Manitoba politicians debate bills, end session in wee hours of morning
MLAs approved a new ride-hailing bill, paving the way for companies like Uber
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WINNIPEG — Manitoba politicians pulled an all-nighter as the Progressive Conservative government got several contentious bills passed into law before the end of the legislative session.
After hours of debate, and a delay of almost four hours when the sound system in the chamber stopped working, bleary-eyed politicians called it a day at 4:30 a.m. Friday.
"We've been in government just over one and a half years. Some days it seems like 10," joked Premier Brian Pallister later in the morning.
Armed with the largest majority government in Manitoba in a century, Pallister's Tories got dozens of new laws approved.
One will see steeper annual tuition increases at universities. Another will pave the way for ride-hailing services such as Uber and give municipalities the authority to regulate them.
Another new law will let medical professionals abstain from participating in physician-assisted death, while a fourth eliminates tuition rebates on income tax paid by post-secondary graduates who stay in the province.
Pallister said he recognizes many of his moves have caused controversy, including recent changes that consolidate hospital emergency rooms in Winnipeg. But he said he is doing what is necessary to address almost a decade of deficits started by the former NDP government and long wait lists in health care.
"Change is never easy and I would say there is no doubt that we are very, very sympathetic to the challenges of change that Manitobans have to face," he said.
"But I would also say that governments that worry too much about getting re-elected don't deserve to be."
The Opposition New Democrats spent much of their time in the legislature highlighting the government's spending cuts and accusing Pallister of breaking his 2016 election promise to protect front-line services.
The NDP pointed to the cancellation of some physiotherapy services, the elimination of lactation consultants at one hospital and other examples.
"Our vision is of a health care system that looks upstream, working to keep people healthy at home, so they can live a higher quality of life with the people they love," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said in a statement.
The legislature clock ran out before a handful of bills could be passed into law, including one which would lift a decade-old ban on political floor-crossing. The ban requires any legislature member who leaves or is kicked out of a party caucus to sit as an Independent until the next election. They cannot join another party's caucus until then.
Steven Fletcher, who was turfed from the Tory caucus in June, is challenging the law in court and has a hearing set for December. The Tories plan to reintroduce the bill and pass it before then.
The legislature is now a break until Nov. 21, when the government is to announce its plans for the coming year in a speech from the throne.