As we enter the month of March, I am looking forward to advocating for all of the people of Flin Flon back at the legislature for the start of the next legislative session. These next few months will be important as our NDP party will introduce a number of bills to make life better for Manitobans and hold the government to account. One of the bills I will be introducing is the Transportation Infrastructure Amendment Act, which would add a requirement that the minister establish standards for clearing snow from provincial roads in a safe manner. Government documents obtained by the NDP confirm there is a 35 per cent vacancy rate within Manitoba’s Infrastructure Department, with the bulk of them in highway maintenance. Road safety is a major issue and we must do everything possible to push the PC government to take this issue seriously to save lives.
One of the key issues the NDP has been advocating for is improving healthcare, especially here in the north. This PC government has adopted a policy of transferring patients to other communities, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away, because of the many cuts they made over the years which severely decreased staffing levels and beds in hospitals across the province. Many of these patients are being transferred to the north, where our resources are already stretched to the limit. This policy means that often patients are isolated from their support system as many family members are unable to commute easily or afford paying for travel expenses up front. Even worse, whenever northerners have had to be transferred to Winnipeg in the past, their families have not been getting reimbursed for travel expenses. Manitoban families deserve to be able to access the care they need close to home with their loved ones and this is something the NDP will continue to advocate for in this legislative session.
As many of you have heard, last month three children tragically died in a house fire on Pimicikamak Cree Nation. While the premier expressed her condolences, I am calling on her government to go beyond words and take action to protect the lives of Indigenous people. Indigenous people living on reserves are 10 times more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people due to crowded housing and the lack of firefighting resources and infrastructure, such as fire hydrants. While addressing the deeper issues like chronic underfunding of housing and infrastructure in Indigenous communities are the most crucial, the province could provide smoke alarms for all Indigenous houses and ensure they are regularly checked. The provincial government of British Columbia did this in 2012 and the number of deaths from house fires in Indigenous communities went down to zero.
Healthcare, road safety, education, and affordability are just some of the key issues I and my NDP colleagues will be advocating for in the Legislature this spring.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 204-687-3246 or Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca.