manitobans matter to our government and that we believe in grassroots consultation.

Ralph Eichler, Minister of Agriculture, and Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Infrastructure, were out in late July to speak with producers and municipal officials about downstream flooding caused by the Shellmouth Dam and other water-related and road issues.

The Minister of Indigenous and Municipal Relations, Eileen Clarke, who is from my neighbouring constituency to the east Agassiz, spent a day last week meeting with members of councils in the area. I was pleased to be able to join her for visits with the Rural Municipality of Riding Mountain West, Russell-Binscarth Municipality, Rossburn Municipality and the Waywayseecappo First Nation.

The meetings allowed members of council to meet the Minister and her special assistant, Craig MacDonald of Minnedosa, and discuss areas of concern.

Finally, the Minister of Crowns, Ron Schuler, will be in the Riding Mountain constituency next week for a scheduled meeting with constituents.


Infrastructure funding

Many area municipalities have submitted applications for cost-shared infrastructure funding under four different grant programs – the Municipal Road and Bridge Program, the New Building Canada Fund – Small Communities Fund, the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, and the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. The deadline was Aug. 26 with funding announcements expected this fall.

Municipalities were able to apply online through a “single window”, which has been designed to cut red tape and allow for more efficient access to funding.

Earlier this summer, two area municipalities received funding for new water plants with cost sharing by the federal and provincial governments.

Russell-Binscarth received approval for a $12 million project, while the Rural Municipality of Yellowhead got the go ahead for a $4 million project. The federal government will contribute 50 percent, with the provincial and municipal governments each contributing 25 percent.

The end result is that residents of Shoal Lake, Russell, Binscarth and perhaps Angusville, Waywayseecappo and Rossburn will have reliable drinking water that meets Canadian standards now and into the future.

Under the Golden Boy

Manitoba’s MLAs set to return to the Legislature on Oct. 3

With summer officially over, Manitobans have finished up their vacations and are getting back to work. And at the legislature, our new Manitoba government is doing the same thing.

Our 40 MLAs in the Progressive Conservative Caucus are preparing to get back to business in the House on Monday, Oct. 3, to continue working for Manitobans through the fall by carrying forward several important pieces of legislation. Introduced by our government this past spring before the Legislative Assembly began its summer break, these bills are designed to better protect vulnerable Manitobans and to improve the democratic process for elections as well as for workplace union certifications.

Led by Premier Brian Pallister, we are continuing to return integrity, accountability and transparency to the Manitoba Legislature. Hand in hand with our Open Government Initiative, we will move forward with changes to the Elections Act to set fixed dates for the beginning of general election campaigns and for six-month time limits for the calling of by-elections. Our new government is also proceeding to abolish the ‘vote tax’ subsidy for political parties and to restore Manitobans’ right to vote on major tax increases.

For workers across the province, our government is taking our Labour Relations Act amendments into second reading. When passed into law, they will make workplace union certification by secret-ballot votes mandatory. This change will allow workers the freedom to participate and to make decisions on union certification without fear of intimidation by their colleagues or union groups.

We are, as well, pushing forward this fall with a law to better protect children at risk. Our proposed Protecting Children (Information Sharing) Act would allow Child and Family Services, police agencies and schools to improve their sharing of critical information when it’s in kids’ best interests.

These are just some of the measures our new government is moving ahead with over the next several weeks to continue toward our goal of making Manitoba the most improved province in Canada. The summer is over – it’s time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.