Portage la Prairie MLA Ian Wishart was part of the closing of Manitoba's Spring Legislative Session last week. He outlines what they discussed and how busy this session was.
"We finished up the Springs session of the sitting very late Wednesday night, " says Wishart. "We passed about 20 bills covering quite a range of issues. Many of them were justice bills. In this particular session, it's a bigger number than normal because, of course, COVID has interfered with the number of days sitting and the length of the sessions the last couple of years, so we're making up for lost time. But it led to a really busy session."
He notes it wasn't only the busy sitting time, but the evening committee time that takes place around each of these bills that led to a lot of evening sittings.
Wishart says one bill focused on polar bears!
"Everybody sort of associates polar bears with Manitoba, but strangely enough, they've never been really made a particular emblem for Manitoba," continues Wishart. "So, we had a piece of legislation brought in to do that."
Another bill dealt with sexual violence.
"We had several bills that touched on violence, including the introducing of Clare's law, and it went through the house," adds Wishart. "That's really about notifying people if their intimate partner has a history of violence, they can reach out to the authorities and get that information so that they're better informed about relationships. It has in jurisdictions that have used it, and we're pretty much the first in Canada. It has certainly lowered the frequency of attacks, and so this is a good piece of legislation in terms of protecting intimate partners."
Wishart adds that Manitoba Public Insurance is related to another bill.
"We're moving toward making sure that we're able to do better online services through MPI for individuals," explains Wishart. "Of course, some of that is driven by less in-person activity now, post-COVID. We wanted to work toward that and it has to be recognition of the services that are being provided by those in the community as well. It was kind of a new approach to getting your services for MPI, and I think it will be well received."
He says not all bills they deal with go through, and there is plenty of discussion about all of them. Wishart says some potential bills are held over until the fall sessions begin, adding a lot was accomplished.
"We changed some of the rules for the legislature, and are moving forward in the future just to make sure that things are better accommodating for doing more work remotely. That seems to be much more common," says Wishart. "The committees, especially, have been taking their presentations remotely, and that has turned out to be very popular with people that aren't able to attend in person. We'll be doing more of that in the future, so we had to make some changes in the rules as well."