As business at the Manitoba legislature hits pause until the fall, Premier Brian Pallister held a press conference Tuesday to reflect on a turbulent, record-setting term.
Pallister touted his government’s achievements during the spring session, noting a record 65 government bills were passed.
“Record investments, one of the largest volumes of new bills ever, and a third wave of a pandemic, to boot,” he said, adding he’s proud of his teams’ work during the spring sitting.
That work included a 25 per cent education property tax rebate that Pallister said puts his government over the top of an election commitment to reduce taxes by $2,000.
In a release sent to media before Pallister went before the cameras, government house leader Kelvin Goertzen pointed to record investments in health care, education and social services during COVID-19.
“This session we brought forth many important pieces of legislation focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting businesses and laying the ground work for post-pandemic prosperity, and most of all protecting Manitobans and our health-care system,” Goertzen said in the release.
The opposition was quick to rain on the government’s parade.
On a day when Manitoba set a new record for intensive care admissions due to COVID-19 for a third straight day, Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont called the Pallister government’s performance over the last few months “a colossal failure of judgment and leadership.”
“Disasters like the Maples Personal Care Home, the deadliest second wave in Canada, and the near-collapse of our health care system in the third wave didn’t happen by accident,” he said in an email sent out during Pallister’s media appearance.
“The Manitoba PC government ignored warnings and did nothing to get ready.
“The result has been that Manitobans have had to endure incredible suffering and crushing burdens that did not need to happen to the extent that it has.”
While Manitoba went months with few COVID-19 cases last summer, the province was hit hard during a second wave in the fall and winter and for a period of the time was Canada’s hotspot for infections.
Manitoba has been even harder hit in a third wave this spring, and recently, the province has had the highest new infection rate in North America.
Earlier in the day health officials announced 232 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. Since March 2020 1,056 Manitobans with COVID-19 have died and 51,316 have been stricken by the virus.
In recent weeks the province has been forced to send dozens of critically ill COVID-19 patients out of province for care to keep from running out of ICU beds.
As of Tuesday morning the province says there are 109 COVID-19 patients from Manitoba in the ICU — up from the previous high of 107 set Monday.
“We did better than everybody a lot of this pandemic, and worse than everybody for part of it as well, I mean, peaks and valleys, right?” Pallister said of the province’s COVID-19 fight Tuesday.
“And it isn’t for lack of preparation that this has happened.
“I think when the analysis comes through in days ahead, we’ll identify different realities that are true here in Manitoba that aren’t so true in other parts of the country, that have caused some of the negative impacts of COVID being able to spread more rapidly in certain demographics.”
On Monday, a joint statement from the house leaders of the governing Progressive Conservatives, the NDP and the Manitoba Liberal Party said that for the remainder of the legislature session, only a few members will actually be present.
Just four government members, two opposition members and the Speaker will be in the chamber, with the vast majority of MLAs to participate virtually.
–With files from Skylar Peters and The Canadian Press