WINNIPEG — Despite Manitoba NDP and Liberals calls for the government to resume regular sitting days at the Manitoba Legislature, Conservative House Leader Kelvin Goertzen says it won’t happen until October.
Opposition House Leader Nahanni Fontaine and River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard sent a letter to Goertzen, saying that as the province continues to ease public health restrictions and the second phase of reopening begins, they believe the legislature can regularly resume in a safe and responsible manner.
The letter said since the commencement of the 42nd Legislature, the House has only sat for 26 full days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result it is seven weeks behind where it would normally be.
“There is no reason that the house shouldn’t be sitting particularly in my opinion in the midst of a global pandemic with so many changes that have occurred for Manitobans,” Fontaine told CTV News. “I think it is pretty obvious that both the NDP and the Liberals want to get back in the house, want to hold the government to account, want the Premier to answer questions that Manitobans have.”
CTV Winnipeg previously reported the legislature was suspended indefinitely back in March, and then had one sitting day per week during the month of May.
“Discussions were held with the NDP and additional sitting time was offered. They did not accept the offer,” Goertzen told CTV News in a written statement. “As a result, the Legislative Assembly’s normal fall sittings will resume in October.”
“We are basically locked out of work. There is seven weeks of session to make up, and we should be getting ready now for a possible second wave in the fall,” Gerrard said in a statement from NDP. “This is not the time for the Premier and his MLAs to hit the golf course. We should be working.”
Fontaine and Gerrard said there’s a lot of work to finish during the current session, including estimates and debating a number of bills.
“With many people unemployed and with new job losses in businesses and at Crown Corporations, like Manitoba Hydro, looming, with confusion around the re-opening of schools and with the need to pay careful attention to our front-line health care and social services during the pandemic, it is important that we as elected officials return to the Legislature to discuss the impact of the government’s decisions and for all of us to work for the benefit of all Manitobans,” they said in the letter.
The letter notes that other provincial legislatures are operating for the month of June and beyond in order to complete necessary business. It said Manitoba needs to sit in June, September, and October to get caught up.
Fontaine told CTV News she believes the legislative assembly has proven in the previous sittings that it can operate while adhering to physical distancing.
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