WINNIPEG — An Independent member of the Manitoba legislature put the kibosh on the first day back of the fall sitting Wednesday, also taking the spotlight away from new Opposition Leader Wab Kinew.
Question period had been expected to be the NDP leader’s first chance to take on the government of Premier Brian Pallister but instead Independent member Steven Fletcher employed a political tactic called a filibuster.
For four hours, Fletcher spoke about a wide range of issues including security in the building, YouTube and resources for MLAs.
Kinew said he was very disappointed by the filibuster because he had questions he wanted to ask the premier on health care, while Pallister called it a blatant abuse of privileges allotted to MLAs in the house.
What goes around comes around, Pallister added.
Fletcher made no apologies.
“I am hoping, in the new role I find myself in, to raise the quality of the legislative process, the content and wording of legislation, and most importantly, ensure that MLAs have the freedom to represent the people who elect them,” Fletcher told CTV Winnipeg outside the legislature.
Fletcher had been kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this year after criticizing a plan for a new Crown corporation on energy efficiency, and said he was simply raising issues and concerns on Wednesday that he hasn’t had a chance to.
Speaker Myrna Driedger ruled his points out of order several times.
Fletcher, who is also a former federal Conservative member of Parliament, kept challenging the speaker’s rulings with support from Manitoba’s three Liberal members.
That fuelled speculation that Fletcher may want to join the Liberals, as he has been fighting a Manitoba law that bans the act of crossing the floor to join another political party, even though the government plans to scrap the legislation.
If he were to join the Liberals, it would give them a fourth legislature seat — enough for official party status and the extra funding and staff that comes with the designation.