Lately, I’ve included in these articles information about mental health resources. As we continue to battle this virus into the New Year, I want to take a moment to address this topic once more. I think we can all agree that this past year has been like no other. For many of us it’s been an incredibly hard year. Please remember that your mental health is a vital aspect of your well being. While we have been anxious and stressed in challenging ways, we need to take care of our mental health. Reach out to family and friends, check in with others, and be sure to access the available mental health resources. The Manitoba government has set up virtual counselling sessions available by calling 1-844-218-2955 as well as an online virtual therapy program. Find out more information at https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/bewell/. Please do not hesitate to reach out to these free of charge, confidential mental health resources.
Every year, as one year comes to an end and another one begins, I like to reflect on my highlights from the past year. Here are a few of them:
Speaker Myrna Driedger curated a time capsule to celebrate Manitoba’s 150th birthday, co-chaired a restoration committee for the Manitoba Legislature, and engineered remote attendance on Zoom.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Manitoba Legislature and the province of Manitoba’s 150th birthday, I curated a time capsule. This time capsule is a wonderful snap shot in time that will be opened 100 years from now. There are many items that represent our beautiful province and rich culture. Some of these include: a beaded tobacco pouch, a soapstone carving representing Inuit sculptors, a current map of Manitoba, memorabilia celebrating women gaining the right to vote and the progress made in the last 100 years, and information about the COVID-19 pandemic. There are over 70 items in the time capsule including a mystery item. The time capsule itself is a piece of art. Designed by local artist Darren Sawki, it will not be hidden away like many other time capsules, it will be on full display in our legislature until it is opened 100 years from now. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when future Manitobans open the capsule!
I have served as the Co-Chair for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Building Restoration Committee. This committee is the result of legislation passed by all members of the Legislative Assembly for the purpose to fund the upkeep of our beautiful building. Our legislature is, in my opinion, the finest in North America. At 100 years old, it has kept its timeless magnificence throughout all these years, but as with any building, upkeep is needed. The Legislative Building Centennial Restoration and Preservation Act sets out a 15¬-year plan to thoughtfully research, plan, and carry out projects that will ensure our building remains magnificent for our future generations. Currently underway is the restoration of our beautiful rotunda.
I’ve led a team to develop gavel-to-gavel broadcasting of our House proceedings as well as adding virtual attendance via ZOOM for MLAs. COVID-19 has posed a challenge like we’ve never seen before. As Speaker, it fell to me to ensure that your representatives were able to fulfill their responsibilities to Manitobans and advocate for constituents in the house. Balancing these responsibilities with the safety of MLAs led us to use Zoom in the house proceedings. This was a mammoth task and I am grateful to the many team members who worked tirelessly to ensure our democratic proceedings carried on. With only one third of MLAs in the chamber all public health orders were followed. Members wore masks, used hand sanitizer, and were seated outside of their regular places to accommodate safe distances. The other two thirds of the Members participated virtually. We experienced only a few minor technical glitches. I am so glad that our Assembly created the capacity to carry out this new and unprecedented alternative to regular proceedings. I can’t count the times I’ve had to say “If the Member would please unmute!”
While this unprecedented pandemic year has led to many challenges it has also helped us to develop innovative ways of doing our jobs. We’ve had to stretch our thinking in different ways and we have risen to those challenges. Manitobans all over our province have worked together to flatten the curve. Although this fight is not yet over, I am grateful for the many people in our province working hard to flatten the curve.
Hon. Myrna Driedger is MLA for Roblin and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.