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Sunday, October 1, 2023

NDP puts cards on Manitobans’ tables and its a mediocre hand – Winnipeg Free Press


NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his party have made five major commitments to Manitobans in the provincial election. The party has been making regular election promises throughout the campaign, as all three major parties have. Those commitments fall into five broad categories, listed on a glossy flyer the party has been dropping in mailboxes this week with the message: “Keep this card. We’ll keep these commitments.”

Here is my assessment of those five commitments:

• “We will fix (Premier) Heather Stefanson’s health care staffing crisis starting with hiring back the 300 nurses that (former premier) Brian Pallister and Stefanson cut.”

                                <p>NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his party have made five major commitments to Manitobans in the provincial election.</p>


NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his party have made five major commitments to Manitobans in the provincial election.

The Tories deleted thousands of health-care jobs, including nurses, when it reorganized hospitals between 2017 and 2019. Most of the jobs were reposted in one form or another and many front-line staff were forced to relocate, sometimes to jobs they didn’t feel qualified for. Many quit or retired early.

When all the smoke settled, there were about 300 fewer nurses working in the system in Winnipeg after the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 2016. The Tories continue to claim they have since hired 2,000 more health-care staff, but have repeatedly refused to provide detailed evidence of those alleged hirings, or data on the net change in staffing at Winnipeg hospitals.

All parties are now pledging to increase the complement of front-line workers. But none, including the NDP, have a specific solution on how to do it, given the national shortage of doctors and nurses all provinces are grappling with. For the most part, it comes down to which party voters trust the most to make rehiring health-care professionals a top priority.

• “We will build 3 new ERs in Winnipeg to replace the ones Stefanson and Pallister closed and a 4th ER in rural Manitoba to fix the damage they caused with their rural health care cuts.”

This is a terrible idea. The Tories converted three of Winnipeg’s six ERs to urgent-care centres when they consolidated hospital operations from six acute-care facilities to three. It may be that Winnipeg needs a fourth acute-care hospital (and a corresponding ER), but not until a full analysis is done to determine how many acute-care hospitals (and ERs) a relatively small city such as Winnipeg needs. Going back to six full-service acute-care hospitals would likely dilute services (as they were before 2017) and probably make the situation worse.

• “We will freeze (Manitoba Hydro electricity) rates to help make life more affordable and we will stop the privatization of Manitoba.”

Another bad idea. Hydro rates are set by the Public Utilities Board, an independent regulatory body. The Tory government has interfered in that process in various ways in recent years and the NDP is promising to do the same by freezing rates. The PUB sets rates based on the financial needs of Hydro and Manitobans’ ability to pay. They seek a balance between the two. Governments should not interfere in that process.

Freezing rates today would only result in higher rates down the road when Hydro requires revenue to repay debt and cover operational costs (not to mention the financial crisis that would ensue if a rate freeze coincided with one or more years of drought).

Also, the Tories are not planning to privatize Hydro. That’s an untruth the NDP has been peddling for successive elections.

• “We will create more Manitoba jobs for Manitobans. Heather Stefanson gave jobs away but we will create jobs here and invest in better training and education.”

Governments don’t create most jobs, the private sector does. Government’s responsibility is to help create an economic environment that encourages job growth. This election pledge is largely meaningless because there are no details on how an NDP government would increase overall employment in the province.

Jobs come and go from all provinces. There’s no evidence the Tory government “gave away” jobs. For the record, employment in Manitoba under the Tories rose from 633,600 in 2016 to 691,300 last month.