Earlier today, the 3rd session of the 42nd Legislature of the Government of Manitoba wrapped up as the province continues to deal with the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislative session, beginning in October saw the tabling of 73 Government Bills. Over 65 bills passed, amongst them ones that brought further red tape reduction and provide a 50% education property tax rebate over the next two years for residential and farm property owners.
Of note are the pieces of legislation that didn’t pass as the NDP has chosen to designate and hold over Bills 16, 35, 40, 57 and 64 until the Fall session. This shows where they will keep their focus and where they are looking to continue the debate into the next session.
Bill 16, the Labour Relations Amendment Act, proposes significant changes to the Labour Relations Act including;
- An employer may terminate an employee for just cause based on strike-related misconduct even if the employee has not been convicted of a criminal offence for that misconduct.
- A vote for decertification or for displacement must take place by secret ballot and within seven days. The threshold for holding a decertification vote is changed from 50% to 40% and for holding a displacement vote is changed from 45% to 40%.
- The Manitoba Labour Board (the Board) may review the appropriateness of a bargaining unit after certification has occurred.
- The Board may declare that a successor employer does not acquire all or some of the predecessor employer’s rights and obligations on the sale of the business if there is a substantial change to the business.
- The Board may delay the settlement of a first collective agreement if the party requesting the settlement has not bargained in good faith and sufficiently and seriously.
- The Board may order a party who brings before the Board a matter that is without merit to pay costs.
The NDP have stated that they are delaying this legislation in order to “show solidarity with front line workers and labour organizations.” The Government position is that the Bill modernizes existing legislation and brings it in line with what other provinces are doing and is about making unions more accountable and transparent.
The NDP argue that Bill 35, the Public Utilities Ratepayer Protection and Regulatory Reform Act, will weaken the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and negatively impact consumers by giving the Government the ability to raise hydro rates without public input. The independent PUB currently allows Manitobans to have their say through annual public hearings. Currently Manitoba Hydro applies for a rate change, the PUB then rules on whether to allow the rate change. Bill 35 would mandate the PUB approve electricity rates in five-year intervals rather than annually. Any rate adjustments would be approved through government regulation. The Government viewpoint is that the Bill enhances the PUB and its oversight on behalf of Manitobans.
Bill 40, the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Amendment and Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act is being held over to the Fall session as the NDP argues it will lead to the privatization of liquor stores. The NDP hope by pushing it the government will withdraw the legislation altogether. If passed, the Bill enables Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to enter into an agreement with third parties to sell an agreed type of liquor from a specific location. While this is already in place in rural Manitoba, this legislation would open the door to urban settings. The Government sees the Bill as an opportunity to enhance the liquor retail and distribution model, modernizing the system currently in place.
The NDP are also delaying Bill 57, the Critical Infrastructure Act, a Bill aimed at protecting facilities from being blockaded by protestors, such as what happened with rail lines during the protests on Wet’suwet’en. The NDP argue that the Bill is an infringement on freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly, and gives the government unprecedented power to decide what is deemed “critical infrastructure”. Government on the other hand sees this as crucial to prevent interference in things like highways and rail lines that people rely upon in their daily lives.
The final and perhaps most heated Bill being held over to the Fall is the Education Modernization Act, Bill 64. The opposition argues that this legislation will lead to cuts in education. The Government argues that unions are peddling misinformation about the Bill, including by pushing the message that the government will close schools, cut funding and close down support programs. The Government says the legislation is about modernizing governance, improving student scores and shifting more resources to the classroom.
Through the Bills they have chosen to delay to the Fall, the NDP show the issues they want to keep on top of Manitobans minds as they head into the summer. These 5 pieces are all issues that would resonate with their base of supporters and gives them the opportunity to spend the summer discussing them and raising opposition to them, especially addressing parents on Bill 64. We will see these pieces of legislation debated again in the fall as the house is currently scheduled to resume sitting on October 6th.
- Premier Pallister’s End of Session Press Conference
- Bills, Third Session, Forty-Second Legislature, Manitoba
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