The Manitoba legislature has started a summer break with some unfinished business put on hold until the fall.
The Opposition New Democrats delayed a handful of government bills, including one that would remove almost all of the province’s elected school boards.
Another bill on hold until October is aimed at preventing blockades of critical infrastructure such as highways and rail lines.
Dozens of other bills were passed into law during the spring sitting, including a refund of education property taxes and a new centralized collective bargaining system for teachers.
The sitting was dominated by debate over the Progressive Conservative government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opposition parties accused the government of failing to prepare for the second and third waves of the pandemic, which has been linked to more than 1,000 deaths in the province.
“We still need to see more action — more concrete measures — to address the staffing situation and to ensure that we can care for all the Manitobans who are needing health-care services at this time,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Tuesday.
The government expanded its intensive-care capacity to almost double the pre-pandemic level of 72, but it was not enough to keep up with a recent surge in cases.
Many patients have had to be flown to other provinces. One died a day after she was supposed to be transferred; she was turned around after becoming unstable.
Manitoba has been recording the highest per capita infection rate among the provinces in recent weeks. Its per capita rate of deaths since the start of the pandemic is the second-highest, behind Quebec.
Premier Brian Pallister laid some of the blame on people not following public health orders, and said his government has expanded intensive care.
“Doubling the (intensive care) capacity from the start of the pandemic and increasing it by 40 per cent per over what the NDP left behind after two decades of power is nothing for our health-care leadership to apologize for,” he said.
Pallister’s popularity has dropped sharply in recent opinion polls, and questions about his future have surfaced.
In a year-end interview last December, he was asked twice whether he still planned to serve a full second term through to the fall of 2023. Both times, he would only commit to staying on until the end of the pandemic.
Pallister told the legislative chamber he will be back for the fall sitting this year.
“I look forward to seeing you again … in the early part of October,” Pallister said near the end of question period.