Instead of travelling to hear concerns in town halls, Minister Scott Fielding is (virtually) coming to living rooms.
Before concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 hit, the Finance Minister would travel to communities across the province to hear what they would like to see in the provincial budget. This year he's taking the trip online instead.
"It is just a great opportunity to reach out to the government and say what the priorities are and make sure your voice is heard," Fielding says. "We get great information from individual Manitobans and we do make changes to the budget."
He says it is a great opportunity for both the individual Manitoban and province to understand community needs.
Instead of visiting specific communities such as Winkler or Portage la Prairie, the town halls are being divided by telephone and online calls over the span of a week and a half.
The telephone schedule includes:
- Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. for Winnipeg-area residents;
- Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. for northern Manitobans;
- Monday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. for Winnipeg-area residents; and
- Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. for rural Manitobans
The virtual meeting schedule is:
- Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m. for rural Manitobans;
- Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. English-French bilingual session;
- Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. for northern Manitobans; and
- Thursday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. for Winnipeg-area residents.
Manitobans have proven to be highly engaged with the province. Typically this style of town hall has upwards of 8,000 to 10,000 callers each time.
"We have a PowerPoint presentation that gives you a bit of background so you have context as a Manitoban. That will be on EngageMB.ca. We are going to have that open to let people make their comments well into February so you are going to have a lot of time to make your submission."
He says the website will also include important information, including how the province will make its decisions.
Fielding is emphasizing that the voices of Manitobans matter.
"It is a great opportunity to listen to people and really get a sense of what priorities Manitobans have," Fielding says. "At the end of the day, we are asking a number of people where these important investments should be made, as well as supports for things like the pandemic, and supports of health and education, and the social services. (Those are) really important things that we've heard from Manitobans that are a priority."
He says thanks to public opinion, the province has been notified of new concerns in the province.
"I think even the last couple of years we went out to rural municipalities and we heard there was a bridge in the roads program that we had and we heard quite clearly form Manitobans that we needed to make important changes to it."
The minister says each community has its own needs and wants to learn what could be arising or needs to be changed during this process.