The Progressive Conservative (PC) MLA for Borderland, Josh Guenter, says this week's inaugural Throne Speech delivered by the new NDP provincial government is more notable for what wasn't included than what was.
"Certainly, no mention of roads at all anywhere in the speech," said Guenter. "And that's a huge concern as Manitobans have seen significant shortfalls in our provincial snow clearing program even after the minor snowfall event that we had in October. And you know, in their two decades in power (previously), they underspent the infrastructure budget every year. And so, as a result, we're left with a $9 billion infrastructure deficit in Manitoba. That is to say that it would take us $9 billion to upgrade our roads and highways to the standard that they need to be. Never mind accounting for expansion due to population growth and annual road maintenance. So, that's a significant concern. We see the state of Highway 75, which is a major major safety concern. No mention of any intention to fix that."
Guenter went on to say that the Throne Speech contained nothing for Manitoba families and feels the Province's plan to freeze the gas tax was light on details.
"I think there's a lot left wanting, and we just we have to see the see details and where they put the money. But a lot that should have been in there that wasn't in there," he said.
I would say this too, listening to this speech, I got a sense that this is a government that is intent on going on some local left wing ideological tangent," added Guenter. "After eight years of Justin Trudeau, you would think that they understand that people have had enough of high tax, high spend governments. Wab Kinew has actually mandated his finance minister to not run balanced budgets for the next three years. So, they're going to deliberately run deficits for the next three years, likely longer, in order to spend on their priorities."
During a pre-Throne Speech news conference, the Premier underlined his government's commitment to balance the budget by the end of its first term in office.
"And what are their priorities?" asked Guenter. "Islamic tool kits in schools written by Muslim faith leaders, in Manitoba. Free birth control, an emphasis on global warming when most Manitoba families are finding it hard to make ends meet, pay their mortgages and feed their children. So, I fundamentally believe their priorities are misaligned with where Manitobans are at today and it will be our job to hold them to account and serve as that voice for Manitobans."
During his press conference on Tuesday, Premier Kinew announced plans for mandatory Holocaust education from kindergarten through grade 12, and to provide anti-Islamophobia tool kits, prepared by Manitoba's Islamic community, to educators.
The premier noted the speech from the throne also sets out a course to make Manitoba a leader in the low-carbon economy with an agreement from the federal government to deliver funding for a geothermal heat pump program that will connect homes across Manitoba with low-carbon, affordable energy and offer new opportunities to train the next generation of energy workers.
Meantime, Guenter says he's concerned a $1.5 billion rebuild of Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, promised by the former PC government, could be delayed by the NDP.
"I am very glad that the $100 million expansion at Boundary Trails Hospital is well underway. I just hope they don't throttle that down, but I certainly will be advocating for more investments in our healthcare facilities going forward in our area."
Premier Kinew, again during his news conference on Tuesday, stated the former PC government "dramatically over-committed" on capital projects in a way that isn't sustainable to the provincial budget. He noted, the situation is more about looking at what the province can afford to do and when, not cancelling or cutting projects. Kinew specifically cited the new hospital in Neepawa and healthcare investments in Brandon that are already underway.
Guenter added, it's clear that strategic investments need to continue to be made in Manitoba healthcare and that the Official Opposition will try to engage with government to help get it right and hold them to account.