With just better than four weeks to go before the provincial election on October 3, Manitoba's political parties are winding up for a busy month in which they’ll roll out a range of campaign promises.
Since early August, Wab Kinew and his NDP team have been actively getting out their message, making 15 separate platform announcements over three weeks.
The PCs and Liberals haven’t had as much to say yet, but the announcements are likely to heat up further once the election period officially kicks off on September 3.
A major part of Kinew’s focus so far has been healthcare. This is no surprise, since healthcare workers have been decrying the failing system for some time now.
The NDP have announced an ambitious plan to recruit 300 nurses for Winnipeg and many more to replace shortages in rural and northern areas.
Doctors Manitoba has been promised 400 more physicians. Paramedic, homecare, and personal care home staff will also increase in number. The four-year NDP plan aims to accomplish this with a $500 million price tag.
“We will fix the staffing crisis in three steps,” Kinew says. “Plugging the hole in the bottom of the boat—retention. Bringing in reinforcements—recruitment and training. And looking to the future to set clear long-term goals for our health system.”
As well, the NDP plan on reopening three of the emergency rooms that were downgraded to urgent care centres by the PC government in 2017. The new emergency rooms would be located at the Victoria, Seven Oaks, and Concordia hospitals.
Healthcare is also a high-stakes concern for the Manitoba Liberals. Without clearly laying out just how it will be funded, the Liberals promise to work on healthcare retention by improving the way existing healthcare professionals are paid. A long-term strategy will also be created to invest in new Manitoba teaching spaces, including a new University of Manitoba Campus of Rural and Northern Family Health in Brandon.
Making life more affordable is another pledge made by the NDP.
According to Kinew, families are paying up to 20 percent more on their hydro bills since 2016. The leader says that he intends to freeze the utility rates for one year. He also plans to stand in the way of any plans to privatize Manitoba Hydro, although no such intention has previously been articulated by the governing PCs.
With an election win, the NDP also intend to cut the 14 percent provincial gas tax, a fee which is currently being collected at the pumps. And no sales taxes would be increased, they say, as they attempt to balance the budget.
But while the NDP plan to maintain the 50 percent property tax rebate introduced by the PCs, there won’t be a 100 percent rebate like the Tories have promised to provide.
Perhaps one of the most glaring differences between the PC and NDP’s positions, so far, can be seen in the polarity of their responses to the proposed search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the bodies of two slain First Nations women.
To date, Stefanson stands firm on her decision not to fund a search, for reasons primarily relating to staff safety. Kinew takes a more amenable approach, indicating a willingness to fund up to 50 percent of the search.
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen