On March 8th, in a debate on a motion arising from a Matter of Privilege, I spoke on the fact that it was indeed a serious matter when governments do not follow the laws of Manitoba. Both Conservative and NDP parties have failed to provide important reports on time. In the case of the Pallister Conservatives, the reports were on reconciliation, on climate change and on police activities. In the case of the NDP it was environmental and climate change reports. As I point out one of the reasons the NDP failed to meet the legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gases was that from early in their 17 years in government from 1999-2016, they were not filing reports and developing the effective plans as they should have done. My comments in the debate are below (rom Hansard).
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I want to speak for a few minutes on this matter of privilege and the motion that comes from it.
This is very specifically, as we have heard, the matter of the failure of this government to respect the laws of this province. That's a very serious matter, and I appreciate the Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature ruling that this is indeed a matter of privilege, and it needs to be discussed, and it needs to be acted on, certainly in my view.
It is vital that appropriate documents are tabled at the appropriate time, especially when mandated by law. But I would suggest that also, under our common law system, that there are a variety of traditions which have similar function as laws which need to be respected as well. And so it is important that the government follows the laws and traditions of the province, and that the business of the Province gets done.
The government has argued that it was so busy with the COVID pandemic that it forgot about the ordinary business of the Province, namely these matters dealing with reconciliation, climate change and police reports.
I suggest to the government that there's a whole lot of ordinary business which continued–the work of police and firefighters and garbage collectors and so on, as well as the provision of essential services, food and various other services, which are critical for the ordinary running of the province–and that the presence of the COVID pandemic, while it might restrict certain things, should not have restricted the ability of the government to be able to table reports, which, in some cases, as we saw, the reports were dated before this matter of privilege was brought up and could have been tabled earlier. So the government clearly is at fault here for not respecting the law, and that needs to be considered.
I also think that the matters that we're dealing with–reconciliation–reconciliation is extraordinarily important in Manitoba today. We need to make sure that we are recognizing the problems that have plagued this province in the past and that we are dealing with them and moving forward in a positive direction. There is a big problem, therefore, when the government fails to produce the report and to describe the actions that have or have not been taken with regard to reconciliation.
Climate change is another matter of extraordinary importance and, once again, it has been described, as the COVID pandemic has been described, as a crisis situation and it is really important that reports in relationship to climate change are produced and are tabled at the appropriate time.
And lastly, the third area was police reports. This is a report which was undertaking a comprehensive review of section 90 of The Police Services Act and that the report be submitted and that this is, you know, a vital component of continuing to have a province which is based on provisions of law and order and those provisions in a way that serves people well, but also recognizes the needs of people who have mental illness, and so on. So I would suggest that this was not a report that should have been delayed, that the government should not have been breaking the law over this report.
So these three are very important areas and these reports should've been presented and the government should not have broken the law.
Now, I move forward. The last speaker talked about, this is not a partisan issue. Yes, I agree with him. The NDP was significantly at fault at times when they were in government. I will give some examples and they are not the only examples.
The July 1 of the year 2000. There was a deadline in law that the government present a sustainable-development strategy and that, in that strategy, there should be procurement guidelines and that there were various components of that strategy which were deemed essential to be discussed and that the strategy should be tabled.
The government, at the last minute, the NDP government in that period, I think, had not adequately realized this and they put together a short and inadequate report; and, in doing so, they didn't meet the standards of the law for inclusion, for example, of procurement guidelines.
I raised this fact, this omission, on July 6th in the year 2000. We were sitting that summer. And then I raised it again on July the 17th, the fact that the government was not following its own laws, and I raised this again on July 25th.
I will quote from my question in question period on that particular date: Mr. Speaker, I said, "My question is to the minister of Justice, a minister known for his tough talk toward those who break the laws of Manitoba. It has become quite apparent that members of his own government have broken provincial laws by failing to deliver a sustainable-development procurement policy by July 1st, by failing to call a meeting of the round table on sustainable development in more than one year. I ask the minister of Justice what is he doing to address the law breakers in his own government?"
This was not the only time that I raised such concerns of the government breaking its own laws. Later on–and this is relevant, we are dealing with a climate change plan–on July 19th I raised concerns that the action plan that the government had produced was incomplete. I asked: "Can the minister explain why his sustainable development strategy, which was a COSDI report, does not include the action plan which he's talking about to reduce greenhouse emissions in Manitoba?"
And then a follow-up question, my supplementary to the minister: "Since there was a July 1 deadline for producing this strategy and you didn't meet it and it was a legal deadline, I ask the minister whether he believes that individuals are not required to meet legal deadlines for getting driver's licences or hunting licences or fishing licences or paying taxes. If individuals were as cavalier as his ministry, this would be a very poorly functioning province. Can the minister please explain why he is being so cavalier?"
Tabling reports and getting them right is very important, no matter which government, and if you don't get things right, if you don't develop and put forward good strategies, you won't succeed.
On July 20th of that same year, 2000, I asked again, "What are the minister's plans in terms of greenhouse gas emissions." I pointed out that the minister was due to reduce Manitoba's greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5 megatons to a level of 16.2 megatons, as required under our international agreement, and that was the Paris climate change.
The problem of not bringing in an adequate strategy was that the government, in 17 years–this is 17 years of NDP government–they completely failed to reach the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5 megatons.
If you don't produce documents, if you don't adequately report on a timely basis, you will fall behind and that is a problem for our province. That is a problem when things don't get done, when the reports don't get tabled. It means that everything gets delayed and action gets delayed, and the work of the Province doesn't get done properly.
Moving forward and having a committee to look at the requirements of the rules and the fulfilling of these rules would be a useful exercise. It would be important–I suggest–to whatever government may be in place now and in the future, it would be useful to have this as an all-party committee, because it is not just a problem of this government, it is also a problem experienced under the former NDP government.
When laws are broken, when mistakes are made, it is good to have a committee to look at them. This is a normal procedure. It is good to have a committee to make recommendations as to how this problem is avoided in the future because when this problem happens it is not just that laws are broken but that strategies don't get properly implemented, well-meaning intentions don't get followed through and the work of this Province doesn't get done properly.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, those are my comments on this motion. I hope that all members will agree that there should be a committee to meet and to suggest some solutions to this breaking of laws by governments.