Uber, union legislation to be revealed Monday

Manitoba climate adviser charged nearly $60K in travel expenses since August, documents show

Uber, public sector contracts, tuition caps — get ready for a busy day Monday at the Manitoba legislature

The speculation over legislation pertaining to unions, tuition caps and even Uber's entry into the Manitoba market is expected to end on Monday when the Progressive Conservatives introduce a swath of much-anticipated bills in the afternoon.

Monday marks the last day the government can be guaranteed a bill is passed this session and the Tories aren't taking any chances.

Two bills, the Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act and the Public Services Sustainability Act, will be introduced on Monday, which will reveal Premier Brian Pallister's plan for Manitoba's public sector unions and their contracts.

The Public Services Sustainability Act has been in discussion for months after Pallister told media last year he intends to bring in legislation next spring to control public-sector wage growth, He didn't rule out re-opening current public sector contracts.

The PC's fall throne speech promised legislation that would frame contract negotiations based on the government's ability to pay wage increases.

'We don't quite understand the urgency'

Kevin Rebeck of the Manitoba Federation of Labour said he isn't sure what the actual legislation will include or how it will achieve these goals, noting the government has been "very vague in their statements."

"To know that legislation is coming down when we have barely had a discussion or have no understanding of what is included in it is a bit surprising," Rebeck said.

Pallister hasn't been shy in discussing his distaste of the vast number of collective bargaining units in the province's health sector. At his December state of the province address, he said "it just makes sense" to reduce Manitoba's current 169 units to a more manageable number. The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act will likely set into motion plans to whittle down that figure.

Rebeck said he was surprised to see the collective bargaining legislation appear so soon in the order paper, noting the unions had only just begun to meet with the government and weigh their options.

"We had just begun the conversation and we expected an ongoing exchange of ideas to build a plan together, so we are little bit surprised it is at the legislation stage now. We don't quite understand the urgency," Rebeck said. "Clearly they have a plan already, so we will just have to see what that plan is."

Paving the way for Uber?

Meanwhile, the Local Vehicles for Hire Act is expected to clear the way for Uber and other ride-sharing services to enter the Winnipeg market. The news comes after a report prepared by MNP for the Taxicab Board released in December recommended the city expand its options for customers.

In a prepared statement sent Thursday, Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke said the government has reviewed the report's recommendations and is prepared to introduce legislation to "move the plan forward."

Lastly, the Advanced Education Administration Amendment Act will be introduced on Monday and the Canadian Federation of Students fears it will mean the end of the tuition cap for post-secondary schools in Manitoba.

The PCs have been vague on their plans for the maintaining the cap. The former NDP government froze tuition rates for a decade starting in 1999, and later limited any increases to the rate of inflation.

The Tories made no promises on tuition fees in the spring election campaign, but did promise more money for scholarship and grants, including bursaries established by the private sector.

Michael Barkman, Manitoba's CFS chair, said he fears the cap will be removed based on the government's lack of commitment to keeping it intact since taking government.

"After the throne speech in the fall, the premier mentioned in the media scrum afterwards it could be a real possibility," Barkman told CBC News. "It is something we heard was possible from the government."