Throne Speech - Image from the Manitoba Chamber

 

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

Madame Speaker, Honourable Members of the Legislative Assembly, invited guests and all Manitobans

I welcome you to the third session of the 42nd Legislative Assembly of the Province of Manitoba.

2020 marks 150 years of Manitoba’s life in Canada.

We began this year bathed in the spirit of optimism.

We are closing this year cloaked in the spirit of determination.

United in Celebration is the theme of Manitoba 150.

We still have much to celebrate. And we will.

But that celebration, like so much else in our lives and province, is on hold in the face of the most serious public health and economic challenge Manitobans have ever confronted.

This year has been like no other.

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the world. The pandemic rampaged through health care systems and ravaged economies around the world. It created the biggest global economic collapse since the Great Depression 90 years ago, and the biggest world health crisis since the Great Influenza Outbreak over 100 years ago.

Neither Canadians nor Manitobans are immune to this virus.

Yet, we have weathered it better than most.

The resilience of our economy, finances, public services, and most of all, our people, have stood out strongly.

This year has shown Manitobans at their finest.

To the frontline workers - nurses, doctors, first responders, truck drivers, retail workers, teachers, and yes, parents and volunteers - who kept Manitoba open, safe, and secure, we say thank you.

To every Manitoban who reached out to help someone else, or reached deep to serve others; who stepped up to volunteer, or just stood fast in the face of uncertainty and fear, this Throne Speech is dedicated.

At this moment of need, nothing matters more than protecting Manitobans.

Today’s Throne Speech speaks to just that.

During this time of uncertainty and concern, Manitobans want a government that steps up, not back.

They want their government to protect Manitobans. To protect the services they need; to protect jobs they have or want back; to protect their incomes for themselves and their families.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. Your government has been taking action from the very beginning of this pandemic. It will continue to do so.

Today’s Throne Speech sets out a Protecting Manitobans Agenda with five guaranteed commitments.

One, it commits your government to protecting health care, and vulnerable Manitobans, with record new investments and initiatives for better care sooner, as we build an even stronger health care system for Manitobans.

Two, it commits your government to protecting jobs by creating more jobs and restarting our economy with new investment and business supports to create even more new jobs.

Three, it commits your government to protecting your income by reducing the taxes you pay, saving you money, and helping you keep more of your hard-earned income with you, where it belongs.

Four, it commits your government to protecting education and child care by building a first-class K-12 education system with new schools, increased classroom funding, and more say for parents in their children’s education outcomes and child care choices.

Finally, it commits your government to protecting Manitoba’s financial, environmental and energy futures by pursuing a careful two-term, balanced budget plan to eliminate the COVID-19 deficit while investing more in health care and education and lower taxes, taking more steps for climate action and conservation to protect our province’s environment, and protecting our clean energy advantage with a strong and secure Manitoba Hydro.

Five guaranteed commitments to protect Manitobans at a time of need.

Five guaranteed commitments that continue your government’s efforts to fix the finances, repair our services, and rebuild our economy.

Protecting Health Care

Keeping Manitobans safe and secure from COVID-19 is job one of your government.

That job began the moment the pandemic took hold and your government has not let up with over $2.3 billion directed to COVID-19 response spending so far. This is the third-highest per capita spending of any province in Canada.

This includes investing in personal protective equipment for frontline health workers, securing more testing sites and capacity for COVID-19, and ensuring funding and resources from across government are dedicated, first and foremost, to health care needs.

Innovative ideas from Manitobans, within and outside government, led to such new initiatives as COVIsitation modules for residents and families in personal care homes and the creation of a central pandemic warehouse and stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Individual Manitobans answered the call, too. Precision ADM made swabs and members of Hutterite colonies sewed masks. Local initiatives like these helped fill the gap, as world supply chains shrunk and needed health supplies dwindled.

The goal was simple: Get ready and stay prepared.

The transformation of Manitoba’s health care system, begun in 2017, proved the right thing to do. The creation of Shared Health and a provincial clinical and preventive services plan is providing the right care at the right time in the right way and giving Manitobans the resilient and responsive health care system they need at this critical time.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, wait times to see a physician are down 30 per cent in Manitoba, while they are up 20 per cent across the rest of Canada.

Your government will invest more now to reduce wait times further for cataract surgery and joint replacements. The Dauphin Health Centre will be improved with additional services provided as a priority project. Additional renal dialysis services will be provided in Steinbach to meet growing needs in that community.

Your government will re-introduce the Regional Health Authorities Amendment Act to continue this vital work.

Since 2016, your government has led the fight for a true federal health care funding partnership. We must keep up the fight.

Across Canada, health care funding needs are growing and higher than ever, yet the federal share of support for those needs is lower than ever. This means wait times for health care are longer than ever. This must change. And it must change now.

This Legislative Assembly will be asked to unanimously support a resolution that speaks with one voice, on behalf of all Manitobans, in a united call for the federal government to protect health care by increasing the Canada Health Transfer and becoming a full funding partner in providing health care to Canadians.

Despite weakening federal support, your government invested $648 million more last year than just four years ago to provide better care sooner.

Health care investments will rise even further this year and next. Your government will exceed its $2 billion Health Care Funding Guarantee with new investments in hospitals, long-term care, drugs, doctors and nurses.

Seniors built our province. Protecting seniors is our foremost obligation as a community.

As the number of seniors in Manitoba continues to increase over the next decade, your government is planning for the diverse needs of older adults and their families. This means ensuring that more Manitoba seniors are better able to “age in place,” with the supports they need to live well in their homes and communities.

Your government will put forward an integrated seniors’ strategy that empowers older adults to have greater control over their own care, with increased access to flexible, self-directed care funding. We will create more choices for home and community-based care, including enhanced home care services and digital home care options. We will partner with service providers to create new safe, supportive living spaces for seniors.

Your government will continue to invest in Manitoba’s personal care homes, with significant capital upgrades to enhance resident health and safety, as well as the addition of safe, comfortable visitation shelters, ensuring residents can maintain vital connections to their family and friends during these unsettling times.

Protecting vulnerable Manitobans with disabilities is always important, but never more so than now. Your government will help Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities through a new income support program. It will also expand supports for adults with intellectual disabilities to find and maintain community employment.

Helping Manitobans who need support to transition to work, get training and achieve financial independence must be an ongoing goal of government employment and income assistance programs. Your government will introduce amendments to the Manitoba Assistance Act that will help instil greater self-reliance and personal growth by working with employers, educators, communities, and clients themselves.

Living in a safe, secure environment is a basic human need. Your government is partnering with the federal government to create a portable housing benefit for vulnerable Manitobans, particularly youth leaving the care of Child and Family Services.

Protecting Jobs

Every job lost or not created because of COVID-19 is more than a statistic. It has a face and a story behind it.

It is a young single mother struggling to feed and raise her kids; a middle-aged private sector unionized worker wondering whether he will be able to ply his trade and skills in a vastly-altered economy; a young Manitoban fresh from college or university worried she might have to move away from home to find the opportunity and career she desires.

For these, and the thousands of other Manitoba stories out there, protecting jobs and growing our economy is the best, fastest way to beat COVID-19 and emerge stronger on the other side.

The Restart Manitoba initiative is helping protect Manitoba jobs and getting people back to work. It is bridging the gap by supporting workers, students, and businesses who need it. Already, over 21,000 Manitobans have used this assistance to keep working or to return to work.

Your government will continue to fund these, and other initiatives, to help people find and keep jobs.

The Premier’s Economic Opportunities Advisory Board is actively engaged in giving the government recommendations to restart our economy. At a time of massive change and economic disruption, Manitoba needs bold and innovative ideas to come out of COVID-19 stronger than before.

With this new, urgent reality in mind, this board of accomplished private and public sector leaders will be asked to advise government on new ways to unleash private sector capital and investment to create jobs and build on Manitoba’s unique strengths as a transportation hub, an agricultural powerhouse, a small business engine, and a clean energy producer.

Specifically, they will be asked to recommend a new, independent private sector-led economic development agency to attract investment and promote international trade for our province. They will also be asked to examine the need and role for a provincial venture capital investment fund to give Manitoba businesses better access to innovative financing to bridge established private investment capital sources.

Good jobs require good workers. Manitobans fit the bill, but our skills must fit the jobs available. Our universities and colleges need to align the education they offer with the labour market needs that exist now, and those needs that are emerging.?The government will release a forward-looking skills, talent, and knowledge strategy to prepare Manitobans for the jobs of the future and to ensure our workers get the education and labour market training they need to be job-ready.

This will include legislation to better align post-secondary institutions with labour market needs, expand work-integrated learning opportunities for students, and improve the governance, transparency, and accountability of our colleges and universities.

As part of this overall skills strategy, your government will transform and modernize apprenticeship training, enabling more individuals to become skilled journeypersons, particularly in rural and northern Manitoba.

Your government will also introduce amendments to the Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act to ensure faster recognition of qualified professionals to meet labour market needs.

And, to help businesses protect jobs and keep workers, new training supports will be provided this year.

People are Manitoba’s greatest strength. And new immigrants make Manitoba even stronger, enriching our culture, filling job needs, and creating new jobs for themselves and others.

COVID-19 is closing borders and opportunities that we must reopen as soon as it is safe. Your government will be ready to welcome new immigrants to our province through a special immigration credential recognition program, while insisting upon an expanded federal quota for our province under the highly successful, made-in-Manitoba provincial nominee program.

Investing in infrastructure creates jobs by building Manitoba for Manitobans.

Your government will continue to invest in new infrastructure projects under the $500 million Manitoba Restart plan, including the St. Mary’s Interchange on the South Perimeter Highway, a new roundabout at the Trans-Canada Highway intersection with PTH 16, and the development of a North Perimeter Safety Plan.

Your government will continue to vigorously pursue, and insist upon, federal government partnership and approval of the $500 million Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin channel project, without delays. This is the largest single infrastructure project in our province and will help protect people and communities from climate change, and give people in the region their lives back. It is past time to get it done.

Cleaning up Lake Winnipeg is a major environmental priority of your government. Building on historic investments in upstream watersheds, we will dedicate over $268 million as a first contribution to upgrading the North End Winnipeg Sewage Treatment Plant, on a priority basis, under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan.

A momentary silver lining of COVID-19 has been the chance for many Manitobans to experience staycations and rediscover parts of our beautiful province. But we need to be ready when borders reopen and tourists are invited back. Your government will release an updated provincial tourism strategy to build back this important sector and protect jobs and incomes for thousands of Manitobans.

Our natural agricultural advantage is a massive competitive advantage in which we must keep investing Your government will host a Protein Summit next year to assert our global leadership in sustainable protein production. It will invest further in sustainable water and irrigation management to maintain Manitoba’s agricultural advantage.

In recent years, Manitoba has led the country in private sector capital investment growth, due to its focus on reducing job-killing red tape. Your government will continue to streamline planning and approval processes by reintroducing changes to The Planning Act and the City of Winnipeg Charter. These changes will ensure municipal governments make timely and transparent decisions on private sector capital investment opportunities in their communities. We will also repeal the complicated, restrictive and unnecessary rules surrounding holiday and Sunday shopping hours to make shopping easier for families and seniors.

As Canadians, we are rightly proud of our democratic institutions and processes, built upon a foundational respect for the rule of law. Legal protest has helped shape our democracy and must be protected and cherished. Earlier this year, however, Manitoba experienced the negative economic effects of illegal protests and blockades, putting the livelihoods of people and communities at risk. Your government will introduce legislation to prevent such illegal blockades of critical transportation routes and protect jobs.

Protecting Incomes

In the midst of this pandemic, Manitobans are rightly worried about how far their paycheque can go. Your government understands this and is taking less and less of the income you earn, to help you care for your family and invest in your community.

Now is not the time for higher taxes. Now is the time for lower taxes to protect incomes and jobs.

Since taking office in 2016, taxes have been lowered in each and every year, allowing Manitobans to keep almost $700 million. $700 million dollars left in your pockets, where it helps most.

Your government kept its word to Manitobans to cut the PST to seven per cent, eliminate bracket creep for personal income taxes each year, and remove the PST from both property insurance and will preparation. It will continue its 2020 Tax Rollback Guarantee by eliminating probate fees on estates and removing the PST from income tax preparation.

Last year, in a renewed mandate from the people of Manitoba, the government announced its commitment to eliminate, over time, the education property tax. Given the challenges we face however, Manitobans need more tax relief sooner, not later, and your government will provide it. The phased elimination of the education property tax, paid by individual Manitobans, will begin next year.

Manitoba was a strong, early advocate of paid leave for workers that are sick with COVID-19, required to self-isolate, or must take time off to care for others who are sick. The federal government listened to that call, and has finally responded. Amendments to the Employment Standards Code will be introduced to update leave provisions and ensure Manitobans are able to access paid federal sick leave promptly, while protecting themselves and others.

Paying less for products and services is good for working Manitobans. Every bit helps, including from publicly-funded Crown corporations. Your government will help a bit more, by instructing Manitoba Hydro to keep this year’s rate increase to below three per cent, ensuring MPI continues to lower rates, and allowing less expensive and more convenient private retailing of liquor in the province.

Legislation will be re-introduced to streamline the onerous process of the Public Utilities Board, enabling it to make decisions sooner and at less cost, benefitting ratepayers.

Protecting Education and Child Care

Keeping schools open and children and students safe during this pandemic remains your government’s top education priority.

To protect access to education during COVID-19, your government is establishing a provincial blended learning strategy, consisting of remote and in-class learning options through the Restoring Safe Schools plan. This strategy will ensure that learning continues as seamlessly as possible for every student during the pandemic, regardless of where they live.

Building new schools is essential, not just for learning, but for the health and safety of students. Your government will not deviate from its commitment to build 20 new schools.

Better learning environments must be accompanied by better learning outcomes. Parents, students, and teachers alike all want a K-12 educational system that is the best it can be.

Your government will set out a K-12, Better Education Strategy Today - BEST - with the aim of transforming Manitoba’s education system into a modern, responsive, and ambitious educational system that is classroom-focused, student-centred, and parent-friendly.

The BEST strategy will ensure that money is going to where it is needed most - into classrooms and schools - by providing a guaranteed annual increase, totalling over $1.6 billion more in education funding over the next four years.牋

It will improve outcomes and achievement for all students across the province.

It will equip teachers and administrators with the tools they need to be successful. 

It will build consistency and coherence across the province, with stronger accountability structures across the complete school experience for students and parents, teachers and principals, administrators and educators.

We need more resources directed into teaching and learning and less time and money wasted on school administration and red tape.

We need teachers and principals focused on teaching and running schools, not distracted by time-consuming bureaucracy.

And we need parents to be given the chance to be more involved in their children’s education, not less.

Your government’s BEST strategy will deliver on these goals.

Protecting child care means making it more affordable and accessible for parents.

Your government will develop a modern child care system and funding model that will enable and support the child care sector to grow in line with demand from Manitoba families, provide greater equity in the type of support given to families, and offer choices and flexibility that reflects the needs and challenges today’s parents face.

Protecting Manitoba’s Future

Protecting Manitoba’s future means addressing today’s priorities with an eye on tomorrow.

Dealing with the immediate effects of a pandemic is unavoidable, but failing to think about what this means for our province’s future would be unforgiveable.

We must think today about tomorrow’s generations.

Your government will continue to plan and take steps to protect Manitoba’s financial future, Manitoba’s climate future, and Manitoba’s energy future.

Each represents a common goal - passing on a stronger Manitoba to future generations - because each represents a common challenge - reducing the financial and climate debts we must not pass on to others.
This year marked the first balanced budget in the province in over a decade.

If your government had not delivered on this important promise, with the financial resilience that a balanced budget brings, Manitoba’s financial future would be not just difficult, but dire, in the wake of COVID-19.?/p>

Manitobans can have the confidence that your government will continue to manage the province’s finances wisely and prudently for the future. It has already done so, while leading Canada in investing more in health care, education, and families.

But Manitobans also want confidence that their tax dollars are being managed wisely. Accordingly, next year’s budget will set out a pathway to a gradual, careful return to balance over the next two terms.

Climate change is a growing threat to both our environmental and economic futures. Extreme rainfall events have caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to communities in Westman and Winnipeg.

These events reinforce Manitoba’s efforts to keep planning for a climate change reality that is already happening around us. Your government will continue to implement its Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan with new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors of our economy, building on our clean energy advantage. It will invest in natural infrastructure projects and release a provincial water strategy aimed at making the most of this vital resource sustainably.

Manitoba Hydro is the crown jewel of our Crown corporations. It is the foundation of the province’s clean energy advantage in the fight against climate change.

Unfortunately, interference by a previous government has resulted in massive increases in Hydro debt that exposes Manitobans to enormous and growing financial risk.

That is why an independent Economic Review of the Bipole III and Keeyask projects was so necessary - to give Manitobans the full facts and to offer recommendations to ensure this never happens again.

Manitobans need to know the full extent of why these projects were approved, allowed to proceed and mismanaged, leading to billions of dollars in cost overruns. Your government will make this report public, once it is received.

The sustainability of Manitoba’s fish and wildlife populations is critical to protect natural resource jobs and conservation traditions. We cannot allow Lake Winnipeg to be polluted any longer, and we must protect species like our moose population, from threats.

Your government will introduce legislative changes to strengthen supports from the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund. It will proclaim the Safe Hunting and Shared Management amendments to the Wildlife Act to create new partnerships with Manitoba’s Indigenous communities, hunters, and landowners to protect big game species currently in decline.

It will continue to consult with harvesters and Indigenous communities to develop long-term shared management plans and other initiatives intended to allow the sustainable use of our wildlife resources and end the unsafe practice of night hunting.

Listening to Manitobans, Respecting Manitobans

Through EngageMB, your government has consulted with more Manitobans, more often, than any government in the past, to inform our collective COVID-19 response. Your government has listened. It will keep listening.

From the ongoing pandemic response to the forthcoming budget, Manitobans will be asked to contribute to new policies, programs, and actions to restart our economy and keep protecting us all. Your government is committed to hearing directly from Manitobans on what matters most to you.

Your government is ready to continue with the mandate you gave us to fix the finances, repair the services and rebuild the economy. Many of the bills from the last session are integral to accomplishing this work and will be reintroduced in this session to complete this work.

We are truly in this campaign against COVID-19 together.

As we look to the future, we can draw inspiration from the past.

This year marks 150 years of Manitoba’s history as a province, but also 100 years of this magnificent Legislative building. This is the people’s house. Its presence is a reminder of our individual freedoms and collective progress.

To mark this moment of respect and reconciliation, this Throne Speech announces that a monument to Chief Peguis will be placed on the grounds of this legislative building to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Treaty and the contributions of Saulteaux Chief Peguis and the allied Cree Chiefs who were signatories.

Forging positive, respectful, and inclusive relationships with Indigenous and northern communities is fundamental to Manitoba’s economic prosperity. It is an important pillar of government’s mandate to advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

Your government will continue to advance economic initiatives and priorities, as well as support innovative partnerships that increase Indigenous participation and opportunities in Manitoba’s economy, and advance reconciliation. It will continue to expedite Treaty Land Entitlement, recognizing the important role that land plays in living out our treaty obligations and enhancing fiscal and economic opportunities.

To build on, and enhance food security initiatives in northern Manitoba, your government will implement a Food Security Innovation Challenge that will engage local, regional, national and international stakeholders in the launch of a challenge prize to accelerate solutions to efficiently increase reliable access to healthy foods in northern and remote communities.

Over 100 years ago, the 4H movement in Canada started right here in Roland, Manitoba. Today, 4H clubs across the province continue to teach many traditional personal and community values that are still relevant today. Your government will honour the values of head, heart, hands, and health by establishing a 4H scholarship endowment strategy that will help provincial and local organizations provide these unique opportunities for young Manitobans.

Protecting Manitobans

Manitoba is the home of hope. We remain full of hope about our future together.

We can rightly take pride in what Manitobans have accomplished together, not just this year, but over the past 150 years.

The road ahead is not fully clear to any of us, but what is clear is that we are on this journey together.

We know that if the pandemic is tough, Manitobans are tougher.

To get through COVID-19 - and make no mistake, we will - we must remain confident in ourselves above all.

Confident in our abilities to overcome; confident in our resilience to stand strong; confident in our willingness to work together.

Resilient, we will prevail.

Protecting each other begins with caring for each other; with love of province and country and kindness toward others.

That is how we can live with COVID-19. That is how we have always lived. That is how we should live always.

I now leave you to the business of the session, knowing that you will faithfully discharge your duties and responsibilities.

May Divine Providence continue to bless our province and guide this Assembly in all of its deliberations.

God Bless Manitoba;

God Bless Canada; and

And God Save the Queen.