Wednesday August 28 2013 – Selinger hammered (transcript below) for keeping racist in cabinet

Greg Selinger pic via ChrisD.ca

Question Period was electric on Tuesday as 7 Progressive Conservative MLA’s and Liberal leader Dr. Jon Gerrard threw an unprecedented blitz against Premier Greg Selinger for endorsing the so-called right of his deputy Eric Robinson to have racist opinions about white non-aboriginal Manitobans.

Selinger was on his feet for almost the entire 45 minutes, and buried his government’s reputation deeper when he admitted the racist comment blacked out of emails about Osborne House WAS NOT “the advice or opinion of his government”. Making the redaction of the racist comment – from 3 files, and then by Robinson himself when women’s shelter CEO Barb Judt appealed directly to him – illegal.

Greg Selinger pic via ChrisD.ca
Quote of the day: “The Premier is setting the bar so low that his Cabinet members cannot possibly get under it.”

While Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck’s analysis calls out the NDP for launching a vendetta against a Tory-supported non profit (just like the illegal withholding of grant money for Assiniboia Downs) and The Black Rod pins down why Selinger leaps to discipline homophobes in his caucus but not the “ignorant do good white people” hating Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, we also suggest you read for yourself the Q&A from today’s Legislature.

Now normally readers would be invited to view the session, but mysteriously on Greg Selinger’s worst day as Premier, the video feed on Shaw TV from the House went blank, and the audio feed cut off 20 minutes early. 

UNEDITED ORAL QUESTIONS, AUGUST 27, 2013

Oral Questions 

Deputy Premier

Email Correspondence

Mr. Brian Pallister (Leader of the Official Opposition): Mr. Speaker, my questions pertain to the unfortunate comments of the Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson) concerning the alleged ignorance of  do-good white people. The minister responded with essentially what was a non-apology and has claimed that his remarks are not racist in nature. The Premier has explained that the minister has done some good things, which we do not dispute, but then he follows with no action whatsoever.

I’m genuinely sorry that the minister has experienced racism as a young man, but that’s not an excuse for repeating the behaviour. The minister has stated that he did not believe his comment was racist. He has said, quote: I don’t think so. I’ve heard worst things said about me. That does not justify his comments.

Does the Premier acknowledge that his deputy’s comments were racist in nature?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Premier has withdrawn his comments. He’s expressed regret and he’s apologized for it. This is a very significant contrast to the Leader of the Opposition; when he makes inappropriate comments he flat out denies them. And so I want to give credit to the Deputy Premier for stepping up, acknowledging that he could have had a better choice of his words even though he was concerned about the fundraising activity with respect to this particular agency. But he did step up and he did acknowledge that he could have had a better choice of words and he did apologize for it, and I think he set a good example in doing that.

Removal From Cabinet Request

Mr. Pallister: I’d encourage the Premier to deal in the reality and not fantasy, Mr. Speaker. It is a never-ending cycle. We cannot here in this province or anywhere in this world combat racism effectively if we allow racism to be used as an excuse for racism.

Now, the Premier is making inexcusable excuses. He’s deeply misguided in doing so. He has said it was a private communication of a–and why would a private communication of a racist nature be blacked out at all in a freedom of information response? Should we be expected to accept the argument here that racism in private is acceptable behaviour for a senior government minister? The Premier seems to believe that the solution to his problem is damage control or deflection, more privacy, more limited access to information, perhaps more black markers. But that is not the answer.

Will he do the right thing today, show some leadership and remove from Cabinet his Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson)?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, unlike probably any other member in this House, this particular member of the Legislature, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, has been a champion for victims of violence since the earliest days of his presence in the House and even before that. He was one of the first people that met with the family of Helen Betty Osborne to acknowledge their suffering and the loss of their loved one. He was the one that championed that cause over many years, and now we have a Helen Betty Osborne foundation.

He was one of the first leaders–political leaders elected anywhere in Canada that championed the case of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and moved that issue forward. And now today, across the country, including in Manitoba, we have police departments working with communities to do proper investigations, and they’re starting to get to the cause of how these women have disappeared. And where they see the sufficient evidence, they’re bringing charges, and there’s much more attention being paid to this issue.

This is a man that has provided leadership across this country. I think we can all, in this Legislature, be very proud of what he’s accomplished on behalf of all of us.

Mr. Pallister: Whatever work I may have done over a decade in my life for matrimonial property rights for Aboriginal women does not entitle me to make a negative or disparaging comment about any race, any person of a different creed or colour. That is not an excuse that has any justification to it.

The Premier is setting the bar so low that his Cabinet members cannot possibly get under it. The Deputy Premier has said, and I quote: What I’m talking about is a general statement, and I’m entitled to say that.

He is not. That is stereotyping. That is an oversimplified opinion, a prejudiced attitude and uncritical judgment, and Manitobans deserve more than that. They deserve more than an Education Minister that labels her opponents on a bill as homophobes. It deserves more than a remark by the member for Thompson (Mr. Ashton) directed to me yesterday during my question, calling me a homophobe. It deserves better than that.

We all deserve better than that in this province and in this House. The Premier’s inaction invites a repeat of this represent–reprehensible behaviour, Mr. Speaker. We need a better workplace here; I agree with your observations.

Will the Premier do something to better this workplace? Will he remove his Deputy Premier from his Cabinet today?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Premier, as I said earlier, has made and continues to make a very significant contribution to reducing the risk for missing and murdered women throughout this country. He chaired the Aboriginal affairs ministers meeting in Winnipeg this spring where a unanimous consensus was reached that there needs to be a national inquiry on missing and murdered women. This set the stage for the premiers to discuss this at the Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake just this last month. And for the first time in the history of Canada, the premiers unanimously, and I mean unanimously, all 13 of them, supported a national inquiry on missing and murdered women within this country. It was because of the leadership of Deputy Premier Robinson that that occurred.

The leader opposite stands up here with all his sanctimony; when he makes disparaging comments in this House and is called on that, he denies it. When he does it a second time, he denies it. He doesn’t take responsibility for his behaviour. He has such a sense of immunity from any accountability for his behaviour, and at the same time, he thinks he can levy judgment on other people. Mr. Speaker, that’s–

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. First minister’s time has expired.

Deputy Premier

Email Correspondence

Mrs. Heather Stefanson (Tuxedo): An email received last week revealed a racist comment made by the Deputy Premier. He referred to do-good white people when referring to volunteers and the women who run Osborne House. He then, on APTN, refused to apologize, suggesting it was because we know there is a lot of those people around–another racist remark, Mr. Speaker.

He then sent out a statement with an insincere apology late Friday. To top it all off, yesterday, the minister appeared to retract his apology by defending his racist comments because he believes he is entitled to make such comments.

* (14:00)

Mr. Speaker, wouldn’t it be more becoming of a minister of the Crown to take steps to stop the chain of racism rather than perpetuate it by claiming he is entitled to say such things?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): That’s where the Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson) deserves credit. He recognized that his words could have been chosen more carefully. He regretted the expression of those words, whether private or otherwise, and he apologized for that, which puts the bar far higher for him than any member on the opposite side of the House who have never admitted, ever, that they’ve ever done anything wrong. They’ve never admitted it, that they’ve made an inappropriate comment, ever, in their lives, and certainly not in the Legislature. That is a denial of reality from what we’ve seen in the House. And Mr. Speaker, you know full well that we’ve had to do a lot of work to bring this House under a better code of conduct, and that is something that we all have to do.

I say this to the member opposite, that the very reason that we’re here in this Legislature is to try to further human rights, not only in this province but across the country, which is, for example, why we put Bill 18 forward on antibullying, which is why we think it’s important for the public to have a say on that and which is why we will continue to find ways to move forward. And where we make errors we will take responsibility for them and then find ways to improve the way we behave ourselves.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. First Minister’s time has expired.

Mrs. Stefanson: Mr. Speaker, racism in any and all of its forms is not acceptable, including racism inflicted on the minister or anyone else in our society. But the Deputy Premier obviously feels he is entitled to say whatever he wants, including racist remarks.

Does the Premier agree with the Deputy Premier that he is entitled to further inflict racist remarks on others?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, I believe I’ve addressed this question. The Deputy Premier made an apology for his regrettable remarks. That sets a high–farstar higher bar than any member of the opposite side of the House has ever achieved for any negative comment they’ve ever made, either under their breath or on the record, in public or in private. We’ve never seen them ever accept that they could possibly say anything wrong.

There’s never been an error that they have made. It’s always been something relating to something else. It’s always been a form of denial, and this form of denial–they said that we should stop building the floodway, and then they denied that they’re opposed to the floodway. They said that they’re in favour of Bill 18 on antibullying, but they’re not prepared to hear the public speak on Bill 18 or let the bill come to debate in the Legislature.

Look, everybody is a human being, and everybody’s going to make errors from time to time. It’s how you deal with that. When a member stands up and apologizes for that, that means he’s done the right thing.

Removal From Cabinet Request

Mrs. Stefanson: Mr. Speaker, it’s time to stop the chain of racism, not encourage it. By allowing this minister to get away with such comments sends a message to Manitobans by this government that it’s okay to do that.

Will the Premier do the right thing today, Mr. Speaker, and remove his minister from Cabinet?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, I know the member from Tuxedo has a carefully prepared question. The member who made the inappropriate comments has taken responsibility for them. He has expressed his regret about them, and he has apologized for them. But he still continues to be a champion for people that are the victims of violence, particularly women. He still continues to be a champion for missing and murdered women across this country. That contribution has made a signal difference in the way police do their business across this country.

I wish the members opposite had somebody that was championing a cause as noble as that on their side of the House. I wish the members opposite could admit that they could possibly say something wrong and apologize for it. I wish that they could do that. I do know that we make errors on this side of the House, and when there’s an error made, we fess up to it, we take responsibility for it, we apologize for it, and then, with that full reality in front of us, we try to do better.

Deputy Premier

Email Correspondence

Mr. Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet): Mr. Speaker, in an email obtained through FIPPA, the following quote by the Deputy Premier was blacked out, and I quote: “It also further demonstrates the ignorance of do-good white people without giving it a second thought.” End quote.

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act office said its decision to redact the minister’s inflammatory comment was covered under section 23(1)(a) of the act, to protect against material that would, and I quote: “reveal advice, opinions, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for the public body or a minister.”

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask this Premier: Is this, in fact, the advice or opinion of his government?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Again, Mr. Speaker, it’s very clear that the minister has taken  responsibility for the comments and apologized for them. So he’s regretting what has been said.

And it is also very clear under freedom of information and ‘protectioncy’ privacy act, which the member has quoted, 23.1 sub (a), that there is the possibility of redacting advice, opinions, proposals, recommendations, analysis or policy options developed by or for the public body or a minister. But that, quite frankly, is beside the point because the minister has now accepted responsibility for that comment, has apologized for that comment and, therefore, he has tried to correct the record and he’s done that publicly in a very responsible way.

Mr. Ewasko: Mr. Speaker, I’m going to have to take that answer as a yes to my question.

I find the whole sad situation quite disappointing. The Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson) continued in an interview with APTN to say, and I quote: Because you and I know there are a lot of those types around. That is straight stereotyping. He was referencing his initial quote.

So I ask the Premier again: Is this, in fact, the advice or opinion of his government or of his own?

Mr. Selinger: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is no.

Removal From Cabinet Request

Mr. Ewasko: The Deputy Premier goes on to then excuse himself of what he said by saying that he feels entitled to make racist comments about non-Aboriginals. Mr. Speaker, does the minister or the Premier realize the Pandora’s box they might have opened with this very disappointing statement? If another person comes from an abusive family situation, does it give them the right to abuse others? If a person was bullied, does it give that person the right to become a bully? Of course not.

Will the Premier do the right thing today and remove the Deputy Premier from his Cabinet?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the member knows the answer to that question, and the short answer is no because we have a person here that has a stellar career of defending people that have been the victims of violence, and I have to say he championed those causes long before they were popular with the media or the public. He championed those causes because of his own experiences, because of his contact with families that have been victims of violence and families that needed support, and he’s done that consistency over many decade. I challenge any other member of the House to show a record like that.

Deputy Premier

Email Correspondence

Mrs. Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain): Yesterday the Premier defended the email exchange between the Deputy Premier and a political advisor on Aboriginal women’s issues. In response to the email exchange, the Premier stated, and I quote: It was never intended for public consumption nor was it intended to single out anybody in the community. This is a very serious issue and Manitobans are demanding a better response from this Premier. To indicate he believes it’s just an error in judgment is unsettling.

Does this Premier believe his Deputy Premier is not responsible for his words because an error in judgment was actually the fault of a political advisor breaching government email protocol?

Mr. Selinger: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is no. The member took full responsibility for the words that he put on the record. He apologized for those words. Then, again, I just have to say, that’s a far higher standard of responsibility, both public and private, than any member on the opposite side of the House has demonstrated when they’ve made untoward and unfortunate and disparaging comments about anybody. They’ve always gone into flat-out denial about that. That may be their approach.

The approach on this side of the House–and it’s an approach that’s reflected on how we try to do business. There was a time, for example, when an error in the health-care system used to be covered up by members opposite when they were in power. We now have a critical incident process where that kind of an error is investigated, a report is made and a disclosure is made all for the very purpose of learning from mistakes, to be able to do things better for the future. We’ve done that on an individual basis. We’ve promoted those policies in terms of good public policy and that is the way forward in a system where things aren’t perfect every single day.

* (14:10)

Mrs. Rowat: The Premier yesterday stated, and I quote: The Deputy Premier’s (Mr. Robinson) statement was made in a communication–a private communication to a staffer. Yet, the email exchange took place during regular hours, work hours and was sent through regular government email addresses. Mr. Speaker, this is a government minister in a position of authority giving advice to a political advisor through government resources on government time.

Mr. Speaker, were the minister, his senior staff and his political advisor not clear in knowing their comments, at minimal, were representing the NDP government’s policy position on domestic violence?

Mr. Selinger: Again, Mr. Speaker, they’re pursuing a line of questioning which ignores the fact that the minister has taken responsibility for his comments and apologized for them. In the–if that were not the case, their line of questioning might have some more serious credibility to it, but in the absence of them ever taking responsibility for having ever done anything wrong in their entire careers–it’s always been flat-out denial from day one; whether it’s public or private matters, it’s just denial, denial, denial, denial, and then if there’s any doubt about it, more denial.

On this side of the House, the member has taken responsibility for his comments. He’s apologized on the public record for that, and we’re all learning from that. But the most important thing is we continue to be champions for people that are victims of violence to make sure that we prevent those situations from happening anywhere in the country, in the community, and the more that we dedicate ourselves to that, the more results we’ll get for all members of the public.

Mrs. Rowat: Mr. Speaker, domestic violence is a very serious issue facing so many families in Manitoba, families from all walks of life, regardless of social and economic status. It is so disappointing that once again we see this NDP government violate standards that are in place to protect and support vulnerable Manitobans.

Can this Premier confirm that his unacceptable communication between a Cabinet minister and a political adviser on women’s issues will be sanctioned, or is he prepared to own the comments made by the Deputy Premier of Manitoba (Mr. Robinson)?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, again, I remind the members opposite that the Deputy Premier has taken responsibility for his comments and apologized on the public record, a far higher bar of ethical conduct than we’ve seen from any member of the opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, who has been called to account for in–unfortunate and disparaging comments he’s made in this Legislature, and it’s just flat-out gone out to a denial approach. And that really isn’t constructive because if you’re denying things all the time, you can’t make improvements on it.

The Deputy Premier has acknowledged the ill–his unfortunate choice of words. He’s taken responsibility for it, and he will continue to be a champion for victims of violence, missing and murdered women across this country. We need that leadership in this country. We need that leadership in the province of Manitoba.

Deputy Premier

Email Correspondence

Mrs. Bonnie Mitchelson (River East): But they–wasn’t just a poor choice of words, it was a racist comment. Mr. Speaker, it makes no difference whether racist comments are made publicly or privately; racist comments are unacceptable. They cannot and should not be defended. Yet this Premier continues to stand in his place and defend his Deputy Premier who made racist comments.

How can the Premier defend his actions?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I support the member who took responsibility for his comments and apologized for them. That’s why I think there’s been an important move made here. And I also support him on his lifetime quest to reduce violence to women and to reduce–to make sure that missing and murdered women are–have justice brought to their ‘spersonal’ circumstances and their families who he’s met with on many occasions.

And this is an important issue as we move forward all across this country, and that’s exactly why I’ve taken the position I’ve taken, because on this side of the House, unlike members on the opposite side of the House, there is a willingness to confront errors that have been made. There is a willingness to take responsibility for them, and there’s a willingness to continue to move beyond that and make sure that we make our communities safer for all Manitobans and all Canadians.

Removal From Cabinet Request

Mrs. Mitchelson: But this Premier stands in his place day after day and defends a Deputy Premier who has made racist comments, and he accepts his apology. Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Norbert (Mr. Gaudreau) apologized for his homophobic comments, yet the Premier stripped him of his responsibilities as a backbencher in his government. Yet he does nothing to a senior Cabinet minister who makes racist comments.

Will the Premier stand up today, show some leadership and remove the Deputy Premier from his position?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, the short answer is no, and the members know that. And the short answer is the member took responsibility for his comments.

And the long answer is is that the member has a record of adult service to protecting people from violence, starting back in the days of the 1980s, when the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry looked at the circumstances of Helen Betty Osborne. This member was the person that went and worked with that family on the fact that their daughter had been murdered and championed that cause at a time when it was extremely unpopular and there was no media attention on that. And then when times moved forward he was of–early leader on missing and murdered Aboriginal women not only in Manitoba, but across this country, and as recently as this spring and this summer he has championed that cause further. He’s making a major contribution to the country along with other ministers across the country, along with people in the community and national Aboriginal organizational leaders, as well as other leaders across the country. They’re all working together to create a safer environment for peeper in our communities. That’s something to be supported.

Mr. Speaker: The honourable member for River East, with a final supplementary.

Mrs. Mitchelson: But the Premier continues to try to defend the indefensible. Mr. Speaker, a racist comment was made by a senior Cabinet minister within his government. He has shown absolutely no leadership on this issue. He continues to defend the indefensible.

Will he stand up today, show some backbone, take some leadership and remove the Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson) from his Cabinet responsibilities?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, you’ve canvassed my response to the issue. My response to the issue is is that we have an individual in the Legislature with a lifetime of adult service to protecting victims of violence, a member who, when he makes comments that he understands are inappropriate, has taken responsibility for them and apologized for them. But given his lifetime record and the contribution he’s making today–today–right now in real time all across this country and in Manitoba on protecting and ensuring that people that have missing and murdered daughters who have disappeared, that they get justice and support and healing. Those are important contributions to the community, contributions that would be sorely missed.

The members opposite, really, if they want to be as judgmental as they are, I ask them to start with themselves and ask why they deny every error in judgment they make, ask why they deny and refuse to acknowledge every inappropriate comment they’ve made. Really, Mr. Speaker, what we’re seeing in the House today is a gigantic double standard.

Deputy Premier

FIPPA Reply

Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach): Mr. Speaker, under the freedom of information rules government has the opportunity to hide information if it believes that it is the opinion of government or if it is the advice to government. The NDP decided to hide the phrase, ignorance of do-good white people. That means that it was either the opinion of government or it was advice to government, or there’s a third option, that they were trying to hide that phrase, that racist comment to try to protect the Deputy Premier.

Can the Premier tell us today: Was it hidden, was it redacted because they were trying to cover up for the Deputy Premier?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Short answer, Mr. Speaker, was standard procedures were followed for the FIPPA information request, and those procedures include officials in the department signing off on it, including at the senior level, and as the member knows it’s covered under section 23.1(a) which has been read into the record by his own members. And the most salient point, the most pertinent point is the member has accepted responsibility for the unfortunate choice of words. He has apologized for that which, I have to say again, is a higher standard than any member on the other side of the House has ever practised with any indiscretionary statement they’ve ever made in this House or elsewhere.

Mr. Goertzen: Under our freedom of information laws in this province, Mr. Speaker, the government can hide information if it believes that the information is the opinion of the government or advice to the government. Now, earlier in question period the Premier said that this wasn’t–this racist comment that the–was not the opinion of government.

Was it advice to the government or were you simply trying to cover up for the Deputy Premier?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, let me be succinct in my answer: neither.

Mr. Goertzen: Can the Premier try to identify, under the Freedom of Information laws, what the rationale and reason was for covering up the phrase: ignorance of do-good white people? It would seem, on a common-sense reading, the only reason to cover that phrase up was because it was a racist comment and to try to protect his Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson).

* (14:20)

Can you try to explain, under our laws, under our freedom from information laws, why that was redacted and covered up if it wasn’t to protect the Deputy Premier?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, I gave him a very succinct answer on that, on his question just before this one. I said it was neither of the above. It followed standard procedure conducted by public servants inside the government.

The minister has taken responsibility for the comment. He has apologized for the comment, which again is a far higher standard than any member opposite has practised in any untoward comments they’ve made in this Legislature or outside of this Legislature.

The way we move forward on learning how to protect human rights and learning how to protect citizens is to recognize any errors we may make in this regard, to acknowledge them and then to continue to devote our energies as public–elected public officials to making our communities safer, which is one the reasons why we have Bill 18 in the Legislature–which does not explain why the members opposite refuse to hear that bill, wish to have a proper debate on that bill.

And the reality is, Mr. Speaker, that bill has been called many, many times. And if we really want to make Manitobans safer let’s get on with legislation that will protect all Manitobans.

Osborne House

Government Funding

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, at a time when vital issues like the health of women and children in our province should be our focus, we’re being distracted by this burlesque sideshow.

You know, burlesque dancing is but an example of one of the many cultural expressions in our province. And you shouldn’t be targeted inappropriately by Cabinet ministers.

It’s troubling how this NDP government has failed to stand up and support Osborne House, failing to increase its funding when needed and insulting the very support services badly needed by the vulnerable women and children trying to escape domestic violence in Manitoba.

Will the Premier guarantee that his government will not turn its back on the women who need the services of Osborne House by pulling away funding as a result of this issue?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, we continue to advance issues of protecting women who are the victims of violence.

I recently was at an event where, for the first time ever, we enlisted the support of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on sending very clear messages that domestic violence is unacceptable, and some of the people that were stepping forward to do that, had seen that, had those experiences in their own lives, and now we’re standing forward as leaders in the community to do that. We provide significant funding to our domestic shelters in Manitoba and we’ll continue to do that.

I only need to remind members opposite that they wanted to cut all those programs this year, that was their proposal–indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts, tough love and a chill on public services. They would have cut domestic-violence services in Manitoba. They would have reduced those services. They would have put people on layoff. That’s not the approach we chose, Mr. Speaker. We chose to protect those services.

{UNRELATED QUESTIONS REDACTED}

* (14:30)

Deputy Premier

Resignation Request

Mr. Reg Helwer (Brandon West): Mr. Speaker, Manitoba has the dubious distinction of a high rate of violence against women, over twice the national average. Most violent crimes against women are the result of domestic violence, and these statistics remain high despite the NDP government’s lip service to this problem. Behind those statistics are real victims. Women’s shelters in Manitoba attempt to help those victims break this cycle of violence. When those shelters are attached by racist comments made by a Deputy Premier (Mr. Robinson) it demeans their good work.

Will the Deputy Premier stop trying to defend his racist comments and resign today?

Hon. Greg Selinger (Premier): Mr. Speaker, a focus on domestic violence is a very appropriate focus for members of this Legislature. There’s a million dollars in capital improvements going into shelters and other family-violence facilities owned by the Province as we speak. We are working with communities on very specific strategies.

The member in question is providing national leadership on this issue at the ministerial table which has been able to translate into all the premiers for the first time in the history of this country taking a stand on a national inquiry for missing and murdered women all across this country, Mr. Speaker. That is profoundly important progress that we’re making in our society, and in Canada we want to make that kind of process–progress and we want to do it across party lines, which is why I was very pleased with the ministers and the premiers from provinces where governments are of different political stripes came together on this issue.

The member may–has, again, taken full responsibility for his comments, but let’s not denigrate the enormous progress he’s made providing national leadership on this question.

Mr. Helwer: Mr. Speaker, this NDP government pretends to be concerned about victims and the cycle of domestic violence, but when they reduce programs aimed at dealing this perpetrators–the perpetrators and the victims, then it falls flat. The Deputy Premier’s racist comments and the Premier’s unwillingness to deal with the issue tarnishes all the good work done by women’s shelters to break the cycle of violence.

Will the minister do the right thing and resign?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, if the particular member or any member of his caucus was sincere they would withdraw their threat to across-the-board cuts to domestic-violence services. That’s what they wanted to do, they wanted to deliver cuts to domestic-violence programs in Manitoba. They made that extremely clear. Across-the-board indiscriminate cuts, tough love including women’s shelters, a chill, that’s what they wanted to do. If they’re sincere about this, they should stand up and the very next question reverse themselves and say they want to provide adequate support to those facilities.

Mr. Helwer: Mr. Speaker, incidents of violence against women are a–highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There are many people doing good work to try to break the cycle of violence against women. The Deputy Premier’s racist comments damage this good work.

Will the Deputy Premier take the right step in breaking the cycle of racism, apologize and resign?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, at the risk of being repetitive, the member has taken responsibility for his comments. He has apologized and he continues to devote significant, very significant leadership to the cause of reducing violence among all women across Canada, missing and murdered women in particular.

And members know very well that one–some of the things we’ve done is to reduce violence in Manitoba. The roots to empathy program in our schools is an award-winning program which teaches people how to respect each other in terms of resolving conflict. The PACT program, which is a fancy term for teaching children how to resolve conflicts, again, without resorting to violence is a very important program in our schools. The investments we make in HOUSINGFirst to allow people not to be on the street and to find a pathway back to self-sufficiency is a very important program, and the sporting programs that we put out there which teach a respectful approach to sport are all initiatives that we have funded and supported, and the members opposite want to cut them. Where’s their sincerity on this issue when they want to cut these services?

Mr. Speaker: Time for oral questions has expired.

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