A new sitting of the Manitoba Legislature began on Tuesday and as is tradition, it began with the Speech from the Throne as read by the new Lieutenant Governor Anita Neville. The Throne Speech is delivered annually and sets out the priorities of the government for the coming year. While many details related to the Throne Speech follow in future announcements and the spring budget, it is an important document in establishing the priorities of the provincial government.
Tuesday’s Throne Speech touched on a number of key priorities. These included making communities safer, helping make life more affordable and strengthening healthcare.
In the area of community safety, commitments were made to ensure that law enforcement officials have the tools and resources they need to deal with the escalation of violent crime. This includes dedicated and integrated enforcement units to deal with high-risk offenders who have outstanding arrest warrants. While we will continue to seek changes by the federal government to the Criminal Code to make it more difficult for violent offenders to be released from custody, a dedicated warrant unit will help keep communities safer.
The Throne Speech also signaled the intention to create 1,000 new addiction treatment spaces. We know that when an individual who is struggling with addiction is seeking help, it is critical to offer that help as soon as possible. As much of the crime that is committed is connected to drugs and addiction, this is a way to both better individual lives as well as the overall health and safety of communities.
The Speech from the Throne also recognized that many Manitobans are struggling with the high cost of food and gas. Inflation is making most things more expensive and is resulting in increased interest rates. While it is difficult for a provincial government to influence inflation trends, we know that it is important to make life as affordable as possible in these difficult times. Tuesday’s speech committed that next year the Education Property tax Rebate would be increased for residential and farm properties to 50 percent, up from this year’s 37.5 percent. While there will be additional affordability measures announced, this commitment alone will provide an average rebate of over $750 next year.
In addition, more support was committed to healthcare, both to build and upgrade healthcare facilities, but also to train and retain healthcare professionals in the province of Manitoba. While the challenges that are facing healthcare are being felt across the country, a made in Manitoba approach is being taken to support healthcare workers and shorten surgical wait times. In Steinbach, the planned expansion of the Bethesda Regional Healthcare Centre is underway with a dialysis unit currently under construction.
In the coming months, I look forward to sharing further details on the priorities that have been set out in this year’s Throne Speech.