WINNIPEG — Manitobans may get a look at the provincial government's plans for education, welfare reform and new COVID-19 relief measures when the legislature reconvenes Wednesday for the first time since the spring.
The Progressive Conservative government will begin by laying out its plans in a throne speech.
Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires said Tuesday the speech will take into account "the many new factors that have arisen because of the global pandemic and how Manitoba can best respond."
Shortly before the province declared a pandemic state of emergency in March the government alluded to sweeping changes in welfare that would cut the number of people on social assistance.
A mandate letter from Premier Brian Pallister to Families Minister Heather Stefanson tasked the minister with "putting employable Manitobans and young people on a path of discipline, responsibility, training and jobs" and transforming social assistance from a program "that encourages dependency on government to one that provides a short-term bridge to meaningful employment".
The pandemic, along with opposition stalling tactics that blocked all legislature proceedings for several days, delayed the move as well as the government's plan to reform the education system.
A consultant's report on the topic was due at the end of March but has not been released. Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen has hinted the changes could reduce the number of elected school boards.
Pallister has already said one priority in the coming weeks will be to pass legislation to expand paid sick leave for people affected by COVID-19. The provinces and the federal government reached a deal in the summer that will see Ottawa fund the measure.
The opposition stalling, along with the government's refusal to recall the legislature in the summer, also brought an end to dozens of bills that are now to be reintroduced.
One would further restrict the public consumption of cannabis. Others would set up new conflict of interest rules for politicians and remove some of the powers of Manitoba's energy regulator to set electricity and natural gas rates.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew would not say Tuesday whether his party will try stalling tactics again this fall.
"In terms of specifics ... time will tell," Kinew said.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only half of the members of the legislature will be in the chamber; the other half will debate and vote via video-conference. Two large screens in the chamber will be used to ensure all politicians can see and be heard, Kinew said.
Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said it will be a new approach.
"This will be a learning experience for all of us," Cullen said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct.6, 2020
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press