Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2020

Homelessness in Winnipeg: we can do much better to help those experiencing homelessness

 Today we released our Manitoba Liberal Caucus report on homelessness in Winnipeg.  We recommend four major steps to be taken: 1) There is a need to provide additional daytime  and 24/7 warming shelters.  We call on the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba to open several community centres so that those who are homeless will have a place to be warm during the day, to get coffee and a bun and to use the washroom.  2) There is a need to shorten the wait time for people to get Employment and Income Assistance (EIA).  EIA is the on-ramp for someone who is homeless to be able to have the financial support to get an apartment.  Currently it takes three weeks just to get an intake appointment to get EIA. And for many who are homeless who miss getting the intake call, there is another three week wait.  We call for the Province to dramatically shorten this wait, so that 90% of people can get EIA in 24 hours as a major step forward in helping people get housed.  3)There is a need for ma

Wishing all a Safe and Happy Christmas and New Year

A safe and Happy Christmas to all, at this tumultuous time of the COVID-19 pandemic.   For some who have lost loved ones, this is a particular difficult time.   We need to remember these tragedies and remember the contributions that those we have lost have made.  We need to reach out to those who are alone or who are suffering.  And even as we have hope for the future, that hope is building on the contributions of many, including the contributions by those we have lost.  Our hope for the future can start  with the new vaccines which are rolling out.  Our hope  from  the future will build on the friends and family we have  and the friends we will get to know this coming year.   As your MLA  in River Heights, my  team is there to help you.   If we can assist  you, send me an email at    

Premier Pallister is wrong when he says no one could have predicted the speed and severity of the second wave

Premier Brian Pallister is just wrong in saying yesterday that "Nobody could have predicted the degree to which COVID came fast."  He was referring to the speed and severity of the COVID-19 virus spreading this fall in Manitoba.   Contrary to what the Premier says, many people were predicting the Second Wave of the pandemic  would  be worse than the first.  Historically this has often happened with pandemics in the past.  In Manitoba in 2009 the H1N1 pandemic was worse in the second wave than during the first wave.  The speed of the pandemic was not a surprise.  COVID-19 infections are well known to rise exponentially when adequate containment measures are not in place.   In jurisdictions like Italy and New York as well as elsewhere we had examples of sudden explosions of cases when the spread of the virus was increasing exponentially.  There was already evidence to suggest that the virus would be worse in winter months, and that spread would be faster as people moved indoors

Putting a focus on addressing homelessness

For the last  several weeks I have been putting a focus on getting better attention to the need to address homelessness.   Part of  this effort was the article below which appeared in the Sou-wester on December 2.     

Conservatives bring closure to Poverty Reduction Committee

Last night in the Legislative Committee dealing with Poverty Reduction, the Conservatives abruptly brought in closure at 7:30 pm. They used their majority to vote to end the discussion even though there remained many questions yet to be asked.  With Bill 29 now before the Legislature, a bill in which the Conservatives will end the annual meetings of the poverty committee, this could be the last meeting of the committee to discuss poverty and social inclusion.   The Conservatives closed the committee for this year, and are also doing it for all years. In my experience over 20 years, last night's committee was unusual in the speed with which the Conservatives moved to terminate the committee meeting.   Once upon a time Brian Pallister said addressing poverty was his top priority.   Yesterday his team showed it is no longer a priority.    It is sad because this happened in a year when evidence suggests poverty is increasing.   For example, the number of people going to Winnipeg Harv

Reporting of COVID-19 test results is still taking far too long

In today's Free Press, it is reported that "Roussin said, people are waiting an average of 55 hours to receive the results of a routine COVID-19 test."    Fifty-five hours is far too long.   Ninety per cent of results need to be reported in 24 hours if testing and contact tracing are to be successful.   Consider this.  Individuals exposed to a person who is has the COVID-19 infection can start transmitting the infection to others on the fourth day afterwards.  This means that reporting of test  results needs to be done in 24 hours and contact tracing needs to be done in the next 24 hours if testing and contact tracing are to effective in helping to control the pandemic.  The third day is needed to catch  the last ten percent of cases missed on the first two days.  An average of 55 hours is far too long.  It means that about half of people do not receive their results for more than 2 days and this means it is likely the contact tracing will not be done before the virus spr

We need better organization and coordination of provincial support for those who are homeless in Manitoba

Wednesday, Dec 2, I asked in Question Period about the need for better provincial coordination and organization in their help for those who are homeless.   There is not now a web site with critical daily information about the availability of shelter beds, of transitional housing, of warming shelters and  other resources for those who are homeless.  We need this level of daily information so that there is publicly available information on the availability of supports. While many who are homeless may not have quick access to the internet, some do, and for others those who are helping them can get this information and share it. We need this web site to help us see the picture of what is available and more easily help those who are homeless get the support they need. We also need to see much better organization and coordination of Employment and  Income Assistance (EIA).  EIA is currently understaffed and the wait  time for getting an intake appointment for EIA is three weeks. This is far

Supporting our provincial parks as vital public spaces

Tuesday December 1,  I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on a Members Statement in support of our provincial parks.  Several weeks ago Manitoba Liberals uncovered evidence that the Pallister government had put out a request for proposals related to our parks.  It focused on how best to "monetize" and get more revenue from our  provincial parks.    There is a concern, arising from this request for proposals that the  Pallister  government is seeking to privatize park spaces and activities within parks.  I spoke of the importance of our parks to all Manitobans and that the focus of our efforts in relation to parks should be on enabling Manitobans to get exposure to nature and physical  exercise  in our parks and why this is so important to our health and well-being.  My Members Statement is below.   You can also see it in video on line at this link.   In Support of Our Provincial Parks Provincial parks are an essential public service.  They were a lifeline for many Manitobans t

Raising concerns about the environmental assessment reviews of the Vivian Sands processing plant and mine.

Monday November 30, I asked, in Question Period, about the environmental assessment reviews which are ongoing with respect to the Vivian Sands Project near Anola Manitoba.  The Company CanWhite Sands is proposing to build a mine to take sand from within the Aquifer and to process the sand and water slurry so that the sand can be sold for various purposes including for fracking.  The mine and the processing plant are very closely linked, yet the company has  chosen  to submit the plant plan for an environmental assessment review first.  In the latest responses to public comments, which were posted November  5, many of the answers  to questions raised were answered with a response which said the answers will  "be fully described in the upcoming  Vivian Sand Extraction Project Environment Act Proposal".   I asked the Minister whether it was her intention to wait for the second review before providing the license for the plant, since so many of the answers to questions about the

Comments on Bill 9 - The Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act.

 The Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery  Act is designed to allow  Manitoba to participate in a lawsuit with British Columbia and other provinces to recover costs related to opioid addictions from pharmaceutical companies which sold opioid drugs.  I spoke on this bill at Second reading on Wednesday November 25.   Below is a short question and answer from the Minister which occurred before my speech and which is relevant to the content of my speech.  Mr. Gerrard:  To the minister: one of the reasons for pursuing a lawsuit like this is to send a message to other businesses or industries which might get involved in activities which could cause harm.       And I wonder if the minister has given this any thought, and whether there are any other groups or industries that the minister may be considering going after for   harm that has been done to people in Manitoba? Mr. Cullen:  I do appreciate that question as well. Not–there's nothing else top of mind for me right now. C

Comments on a Bill by Wab Kinew to remove political involvement in public health decisions

 While on the  surface it seems reasonable to remove the Premier's involvement in public health decisions, the real answer is to have a Premier who can work together with the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer in the interests of all Manitobans. The problem at the moment is that in Manitoba there is often not a good parallel between the actions of  Premier Pallister and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Roussin.  For example, just as the number of cases of COVID-19 infections were increasing, Pallister was launching an advertising blitz about opening up Manitoba for business.  Pallister's badly timed advertising efforts led people to be less cautious about COVID-19 at the very time that the infections rate was increasing this fall, and made it more difficult for Dr. Roussin to impose stronger measures initially.  This bill would not have made a difference in the Pallister advertising initiative.   We need a Premier who better understands that the first step in havi

The system delays in people who are homeless getting Employment and Income Assistance are a major barrier

 On Wednesday November 25 I called on the Minister of Families to increase the staffing at her Employment and Income Assistance [EIA] section to speed up the ability of individuals who are homeless to get EIA.  For an individual who is homeless this is a critical first step in being able to get housing.  The delays in getting EIA mean delays in getting access to housing and to food.  As you will see in her answer below, Minister Stefanson avoided answering the question.  I expect she knows about the long delays and does not want to admit there is a problem.  Consider the situation in Medicine Hat where they have done much better than Winnipeg in getting people housing within 48 hours.  In  order to get a person without EIA housing in  48 hours it is necessary to get them on EIA in the first 24 hours and then to get them housing in the next 24 hours.  If, as in Winnipeg, there is a three week delay before even having an intake interview for EIA, this means that the earliest you could po

Improvements to Employment and Income Assistance needed urgently

 Tuesday November 24th, I delivered a Members Statement on the current delays occurring when people need to access Employment and Income Assistance (EIA). When people have an urgent need to get in out of the  cold these long delays in accessing EIA are unacceptable.   My Members Statement is below.  You can also watch it by clicking on this link.   Improvements to EIA are needed People experiencing homelessness are having a difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic.     A critical issue is delay in accessing Employment and Income Assistance.  EIA is needed to get a place to stay and food to eat.  Today an intake appointment to get EIA has a wait of three weeks.    Because the intake interview is on the phone, those who are homeless may not be available on the phone at the time scheduled.  Those who are homeless do not always have access to a phone.  When they do have access, at a thrift store for example, the store may be closed or someone else may be using the phone at the moment

More warming shelters for those experiencing homelessness are critically needed in Winnipeg

 Yesterday, Monday November 23rd, in Question Period asked about plans for those who are experiencing homelessness.   We are coming up to a frigid winter.  We have COVID-19 to deal with.  Many of the places where people who are homeless normally go to - cafes, restaurants, community centres, libraries - are now closed or at best only open for pick up at the door.  It is critical we have more public spaces open as warming shelters for those who are homeless.   My question and the Premier's answer are below.  COVID-19 and the Homeless Population - Use of Public Buildings for Rest Areas Hon. Jon  Gerrard  (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the provincial government has the opportunity to save lives from the cold by acting now to open government buildings with washrooms and places for people to sit day and night.             The growing homeless population needs reliable and accessible places to wash their hands as they face increasing barriers with the closure of libraries and commu

A significant source of spread of the COVID-19 virus is by people who are asymptomatic, we need to recognize this and act to reduce such spread

On Thursday November 19, I spoke on a Members Statement in the Manitoba Legislature about the importance of people who are asymptomatic with COVID-19 virus infections in the transmission of the virus.  We need to recognize this and we need, in Manitoba, to implement best practices recommended by experts and which are being used in other jurisdictions. My Members Statement is below. The Importance of Asymptomatic individuals to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic Eleven months ago, as detailed in Bob Woodward’s book RAGE, the United States had intelligence the COVID-19 virus was extremely dangerous.  A major reason was the best estimate from China that 50% of individuals who were infected had no symptoms.   In the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Marukas a leading infectious disease specialist, writes - an effective strategy for stopping the spread of this coronavirus “ must focus on detecting both… individuals with and without symptoms”.  She continues “For an aggressive tes

It is time to close schools in Manitoba

The  situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is dire in Manitoba.  Dr. Roussin on Tuesday called the situation scary.  He said our hospitals are at their max.  He said the situation is not sustainable.  That is my assessment as well.  On Tuesday November 17, I  asked the government to act to close schools.  Increasing evidence from a variety of jurisdictions is now showing schools are a significant source of spread of the COVID-19 virus, and that closing schools can be important to better controlling the virus.  There are already hundreds of schools where children have been found to have infections.  My question and the Premier's answer are below:  COVID-19 Outbreak in Schools Request for School Closures Hon. Jon  Gerrard  (River Heights):   Madam Speaker, we stand today at a very critical time. Manitoba's health-care system is extremely stressed. Resources are challenged to the max. Dr. Roussin himself said today the situation is scary, it is unsustainable. Hospitals are at th

Taking away the Children's Special Allowances by the NDP and then the Pallister Conservatives has been a significant cause of homelessness

 It was after 3 am, as the sitting of the Manitoba Legislature was coming to a close, I spoke one last time on Bill 2 - to make the point that the  NDP and Conservatives taking away the Children's Special Allowances was a significant cause of homelessness among children who aged out of care.    They should have had access to the funds which were being held in trust for them when they aged out of care.  I describe what this has meant to those who were in care and why Bill 2 was wrong.  Sadly my appeal had no effect on the Conservatives who shortly thereafter voted for and passed Bill 2.  Hon. Jon  Gerrard  (River Heights):   Two weeks ago, my wife Naomi and I spent 24 hours fasting in the teepee which is in front of the Legislature.        We did this because we believe passionately that children who are in care deserve support, that they deserve to receive the funds that were stolen from them by two governments in a row. It was an honour for Naomi and myself to be there. We began

Cindy Lamoureux, MLA for Tyndall Park, speaks against Bill 2

 On Friday November 6, after 3 am in the morning, Cindy Lamoureux spoke forcefully and effectively against the passage of Bill 2.  Her comments are below.  Ms. Cindy  Lamoureux  (Tyndall Park):   I just wanted to have the opportunity to put a few short words on the record. Our party will not be supporting Bill 2 because it does continue to create a larger wedge in our economic recovery.       We can talk about 800 Adele and how this government continues to put false information on the record. The facts are: the Province chose to evict vulnerable children from a safe space while causing destruction and trauma. The Premier (Mr. Pallister) and some ministers are, in fact, now facing court challenges because of the comments that they have made in response to their mishandling the contract with the owners of the building.       We can also talk about the obstacles for children in care that this government continues to put in place, talk about CFS special allowance and how this governmen

Dougald Lamont speaks out strongly against the "reprehensible", "legally and morally indefensible" Bill 2

 Early in the morning, just after 3 am, on November 6th, Dougald Lamont spoke at third reading of Bill 2, the Budget Implementation and Statutes Amendment Act.  He spoke strongly against the bill because it attempts to legitimize a historic injustice against children in the care of child and family services.  As  Dougald says this bill is " the betrayal of children, First Nations and the people of this province. " Mr. Dougald  Lamont  (St. Boniface):   These are historic times. This is an  historic budget, for all the wrong reasons.  I was thinking of the Premier's (Mr. Pallister) comments about D-Day today and my relatives who served in combat in the First and Second World War. I had a relative who played for the Blue Bombers and served at D-Day with the Winnipeg Rifles because he was an excellent athlete, he made it quite a long way up the beach.       And had he lived until last year, he might have been one of the veterans the Premier insulted by not showing up at a