On Tuesday of this week the new NDP government delivered its first Throne Speech since being elected in October. The Throne Speech, which was written by the NDP government but delivered by the Lieutenant Governor, Anita Neville, was largely a restatement of campaign promises made by the NDP.
Included in these promises was the commitment to somehow hire more medical staff across the healthcare system despite shortages around Canada. There was no plan unveiled to outline how this would happen. There was also a promise to increase surgical procedures, although the only concrete action that the NDP has taken to date is to cancel the contracts that allowed Manitobans to get procedures paid for out of province surgeries such as hip and knee replacements. So, the only thing the NDP has delivered on to date when it comes to surgeries is reducing the number that are performed.
In fairness, the new government has only been elected for about two months. As well, most Throne Speeches are short on details which are usually left for the provincial budget traditionally delivered in the Spring. So it may be that greater details are provided at that time. But on Tuesday, the Speech seemed to be very much an exercise by the NDP in lowering expectations from the public after having spent the better part of the last two years, and the election campaign, ramping up the expectations of Manitobans.
This was particularly notable when it came to finances where the NDP government seemed to signal in their Throne Speech that there may be cuts or slowdowns in previous government commitments. While not specifically indicating what they are planning to cut, the NDP claimed that they had inherited difficult financial restraints. To be clear, the independent office of the Auditor General in Manitoba reported at the end of this September that the budget had a $270 million surplus. It has been decades since a new government inherited a budget surplus from an outgoing government let alone one that is more than a quarter of a billion dollars. Yet somehow, the NDP is going to try to convince Manitobans that this surplus is requiring them to make significant cuts.
One concrete commitment that was made by the NDP government was to make Holocaust education mandatory in the Manitoba education curriculum. While many schools do currently include this education as part of their lessons, a more standardized and consistent learning of the atrocities of the Holocaust is a good step.
In the days ahead, the Throne Speech will be debated in the Manitoba Legislature and will be voted on likely next week. Amendments can be proposed to the Speech and those are voted on as well. Importantly, this will be the first opportunity for the many new MLAs from both parties that were elected to make their inaugural speech in the Legislative Assembly. It is something special for them, their families and their constituents and I look forward to hearing many of them.
The Legislature will sit into December, and I look forward to updating you on the progress of various initiatives.