Legislature Adjourns Spring Sitting After Focusing on Crime Fighting, Health Care, Job Creation, Environment

Jun 17, 2010 | Government News

More Officers, Prosecutors and Jail Space, New Police Helicopter, Tougher Laws, More Preventive Measures Help Increase Safety in Manitoba Neighbourhoods:  Blaikie 

The province continued to unveil its tough-on-crime agenda in the fourth session of the 39th legislature, giving crime fighters more tools to do their jobs effectively, increasing accountability of those who break the law and introducing measures to keep youth out of gangs, government house leader Bill Blaikie said today. 

The Honourable Bill Blaikie

“We launched this session with Budget 2010, which introduced a five-year plan to create jobs and grow the economy while at the same time continued to invest in front-line services in health care, education and training, supports for families and policing,” Blaikie said today. 

All parties agreed the house will resume sitting on Nov. 16. 

Blaikie said among the important anti-crime initiatives launched during the spring sitting were: 

– providing funding for 10 new police officers for the Winnipeg Police Service; 

– providing funding for a new Winnipeg city police helicopter including three additional officers for the Aerial Support Unit; 

– providing funding to help the city hire 30 police cadets this year, increasing to 50 cadets in 2011-12; 

– eliminating the need for justice officials to repeatedly prove gangs are criminal organizations in cases involving prostitution and drug houses and making it easier to seize property that is the proceeds of crime; 

– giving justice officials the ability to take court action when businesses are used as fronts for organized crime; 

– expanding The Pas Correctional Centre to add 40 new minimum- to low-medium security spaces, bringing capacity to 122 inmates; 

– adding 64 spaces to the Milner Ridge Correctional Centre, bringing the total ideal capacity to 364 inmates: 

– helping incarcerated youth get back on track with increased funding to support academic programming in youth correctional facilities;           

– increasing fines for underage drinking and for those who contribute to underage drinking; and 

– launching the second phase of the Stop Sex With Kids Campaign to mobilize Manitobans to do their part to protect children. 

Among the economic initiatives launched this sitting were: 

– enhancing and extending by 10 years a significant power purchase agreement worth close to $3 billion between Manitoba Hydro and Xcel Energy of Minneapolis; 

– partnering with the Government of Canada to assist producers in the northern Interlake region who were adversely affected by excess moisture conditions in 2008 and 2009 with more than $2.5 million under the AgriRecovery program; 

– signing a co-operation agreement between CentrePort Canada and Cuntan Bonded Port Zone in Chongqing, China, which will help Manitoba continue to build its trading relationship with China and further enhance the province’s strategic position along the Asia-Pacific Gateway; 

– supplying bridge financing to help build a new publicly funded stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the University of Manitoba; 

– strengthening Manitoba’s workforce with apprenticeships by investing $2 million to create more than 600 apprenticeship seats and promoting skill development and expanding tax credits that make it easier for businesses to hire students; 

– launching the Premier’s Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship with a mandate to find the best ways to ensure more Manitobans complete education and training that leads to jobs and economic opportunity for themselves and their families; 

– investing up to $19 million more for eight new child-care centres, 650 more spaces, the phasing in of a centralized online child-care wait list and a child-care workers pension plan for a stronger workforce; 

– committing $950 million this year to fighting poverty and promoting opportunities for low-income Manitobans including more than 30 new initiatives and program enhancements with a focus on affordable housing and getting Manitobans off welfare and into good jobs; 

– launching a new three-year program that will provide up to $20 million to spur further downtown residential development and provide the option of affordable urban lifestyles to more Winnipeggers; 

– investing almost $60 million to create 400 additional social-housing units as part of the Manitoba government’s commitment to create 1,500 units in the province during the next five years; and 

– investing $47 million to kick off the first major construction phase of Project Domino, a capital redevelopment project that begins with the construction of a 360-room residence for students at the University of Manitoba. 

Among the important health initiatives during this sitting were: 

– Transitioning the practical nursing program at Assiniboine Community College to a diploma from a certificate in recognition of their higher skills. 

– Hiring 498 more nurses this year compared with last year, which is the province’s largest-recorded annual increase.  The number of practising Manitoba nurses has climbed every year since 2000, to 16,624 in 2009 from 14,092 in 2000, a net increase of 2,532. 

– Purchasing a $3.7-million air-ambulance jet and investing an additional $6 million in aviation and medical modifications to the plane, to provide life-saving support and transportation to Manitobans when they need it most.

– Investing more than $1.7 million in suicide-prevention initiatives as part of an $8-million commitment to reducing youth suicides. 

– Making it mandatory to report suspected or potential physical, sexual, mental, emotional or financial abuse of a patient in a geriatric day hospital, an emergency department or an urgent-care centre of a health facility. 

– Improving patient access rights and privacy standards by helping Manitobans understand how to access their personal health information and how it is shared with others, creating a stronger culture of patient care and safety in the health-care system. 

– Outfitting all ambulances in the province with automated vehicle location (AVL) units, a $550,000 investment to improve central dispatching, support timely patient care and ensure the safe operation and maintenance of these vehicles. 

Among the initiatives that will help families and individuals are: 

– a five-year strategy called Let’s Make a Better Deal that includes new protections when buying homes, cars or doing repairs and renovations on a home; and 

– pension rules with improved security, flexibility and greater transparency to give Manitobans one of the strongest pension systems in Canada. 

Among the initiatives that will benefit the environment are: 

– committing $10 million for a fund to protect more than 40,000 square kilometres of boreal forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg through the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Fund Act; 

– beginning construction of a 138-megawatt wind farm near St. Joseph following the successful negotiation of a 27-year power purchase agreement between Manitoba Hydro and Pattern Energy; 

– supporting a pilot project in Brandon that would see curb-side organic waste pickup for composting instead of sending it to a landfill; and 

– taking the first steps to planting more than two million tree seedlings this summer as part of the 2010 Trees For Tomorrow program. 

Other important initiatives included:

– securing the future of the historic and culturally important Upper Fort Garry site through the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park Act and investing $2.5 million to help acquire the land; 

– investing $3.12 million for a one-year service maintenance agreement with Greyhound to ensure passenger bus service remains active in Manitoba until a long-term solution is found; 

– ensuring that Manitoba continues to offer some of the most affordable, accessible and high-quality post-secondary education in the country by introducing a new student grant, improving Manitoba’s bursaries and providing earlier access to the province’s tuition rebate program, putting an extra estimated $7.5 million back into students’ pockets annually; and 

– introducing legislation to recognize Cree, Dakota, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif, Ojibway and Oji-Cree as the Aboriginal languages of Manitoba in the first step toward preserving and promoting the province’s proud Indigenous language heritage for the benefit of future generations.

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