The provincial legislature should be focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic not on Matters of Privilege which are designed only to obstruct the normal business of the Legislature.
On Monday March 16, Matt Wiebe, NDP MLA for Concordia rasied a Matter of Privilege dealing with ride sharing and taxi services. I responded below, that this did not fit the criteria for a Matter of Privilege and that we should be focusing on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. My comments are below:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to put a few comments on the record on this matter of privilege.
This deals with the government handling of the ride-share and the taxi industries. This is clearly an important area. It's not the first time it was possible for the member to bring this up, as many of these issues date back some time.
The member has made a prima facie case to demonstrate that his privileges as an MLA have been interfered with, and I would comment on his privileges as an MLA in this context being interfered with versus the interference which is happening with many other MLAs being able to address what is a crisis at the moment–the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have just learned that three more Canadians have died. So that's four deaths, and they're all in the Lynn Valley Care Centre in British Columbia. We, clearly, need strong measures to be taken with regard to personal-care homes–and, as Connie Newman has pointed out, we also need a major effort for people, family and friends, to stay in touch, even if they can't visit the personal-care homes to stay in touch with people who are there.
These are urgent matters. It is important to note that we are talking about not only the members' privilege, but now about the privilege which is important for all of us as MLAs to be able to debate and discuss and ask questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are now seven cases in Manitoba. We have seen a situation where things got away in Italy. We need to be able to address critical issues here. One of those critical issues relates to child care and whether child-cares should be closed and many, me among them, feel that, if we're closing schools, that we should be considering also closing child-cares, but there are some issues. Whereas the arrangements with closing schools seems to be being made so that teachers can still get paid because they're still working, we need to discuss this matter for those who are child-care workers to make sure that they won't all of a sudden lose all their income.
We also need to address the critical needs of child care for parents who are in essential occupations like health care and so we may need to have ways that perhaps small child-care centres or child-care centres which can manage things by having children in small groups can stay open to make sure that there is child care for those who are working in essential jobs or essential businesses or industries. These are the sorts of matters that we should be discussing.
And, also, there are critical issues about northern Manitoba. The member, I would suggest, may be failing to deal adequately with the privileges of people in northern Manitoba. Perhaps we should be screening people before they go north so that we limit the opportunity for the virus, COVID-19, to get into communities like St. Theresa Point.
I hear there's a situation in Keeyask, where there's 1,500 people working–you've got people coming to work from all over the place - from many different areas. They only have one nurse and there's not any effort for social distancing, as they're all getting together for a common lunch in a crowded hall.
These are matters which the government should be answering questions about, they should be paying attention to, and I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should be talking not just about the privileges of this member but about the privileges of all Manitobans and the needs of all Manitobans in this dire crisis time.
Thank you. Merci, Miigwech.