Manitoba moves forward with new tax relief, income support for people with disabilities with bills passed

A brief six-day sitting of the Manitoba Legislature wrapped up Thursday with the approval of new tax measures and an accusation the government is failing to protect reproductive rights.

Three pieces of legislation passed with the support of the governing Progressive Conservatives.

The budget implementation bill must pass every year to ensure government has the money it needs. This year, the legislation also implemented a number of tax changes that will take effect in December, including the removal of PST on haircuts and a tax on services like Netflix and Airbnb.

As well, new legislation to move people with disabilities off of employment income assistance to a new tailored income program passed unanimously.

MLAs also endorsed a private members’ bill from NDP MLA Jamie Moses to mark August 1 as Emancipation Day province-wide. Canada observed its first Emancipation Day, which marks the anniversary of slavery being abolished in the British Empire in 1834, earlier this year. 

In question period, the NDP said it wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget that didn’t increase funding for long-term care, among other perceived failings.

Parallels with Pallister

Once again, party leader Wab Kinew drew parallels between the governing PC party and their former leader, Brian Pallister, who stepped down as premier in September while his popularity was sinking.

“Manitobans have spoken quite clearly. They do not want Brian Pallister’s attacks on health care and education,” he said in the chamber.

Afterwards, Deputy Premier Rochelle Squires shot back, suggesting Kinew is looking backward as Manitoba spends more on areas such as health care and education than did the NDP government that was defeated in 2016.

“While we’re in favour of moving Manitoba forward with these enhanced investments — in fact, record investments in these broad areas — they can sit and defend the legacy of Greg Selinger all they like,” she told reporters.

NDP and Liberal members voted against the budget implementation bill. 

The government used the six-day sitting to prepare what Premier Kelvin Goertzen describes as a “clean slate” for the Progressive Conservatives’ next leader, who will be chosen on Oct. 30.

To that end, Goertzen formally withdrew five pieces of legislation last week, including the contentious plan to reform education that would have tossed all English-language school boards.

Abortion protest buffer bill defeated

Also on Thursday, NDP House Leader Nahanni Fontaine slammed the government for voting against her bill that would have created protest buffer zones around facilities where abortions are performed. 

“I am incredibly disappointed in each and every one of the PCs who stood up in the [legislature] and voted against the legislation and even the members that were not in the chamber, either strategically or whatever,” she said.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said she wanted more consultation before approving the bill, suggesting Manitoba must respect people’s freedom of speech while ensuring nobody faces harassment or feels threatened. 

The legislature is scheduled to reconvene in November with a throne speech, but the PC’s new leader may decide to push it back.

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