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Smook sets stage for new session

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 03/8/2018 9:00 AM

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As the Golden Boy shrugged off a thick layer of wet snow, MLAs gathered yesterday to commence the third session of the 41st Manitoba legislature, with a Monday budget unveiling sure to dominate debate this month.

"The budget is number one," said La Verendrye MLA Dennis Smook.

"That’ll take us through for the next few weeks."

In a press release, government house leader Cliff Cullen said the Progressive Conservatives will continue to focus on finances and the economy in their third budget.

Smook said the document will also offer a glimpse into additional priorities that will define the second half of the government’s term.

"I’m excited. I think we should have an excellent session this spring," he said.

While overhauls of health care, education, and public sector bargaining have consumed much of the government’s attention in its first two years in office, Smook pointed to recent agri-business announcements in western Manitoba as an example of the benefits afforded by a reduced provincial debt load.

"It shows that there is confidence in the investor side in Manitoba right now," he said.

Constituents continue to tell him long-term sustainability is important, but Smook acknowledged certain changes have been difficult for some.

"In general, from what I’ve been hearing in my constituency, people understand that yes, change is necessary," he said.

"But of course when it comes close to home, nobody wants it in their backyard."

When MLAs rose for the holidays, more than 10 government bills were left at first reading.

Smook said those pieces of legislation will be among the first to be shepherded through the legislature after the budget is debated.

"Everything can’t be done overnight," he said, "but the government is working its best to make sure whatever happens in Manitoba is for the best of Manitoba."

Legislation pertaining to the safe retailing of cannabis, delivery of government notices, and child welfare supports is also on the spring docket.

Local feedback on cannabis legalization frameworks continues to be mixed, Smook said, adding municipal officials can expect more detailed information in the coming months.

A sustainable development bill containing changes to watershed oversight will also be brought forward.

Smook noted drainage and retention go hand in hand, and said any municipal partners affected by the bill will be given an opportunity to voice concerns about redistricting.

"Consultation has been an important factor in pretty much everything that we’ve done," he said.

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