NDP talk poverty to obstruct the legislature but forget about the importance of considering the vulnerability of those who are poor to the COVID-19 virus.
On Monday, March 16th, the NDP MLA for St. Johns Nahanni Fontaine rose, as part of the NDP effort to block the normal business of the Manitoba Legislature, to raise a Matter of Privilege. This matter of privilege was, as she said and is recorded in Hansard, "I hope that I have been able to outline, as much as possible, my privilege as a member of this Manitoba Legislature and how that privilege has been molested by the Minister of Infrastructure in not being able to answer–or, ask those important questions, in respect of the 2019 Poverty Reduction Strategy's annual report, on December 5th, 2019".
It is to be noted that as the government House Leader. Kelvin Goertzen said during the debate: "I would also note that it relates to a committee in which the member herself, in her role as the Opposition House Leader, agreed for the committee to go only one hour, and
now she seems to be raising a matter of privilege against herself, Mr. Deputy Speaker."
I also spoke to this Matter of Privilege raised by the NDP MLA for St. Johns to first say that this did not meet the usual criteria for a Matter of Privilege, then to comment on the obstruction of legislative business by the NDP and lastly to bring the discussion to the Covid-19 pandemic which we should be concerned with. My comments, from Hansard, are below:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Some comments on this matter of privilege which deals with how committee meetings were handled and with poverty.
First of all, as the Government House Leader has already alluded to, this–matters of privilege need to be brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity and this matter dates back to the middle of December, which was some time ago, and there was plenty of opportunity to bring it after that.
I'm going to get to the importance of the comments and the committee meetings and the poverty, whether this constitutes a prima facie case; but I must first say that it's very clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the NDP are determined to obstruct the normal business of the Manitoba Legislature by bringing in a never-ending series of matters of their privilege.
The Conservatives, it must also be said, have shown absolutely no willingness to compromise, not even in a small way, until we were at a complete impasse. It is completely unacceptable that our Legislature is at this impasse when we have a COVID-19 pandemic which all of us must collectively deal with. I call on the official opposition and the government to find a way to end this impasse so we can get to the critical business of this Legislature and discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and what we are going to be doing here in Manitoba to make sure that Manitobans come through this and that we, as a province, and people in our province do well.
Now, the NDP are bringing forward issues of poverty. I suggest that the critical issues of people who are poor right now are actually related to the susceptibility and the vulnerability of people who are disadvantaged to the coronavirus, COVID-19. In this respect, the government has been largely missing in action in terms of addressing the needs of those who are poor, but, fortunately, we have Rick Lees and others who are showing leadership in this area and are bringing together a coalition of people to try and make sure that everything that can be done is being done for those who are poor and those who need particular help because they are particularly vulnerable.
And so the matter of poverty has a unique importance right now, but I don't think as the MLA for St. Johns and the Official Opposition House Leader (Ms. Fontaine) is bringing it forward, I think it's not being brought forward in the right context. If it were a matter dealing with the lack of the government in dealing with people who are vulnerable and the COVID-19 epidemic', it might have some merit, but this–this particular matter of privilege does not.