In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is set to present his vision for the province during Wednesday’s Speech from the Throne.
The third session of the 42nd Manitoba legislature will open at roughly 1:35 p.m. with the reading of the speech by Lt.-Gov. Janice C. Filmon.
The previous throne speech, presented in November 2019, covered a wide range of the Conservative government’s plans, focusing on lower taxes, new jobs, better, faster health care, new schools, and a made-in-Manitoba climate and green plan.
Ominously foreshadowing the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which has since gripped the globe, it opens by saying “As Manitobans, there is no challenge that we have not faced and overcome together.”
The consequences of the pandemic will be evident in the proceedings themselves, as the government says the traditional 15-gun artillery salute, inspection of the Guard of Honour, and playing of the vice-regal salute won’t be taking place.
If the federal throne speech is any indication of what’s to come, Pallister is sure to focus on health care in his address. During the ministers’ meeting in September, the premier joined his counterparts from three other Conservative provinces in demanding federal health care funding increase by about $70 billion.
The annual throne speech typically takes place in mid-November, but Pallister moved it up by a month and has previously promised to break through any more opposition stalling tactics that might arise.
Meanwhile, Official Opposition Leader Wab Kinew presented his Alternative Throne Speech Tuesday, calling out the province for a lack of foresight in dealing with the pandemic and focusing heavily on the need to support the healthcare system.
“I would ask you: has the government of Manitoba met your level of sacrifice with an equivalent effort to make your life better?” Kinew said, echoing the title of the document Matching Your Commitment.
“I would say it’s time for Manitoba to have a government that makes your sacrifice worth it.”
The NDP’s plan highlights five areas: improving the COVID-19 response, strengthening the child care and education systems, supporting businesses, and ensuring Manitoba Hydro remains public.
The first step, according to Kinew, should be to hire more nurses and contact tracers in order to reduce lineups at COVID-19 testing sites.
“We worked with the government to give them the ability to bring recently retired nurses back into the health care system. This opportunity has not been explored enough,” Kinew said, adding the strain on testing sites could be reduced even further by recognizing the credentials of health care aides who were nurses in other countries.
Beyond shoring up the province’s pandemic defences, another pillar of his alternative speech is maintaining Manitoba Hydro as a public entity. The NDP have repeatedly claimed the Crown corporation is at risk of being broken up and privatized by the PCs.
The speech is scheduled to be read at 1:35 p.m. Wednesday, and can be streamed on the province’s website.
— With files from the Canadian Press