MLA Report: Support missing for north during COVID-19 shutdowns

Northern Manitoba is being left in the dust by this provincial government. While circumstances are difficult for people all around the province, northern Manitoba has seen limited relief compared to elsewhere. While certain payments like student loans have been put on hold to alleviate the financial hardship of Manitobans and money is being invested in southern infrastructure, we in the north are seeing nothing but rising costs.

Northern Manitoba towns cannot continue to face the rising costs of infrastructure on both capital projects and ongoing operating expenses. Residents of Snow Lake have reached out to me about the astronomical new price of water they are facing, which sees them now paying as much as $700 to as high as $1500 per quarter per household. This is an unbelievable expense for families and it is not sustainable for them or the community.

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Even though COVID-19 is the main crisis people are thinking about right now, we in the north continue to be on the front lines of effects of climate change. This spring and summer alone, we have seen many roads being washed out, some more than once. This is a major issue, especially for communities who depend on these single access roads. Meanwhile, all announcements in recent weeks about new infrastructure money have been for southern roads and highways. There needs to be more done to ensure that northern roads, single access roads in particular, are usable all the time. Ongoing maintenance needs to be funded and there needs to be sufficient workers employed to accomplish what is required on an ongoing basis. This may mean that new technology for more durable roadway infrastructure will need to be prioritized.

Commercial fishers in this constituency and the communities they live and work in are in trouble. The aid program announced by the federal government has still not been implemented, which means commercial fishers have seen no relief. The Pallister government has been completely silent on assistance for commercial fishers, even though it has been on their radar for many months. There will be a huge financial impact in northern communities where commercial fishing is one of the main economic drivers.

Finally, although we are well into phase three of re-opening, we must continue to stay vigilant. We may have a second wave in the Fall, which will be compounded with the seasonal flu, making it harder to tell the difference between COVID-19 and influenza. We know of the shortcomings of our local health care system so we have to be even more diligent with hand hygiene, sanitizing measures, physical distancing and all other precautions so we can stay safe in the north.

As always, feel free to reach out to my office regarding your concerns at Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca, or 1-204-687-3246.

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