Manitoba promises more health care workers, fuel tax suspension in throne speech

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew revealed his first throne speech as premier, focusing on healthcare, the cost of living and reconciliation. Edward Djan has more.

Manitoba’s NDP government has laid out its plans for the coming year in its first throne speech since winning the Oct. 3 election.

The speech repeats many NDP campaign promises, such as hiring more health-care professionals, providing free birth control, and offering aid to beef producers.

“We committed to being a listening government and shared our plan to reset our relationship with healthcare workers on the front lines,” said Lieutenant-Governor Anita Neville, who read the speech.

“Our mandate is drawn from the stories we’ve heard from over the last two terms of this Legislature.”

The government also says it will boost funding for schools and join other provinces in introducing mandatory Holocaust education in the curriculum.

Premier Wab Kinew says the province has reached an agreement in principle with the federal government to help people switch from home heating oil to geothermal energy.

Kinew told reporters that this new agreement with Ottawa would cover half of the 5,000 geothermal heat pumps the NDP pledged to cover during the election campaign.

“It’s an important new indication of our government’s new approach to working with other levels of government. We are going to get deals done, we are going to bring affordability measures and investments here to the province, and most importantly we are going to do it in a way that benefits you,” said Kinew.

The throne speech also reiterates earlier promises to temporarily suspend the fuel tax as of Jan. 1 and to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday.

As well, the province will recognize Louis Riel as the honorary first premier of Manitoba.

Kinew also reiterated his pledge to balance the budget by the end of the government’s first term, though hinting that some of the previous government’s planned capital projects may not go as planned, leading to extended timelines for some projects.

“The previous government didn’t often take things through the required budgetary process before announcing them prior to the blackout period. There’s a number of initiatives the government has committed to where there’s no plan to pay for it.”

Opposition parties say the throne speech shows the NDP does not have enough money or the specifics for its plans.

“Nonsense, we left them with a surplus, an over $270 million surplus. I think what is going to have to happen though is that Premier is going to have to make some difficult decisions. If he plans to implement what is in this throne speech, he is going to have to indicate what he is going to cut in order to implement these things,” said Heather Stefanson, Leader of the Opposition.

“Our healthcare minister was a healthcare critic for four years. They had time to bring forward action and they did not,” Cindy Lamoureux, Leader of the Manitoba Liberals

Kinew also appears to take aim at Stefanson, who ran ads during the provincial election committing not to search the landfill for the remains of three Indigenous women.

During his speech, Kinew pledged that no Manitoba government moving forward will use the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women as political props.

Stefanson says it’s the NDP that is playing politics.

“When you got the Lieutenant-Governor who is there and puts her in a very difficult position by politicizing things,” said Stefanson.

Kinew also pledged to include Holocaust education in the K-12 curriculum and give educators in the province what the government is calling toolkits to combat Islamophobia.

With files from the Canadian Press

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