Throne speech outlines province's priorities for tackling crime, health care, Bomber stadium
The throne speech Tuesday afternoon mentioned the province's plans for the new Bomber stadium, a helicopter ambulance program and tackling crime. The speech has been seen by some as a kickoff to the campaign for the October 2011 provincial election.
In recent weeks, questions have surfaced over the plan for the new Bomber stadium with details emerging that cost overruns could put the total for the project at more than $160 million, up from the original price of $115 million.
The province and city had previously announced plans to aid in the construction of the stadium at the University of Manitoba, alongside David Asper, chairman of Creswin Properties.
On Tuesday, Premier Greg Selinger said the plans to build the stadium will move forward with the major players, including the Blue Bombers, the city, provincial government and the university.
Last week, speculation surfaced that Asper could decide to remove himself from the deal and the stadium could then become community owned.
On Tuesday, Selinger spoke briefly about Asper's involvement.
"Mr. Asper's role will be clarified when we do the final announcement but what I think (what) you will see, for sure, is a stronger role for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers," said Selinger.
It's not clear yet when a new announcement on the stadium will be made.
The province also unveiled plans for an ambulance helicopter program, which it estimates will save about 35 to 50 lives each year by getting people to emergency care facilities more swiftly.
Currently, the province rents helicopters, when needed, for some medical emergencies.
The province didn't disclose details about how much the program will cost on Tuesday.
"We know it'll cost several million dollars if we purchase it there's also the option of looking at a lease option as well then there's some long-term infrastructure needed, a landing pad," said Selinger.
The official opposition said the helicopter plan is nothing more than an attempt to distract voters from the current state of Manitoba's health care under the governing NDP.
"They've been in power 11 years. They've failed all over the place in health care they closed more than a dozen rural emergency rooms and because of that failure they're now making desperate promises about helicopters," said Provincial Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen.
In the throne speech Tuesday, the province said it would create "Quick Care" clinics that would be staffed by nurse practitioners.
Provincial Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said the clinics are a good idea, but shouldn't be a focus for the province.
"The reality is much of the focus needs to be on making sure we have really high-quality care and preventative care on the ground in communities," said Gerrard.
A primary care health bus will also be added to visit remote Manitoba communities to supply checkups and other care, according to the throne speech
The province also plans to increase a gang response program, which "will be expanded to intensively track and monitor offenders," stated the throne speech. More probation officers are slated to be hired under the expanded program.
The throne speech also stated that a mental health court will be created to focus on people accused of crime who have mental health issues.
The province also pledged to add more police officers, but didn't disclose a number Tuesday.
Hugh McFadyen, meanwhile, criticized the province's plan for tackling crime.
"Today's speech is more evidence of weakness and tiredness," said McFadyen.
Jared Wesley, a political science professor at the University of Manitoba, said Tuesday's speech from the throne is an important one for Premier Greg Selinger because of the looming election.
"This is the most important speech, to this point, in his career," said Wesley.
With the NDP and PC party almost tied for support in recent polls, Wesley said the upcoming months will see heated political rhetoric as both parties try to sway voters before the Oct. 4, 2011 election day.
The reading of the throne speech by Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee on Tuesday afternoon kicked off the new session of the legislature, which is scheduled to run until the start of December.
- with reports from CTV's Laura Lowe and Jeremy Hunka
To see the full throne speech, please go to either of the following links: