The province's Justice minister came close to setting a record in the Manitoba Legislature.
Prior to breaking for summer, politicians pushed through 28 bills. And, Kelvin Goertzen was personally responsible for 18 of those. Goertzen recalls a couple of years ago, one minister had 20 bills passed. But, he says that year it was almost like having two sessions combined into one because of the Legislature being shut down due to the pandemic.
Yet, Goertzen is quick to point out that nobody is keeping track of these records.
"It's not like Wayne Gretzky's goal record or assist record," he jokes. "MLAs aren't sort of looking for that."
Goertzen explains it was a unique set of circumstances that led to 18 bills. In January, he was shuffled from Minister of Legislative and Public Affairs to Minister of Justice. Goertzen notes prior to taking over that portfolio, there were a number of bills on the go, plus he brought in a few more, but then also had some from his previous role.
"So 18 was significant, certainly by far the most I've ever done in a session," notes Goertzen. "And there's probably some ministers who never pass 18 bills in their career."
Goertzen says the 18 bills touch on many different areas. But, one that he is particularly pleased with is the bill that designates the polar bear as an official emblem of Manitoba. He refers to this as a very important bill, noting that along with the plains bison, Manitoba now has two provincial emblems.
"Polar bear is something that's well recognized around the world as symbolic to Manitoba and so I think it was time that we made that official," he says.
But, many of the 18 bills were related to justice. For example, he says they reformed the policing act this session which will allow Manitoba to put in uniform standards and codes of conduct when it comes to policing. He notes Manitoba still has a long way to go, but this should eventually bring our province more in line with what British Columbia is doing, where their policing standards are very transparent with regards to such things as high speed chases, use of a firearm or how to deal with confidential informants.
Other bills approved in this session deal with how courts operate, the selection of judges and training for issues around sexual violence.
Goertzen notes there was one other piece of legislation, that if approved, could have brought up to 19 bills, but he says it will probably only become law in November. That one is related to Manitoba Public Insurance and online services.
Manitoba MLAs knew they had 28 bills to pass on Wednesday before breaking for summer, yet Goertzen says the final day did not run as late as it could have. He notes they wrapped things up around 11 p.m, which is much earlier than the one year when they were still debating issues at seven o'clock the next morning.
"Some of that is just how it gets scheduled, how much of the bills are controversial, there's a lot of controversial bills that the Opposition is opposing, that can take longer then because there's more voting," he explains. "So 11 p.m, it wasn't as bad as a lot of the last sitting nights that I've had."
Even though the House has now adjourned for the summer, Goertzen says it will still be a busy season for him. Goertzen says over the next few months he intends to travel across the province, meeting with justice officials.
"I'm going to really dedicate myself over the summer to getting around the province and meeting with justice officials because I haven't had as much opportunity to do that since I was appointed Attorney General in January," he adds.
On top of that, Goertzen says he looks forward to attending festivals and fairs again this summer, something that has been largely missing the last two years because of the pandemic.