In spite of rumoured election calls, the Manitoba Legislative Assembly continued to sit during the spring and summer months. The provincial budget was delivered on April 29, 1999 by Finance Minister Harold Gilleshammer. The budget, which marked the fifth successive forecasted balanced budget for the province, included increased spending for health care and education, and also contained tax reductions. The budget established a lowering of personal income taxes by 3 percentage points, and decreased the small business income tax rate from 9% to 5% over three successive years. Total expenditures and revenues for the province were forecast at 5.9 billion and 6.013 billion respectively.
In a break with traditional practices, Official Opposition Leader Gary Doer did not move a motion of non-confidence at the conclusion of his remarks on the budget. Although Doer was critical of the budget, and contended in his remarks that the budget was a pre-election budget and offered doubt as to whether the government would keep promises made to the public, he did not move a nonconfidence motion. A nonconfidence amendment was moved later in the debate by Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster). The amendment was defeated on May 10, 1999 by a margin of 1 Yea, 50 Nays, when the Official Opposition voted with the government. The budget motion was adopted on the same day, by a vote of 51 Yeas, 1 Nay, as the Official Opposition again voted with the government, to pass the budget motion.
Once the budget debate was concluded, the bulk of the session was spent on the consideration of the expenditure estimates of the various government departments. Manitoba rules provide for up to 240 hours for the consideration of departmental estimates, in three concurrent sections of the committee of supply. Approximately 9 weeks were spent considering departmental estimates. The rules also provide that once the allotted 240 hours have elapsed, the Chairpersons of the sections of the Committee of Supply put the question on all remaining resolutions, without debate, amendment or adjournment. Typically, all remaining resolutions are read and passed in sequence by voice votes, however for the first time, counted votes were requested on individual resolutions, causing the division bells to be rung several times. The request for votes on individual resolutions prolonged the final completion of the estimates process by two days.
In response to the crisis facing farmers in southwestern Manitoba due to...