The Pallister Conservatives have a pattern of not adequately consulting with people who are affected by their decisions
On Wednesday June 20, I spoke on Bill 29 to talk about the fact that the government has too often not adequately discussed the impacts of measures it takes with the people who are being affected. My comments in the Legislative assembly are below.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Just a few comments on this. I note that in his motion, which we are debating, that the Government House Leader (Mr. Cullen) has suggested that–correctly–that one of the things that was deemed important was having additional consultations and discussions over the summer. The way to do that is to not pass it through to committee, but rather to make sure that those discussions are undertaken and that peoples' views are adequately considered. It is, sadly, something of a pattern that this government has got into, to introduce measures without being able to look at and consult with people who are knowledgeable in the area.
I would give you an example. The government is–has tabled a report from KPMG which the government is considering cutting personal audiology equipment, specifically children's hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing implant processors and FM transmitters. The problem is that the government has not adequately talked to people in the field, people who are knowledgeable about the impacts of what this would mean. They have not considered what the cost-benefit analysis would be, or from what we can tell undertaken any cost-benefit analysis. All they have said is, you know, how does Manitoba compare to other jurisdictions? Other jurisdictions could easily have made much poorer decisions than Manitoba in implementing coverage in these areas. So that's a very poor choice of reason in terms of making a decision to cut a program. You should surely do the analysis, you should surely do the consultation and you should surely do the cost-benefit analysis.
And, Mr. Speaker, in the case of this legislation that we're looking at, you know, we believe that there should be additional consultation. We've heard this from many people in the North. The government says it has consulted all the chiefs in Manitoba, but from what we hear, many feel that they were not adequately consulted and that there is need for some additional discussion with regard to some of the items in this bill, and as I said, the government is moving not just in this area–and it's relevant to this debate–the government is moving not just in this area, it is moving in a whole lot of other areas without adequately talking to people who are experts in the field, people who are going to be affected.
There is an orthopedic shoes for children subsidy program that the government has–with the KPMG recommendations–looking to cancel the subsidy for. But there hasn't been adequate discussion and consultation with people in the area who'd be affected, with people who are receiving that help with their orthopedic shoes currently, and the result, Mr. Speaker, is, you know, poor decisions. And that's exactly what we're talking about here, that it is really important to be able to discuss and to have that dialogue which is so necessary with people who are going to be affected by this.
We all know that the safety considerations are very important. We want to make sure that the measures here will adequately deal with those safety considerations. We want to make sure that people who are knowledgeable and involved in this area are actually consulted with. That's what we should be doing this summer rather than immediately passing this bill at second reading.
I can go on and on. The KPMG report is another example, cutting eyeglasses for seniors. This is a really essential program for seniors, and yet the government is going to cut this without actually having talked to seniors, talked to people in the area, talked about the cost-benefit analysis of what's the impact of having seniors without eyeglasses.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this would be a situation which would likely be–lead to more falls by seniors so that the cost-benefit analysis would, on a preliminary estimate, suggest that it would be much higher costs.
And so that the–so that, you know, it's important to know, if you're going to cut something, you may end up with bigger costs elsewhere. And this would be an example. And we want to make sure that we don't end up with a bill which is going to have–address some areas but leave safety loopholes in other areas which are not addressed.
So I can mention other things: orthotics subsidy programs, telecommunications subsidy programs–all in the KPMG report, all being cut without considering the views of people who are affected, without considering the views of experts in the field, without doing a cost-benefit analysis. Surely, Mr. Speaker, this is not the way that we should be proceeding. We should make sure that we have, you know, good consultation, that we've looked very carefully at these issues, we've made sure that we have respected properly the chiefs and others in this area so that what we're going to proceed with is going to be a piece of legislation which is widely and broadly supported, will be respected and will be effective.
So, you know, Mr. Speaker, I don't need to say a lot more than that, but I did want to bring those points to the record, that the importance of having the summer to be able to look carefully at this important piece of legislation and to make sure that it's properly considered, you know, is a very reasonable proposition, and it can end up with a better approach, a better management of costs, better results in terms of safety and people supporting the legislation and better overall situation for people in Manitoba.
So I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the proper approach here is not to support this resolution but to proceed with further consultations over the summer.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.