Manitoba.

AuthorRecksiedler, Greg

3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature--Resumption of Virtual Sittings

The 3rd Session of the 42nd Legislature resumed on November 17, 2020, and sat until December 3, 2020, a period in which the Assembly had regular daily sittings incorporating hybrid virtual technology for MLA participation. Prior to resumption, as mentioned in the last submission, the House began a new session on October 7, 2020 with the Speech from the Throne. The House also sat until the wee hours of the morning on November 6, 2020, to complete certain financial business in accordance with rule requirements of the Sessional Calendar. The House passed all Budget related documents on that day including The Loan Act, 2020, The Appropriations Act, 2020 and The Budget Implementation & Tax Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 (BITSA).

The Opposition side of the House took issue with the omnibus nature of the latter Bill, opposing a number of its provisions, and as a result the House had numerous recorded votes and did not adjourn until 3:49 a.m. One major provision of BITSA that the Opposition objected to was the power of the cabinet to impose a 2.9-per-cent Manitoba Hydro increase, without the historic oversight and public hearings normally conducted by the Public Utilities Board. Another contentious item was the prohibition barring foster children, who were disproportionately of First Nations origin, from seeking redress for more than $338 million redirected from the federal Children's Special Allowances program for foster children into provincial general revenues since 2005.

In the first week of November, the Assembly adopted a new seating plan, further reducing the number of Members in the House to 25 per cent to reflect the entire province moving to Code Red status. The fourth row of seats, previously set up to accommodate better physical distancing of Members when the Chamber seating was previously reduced to 50 per cent capacity, was removed, and of the 57 MLAs, those present in the Chamber were reduced to 10 Government Members, five Official Opposition Members and one Independent Liberal. Fortunately, as mentioned in the last submission, the increased number of Members that now had to participate virtually did not prove to be an encumbrance for Assembly staff. The Assembly team was fully prepared as it had already established procedures to allow for smooth operations such as sending PDFs to MLAs of Bill Motions, Petitions and other House documents enabling them to move and respond to such items both within the Chamber and virtually.

This latter part of the Fall Session did mark however even more innovations as the House also considered Estimates under Orders of the Day with all three sections of Supply sitting simultaneously in separate rooms, allowing all Members to participate virtually in whichever room they chose, something that had...

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