With all the flooding news and euphoria about getting an NHL team again (Go Jets Go!), you could be forgiven for thinking nothing else was happening in Manitoba. However, you would be seriously wrong.
Manitoboba amended the Elections Act a few years ago, adding fixed-year election terms (s.49.1(2)), with October 4, 2011 being the first one. One of the conditions requires that the government not advertise or publish information about its programs or activities in the 90 days before October 4th. This means we are seeing a flurry of announcements in this run-up to the end of the current legislative sitting. The Winnipeg Free Press published a nice article recently describing all the activity.
The government introduced new legislation as well as amendments to existing statutes. I'd like to mention a couple of initiatives that I think will be ground-breaking, if they get passed.
We're familiar with child abuse registries. Bill 36, The Adult Abuse Registry Act and Amendments to the Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disabilitly Act, will create Canada's first adult abuse registry (Yosie Saint-Cyr first wrote about it on Slaw here).
While not the first province to do so, Manitoba is finally setting up a special Mental Health court for less-serious criminal code charges. This has been in the works since 2008. It is anticipated that it should start hearing cases by this winter.
Manitoba has an incredibly low vacancy rate for apartments and houses. Combined with government rent-controlled increases, landlords have been converting existing buildings into condominiums at a rapid pace. The government introduced Bill 40, The Condominium Act and Amendments Respecting Condominium Conversions in order to try to slow down the removal of rental properties from the market.
The Grieving Families Protection Act (Bill 39) aims to protect consumers who prepay funerals and increase the fines of those convicted of vandalism in a cemetery. Talk about multi-tasking!
There's nothing worse for a young family than buying a new house in a new subdivision, and then finding out that the new school that was supposed to built, won't be. Winnipeg schools have a lot of empty seats in older neighbourhoods, and rather than build schools where the children are, the province will fund busing instead. Bill 48, The Planning and Land Dedication for School Sites Act prohibits developers from advertising that a school will be built on a particular piece of land.
But wait, there's more … If you'd like to see the full extent of this spring's legislative activity, check out the list of bills on the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba site. There's truly something for everyone!