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Tuition Cap Removal, Uber, Election Reform Bills—This Week in the Leg

An overview of 5 contested Tory Bills scheduled for public hearings in the Winnipeg Legislature on the week of October 23, 2017. The week of Oct. 23 will be a busy one in the legislature as 5 Conservative Bills will go to public hearings. The controversial Bill 31, which calls for tuition cap removals, is included in this group. Legislation can be a bit dry and inaccessible at times, so we've created a brief overview of each bill with special attention to social justice issues!

Bill 30 - The Local Vehicles for Hire Act This Bill would establish The Local Vehicles for Hire Act, which would allow public vehicles-for-hire, meaning that Digital services like Uber would be able to expand into Manitoba. It also seeks to repeal the Taxicab Act and cancel all licences issued under the Act with “no provincial liability is incurred as a result”. Many local taxi drivers feel that they are being treated unfairly, while some others see this Bill as progressive. More information is available here.

Bill 31 - The Advanced Education Administration Amendment Act The infamous Bill 31 would allow colleges and universities to raise tuition annually by 5% plus the Consumer Price Index (1.3% last year). Additionally, the Bill would permit the province to reduce grants to universities on the condition that any province west of Manitoba has a higher average provincial tuition fee. Students and citizens have organized several times over the past year to protest the removal of a tuition cap. This Thursday, the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students will be protesting Bill 31 on the front lawn of the University of Winnipeg. More information is available here.

Omnibus Bill 24 - The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, 2017 If it passes, Bill 24 repeals three Acts and amends several others in order to cut red tape and “streamline government operations”. This Bill may be considered controversial because of its environmental implications. For example, amendments to the Ecological Reserves Act would remove a requirement to provide a report on ecological reserves every 5 years. The Bill also calls for the amendment of the Environment Act to allow for the building and expanding of manure storage facilities and winter spreading of livestock manure. This provides space for the expansion of the environmentally-taxing pork industry and could create water quality concerns when spring melts cause runoff. More information is available here.

Bill 23 - The Fisheries Amendment Act Bill 23 would dissolve the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board, which would eliminate the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation’s monopoly on the industry. Participation in the freshwater fish market would then become open to any person who meets the requirements for a fish dealer licence as a result of this Bill. Also, this new legislation would require the operator of a fish processing facility to be licensed unless exceptional conditions are met. More information is available here.

Bill 27 - The Elections Amendment Act This Bill would establish a new, and regularly updated, register of eligible voters. Also, if passed, schools will be required to have an in-service day on the date of fixed-date elections (kids everywhere rejoice!). New provisions would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to make modifications to the voting process. This is likely not an issue because changes must be made in consultation with the advisory committee and with prior approval of the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. Finally, the Bill would require voters to present proof of identity and address when voting. Unfortunately, this may prove to be yet another legal obstacle for homeless people. Citizens are permitted to use library cards or fishing licenses for ID and can obtain a Letter of Confirmation of Residence through food or lodging shelters, but homeless citizens hoping to vote still face a number of challenges that this Bill does not address. More information is available here. _______________________________________________________________

If are interested in sitting in on the hearings, the schedule is below: Oct. 23-24 – Bill 30 (vehicles-for-hire) and Bill 31 (tuition hike) Oct. 25 – Bill 23 (fisheries) and Bill 27 (elections) Oct. 25-26 – Omnibus Bill 24 Hearings begin at 6 P.M. on the second floor of the legislature.

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