Manitoba politicians have returned to the legislature for the first time since the provincial election three weeks ago.
The Progressive Conservative government laid out its plans in a brief throne speech that promised to tackle addictions and crime, as well as improving health care and education.
However, it gave no details.
Premier Brian Pallister has already said the legislature will sit for an abbreviated, two-week sitting that will focus mainly on passing the budget that was introduced in the spring.
The first matter of business was the election of a Speaker to enforce the rules of the legislature and oversee question period.
Tory Myrna Driedger was re-elected to the position by her political colleagues over New Democrat Bernadette Smith and Liberal Cindy Lamoureux.
The throne speech Monday promised more spending even while taxes are being cut.
“In the coming days, this assembly will be asked to complete all necessary legislative requirements in order to fully implement the measures outlined in Budget 2019,” stated the throne speech, read inside the legislature chamber by Chief Justice Richard Chartier of the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
“Measures that increase funding for health care, education and families. Measures that increase support for tourism and our creative industries, while also investing more than $1 billion in strategic infrastructure.”
The Opposition New Democrats have agreed to let the budget pass by the end of the sitting on Oct. 11, and said they are looking forward to question period and grilling the government on its health-care reforms.
“We’re going to be focusing heavily on health care,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said last week.
“Other issues we heard during the campaign — around meth, around climate change — we’re going to be bringing those forward (as well).”
Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives are in the middle of health-care reforms that have included downgrading three Winnipeg hospital emergency departments into urgent care centres, which do not handle life-threatening cases such as heart attacks.
The Tories have said the changes are needed to concentrate emergency rooms where support services are, but opposition parties have said the changes will result in longer wait times and reduced care.
The Tories won their second-straight majority mandate with 36 of the legislature’s 57 seats, down from a historic high of 40 in the last election. The NDP gained a handful of seats to reach 18, while the Liberals secured only three and lost official party status.
They have already had to move to a smaller office space in the legislature and will receive less funding for staff, less time in question period and fewer seats on committees.
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