September 26, 2013
When the long summer session of the Manitoba legislature finally ended on September 13, two important bills to make workplaces safer were passed. Unfortunately, they only passed after the Conservatives tried, unsuccessfully, to water them down. Conservative leader Brian Pallister and his caucus also voted against Bill 31, the Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act.
Bill 31 is a key piece of Manitoba’s new Five Year Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Plan. The bill was largely based on consensus recommendations from the Minister’s Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, a body made up of employer, labour and technical representatives. The bill focussed on strengthening three areas: workers’ fundamental health and safety rights, tools for enforcing safety rules, and transparency and accountability in our workplace safety and health system.
Before voting against Bill 31, the Conservatives moved several amendments to weaken the bill. Fortunately, these amendments were defeated by the NDP majority on the committee.
“We had hoped this bill to ensure safer workplaces would receive all-party support,” said MFL President Kevin Rebeck. “It’s disappointing to see the Conservatives off-side on some pretty basic safety protections for workers.”
Bill 2, The Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Respect for the Safety of Emergency and Enforcement Personnel) also passed through the legislature. The bill will reduce speed limits for drivers when passing ambulance professionals, police officers and other emergency workers. It will also improve safety by allowing firefighters to control traffic in emergency situations before police have arrived.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives tried to weaken Bill 2 by proposing a single, standard 60km/h speed limit when passing these workers, regardless of regular speed limits. By contrast, Bill 2 reduces the speed limit even further on roads and streets where lower speeds are safer. Again, the Conservative amendment was defeated.
See which MLAs voted for and against Bill 31 on page 5,161 at this link.