Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon shows the thick belt of population south of the Trans Canada, which has no prebudget consultation meetings scheduled.
NDP finance minister Stan Struthers said all Manitobans have a chance to weigh in as part of pre-budget consultations, but Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon said having the chance to submit by mail or email isn't enough.
The NDP announced their pre-budget consultations which were scheduled for Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Dauphin and Ste. Anne, all constituencies represented by NDP candidates.
In a letter written to Stan Struthers, Graydon asks why meetings aren't held in centres like Morden, Winkler, Altona, Steinbach, Niverville, Carman, Portage or Morris.
Incidentally, those are all in constituencies represented by PC candidates. Struthers said they want to get out to each part of the province, promising that other communities will be on the list for future years.
"Over the next number of years we want to get out to each of those regions," he said.
Struthers said having more meetings is not the answer. "We can't meet in every community," he said.
In Graydon's letter he included an invitation to Struthers to come to Altona, and host a prebudget consultation meeting.
"I'm open to going to any community in the future," Struthers claimed.
But Struthers pointed out that attending meetings isn't the only way to get your views heard.
"People from these communities and Mr. Graydon can submit those ideas," he said. "Any Manitoban this year can have a say."
Whether it's through the mail, by email or at a meeting, Struthers said they do consider the views of Manitobans.
"People shouldn't think they can't make a difference," he said.
But Graydon said the lack of a meeting in this section of the province shows what the NDP really think of southern Manitobans' views.
"We're ignored, we don't have a voice," he said. "Is it just the NDP ridings that are paying taxes?"
Graydon said this is simply another example of the NDP's lack of interest in the south.
"They've never held a budget meeting in Altona, and none that I know of in Winkler," he said.
Graydon said Stan Struthers was expected at two debates in southern Manitoba and did not show up to either of them during the election campaign.
The NDP candidate (and the Liberal) in Emerson did not even respond to invitations to attend a local debate which had to be cancelled.
Graydon pointed out that all their debates are being held in NDP ridings, adding he doesn't think the NDP are all that concerned about getting opinions on the budget from regular Manitobans.
"It's a way of going out and thanking the communities that supported them," he said. "But they did that at the public's expense."
Graydon said choosing which communities to go to isn't that hard.
He suggested dividing up the rural and city ridings and simply drawing a certain number out of a hat. That gives all 57 constituencies the same odds of hosting a pre budget consultation meeting.
Meetings have already been held in Winnipeg and Brandon, and are scheduled for Jan. 19 in Thompson, Jan. 23 in Dauphin, and Jan. 25 in Ste. Anne.
People can also share their views in writing with the minister at Budget Consultations, Room 103, 450 Broadway, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 0V8; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the questionnaire at www.gov.mb.ca.