Manitoba legislature suspended indefinitely over COVID-19 concerns

By | March 20, 2020

Manitoba’s MLAs have left the legislative chamber and it isn’t known when they’ll return. 

There was all-party support Thursday for the legislature to rise for an undetermined length of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If necessary, the legislators may reconvene to deal with emergency matters. 

On Friday, Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency and ordered a 50-person gathering limit.

“It’s very difficult to do social distancing in an environment like the Legislative Assembly where people are very close together,” Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday. 

The legislative business ran late yesterday in order to pass the budget, which was tabled the same day. The government also introduced 14 bills, ranging from a ban on the door-to-door sales of furnaces and air conditioners to legislation creating a capital planning region for the Winnipeg metropolitan area. 

Question period was scheduled to run for another week before taking a previously scheduled week off.

Progressive Conservative MLAs sit in the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday while the NDP delayed house proceedings. Premier Brian Pallister said it is difficult for legislators to practice social distancing when their seats are close together. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

“From a safety standpoint, I think it makes sense for us, … as the Parliament has done and as other provinces have done, to suspend the sitting of the legislature at this point in time.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew supports the move.

“From our perspective, our staff, the other people who work in the building here, they deserve the chance to practice social distancing,” Kinew said. “It does make sense for us to adjourn and to not sit so close together in the chamber for the foreseeable future.”

He’s open to emergency sittings in order to pass COVID-19 measures. His party is suggesting, among other measures, the government consider topping up incomes for people who lose their jobs or on sick leave because of the virus.

Earlier in the week, the three party house leaders reached a deal to alter the dates, times and even location of the sitting legislature during the coronavirus emergency if necessary. These decisions can only be made with consensus.

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