Manitoba Throne Speech looks at expanded private health-care, adding billions of dollars for hospitals

Premier Heather Stefanson has outlined her blueprint for Manitoba in the coming year, with plans to explore private health-care services, spend billions of dollars for hospitals, and financially stabilize Manitoba Hydro.

Manitoba’s Lieutenant-Governor Anita Neville delivered the 18-page speech Tuesday afternoon. With an election coming in 2023, Premier Stefanson outlined her vision for the year. Here is a breakdown of what was included:

HEALTH-CARE AND ADDICTION TREATMENT

The speech outlines plans to explore a blended public-private delivery system for health-care. Stefanson says this model is being used in most other provinces.

“This is the route that we have to go to encourage the private sector to set up here in Manitoba, where we can contract out with the private sector to deliver those services for Manitobans,” she said.

“We have lagged behind because there was an ideological approach that was taken for decades here in our province. We are getting beyond that. And we are going to look to the private sector to help be part of the solution.”

She said the province would remain under the single-payer, single-tier system, and the change would not lead to more fees for Manitobans seeking health care.

Stefanson said as an example, private delivery of diagnostic services and day surgeries could be expanded.

Stefanson’s government is also promising a “multi-year, multi-billion dollar” capital investment in Winnipeg hospitals.

The premier said there are buildings in the Health Sciences Centre that are 100 years old.

“We need to upgrade these facilities to ensure they are state of the art, especially for patients but also for those who work in those facilities,” she said.

While Stefanson stopped short of promising any new builds, she said more details would be released.

The speech commits to investments to increase and support up to 1,000 addiction treatment spaces. Stefanson said these will primarily be new spaces, and will be rolled out as soon as possible.

The speech also highlights a plan to implement a provincially-coordinated strategy for suicide prevention, which the province said will focus on youth and at-risk communities.

MANITOBA HYDRO

The government is promising to “financially stabilize” Manitoba Hydro as a Crown corporation, but details were scant.

“We will come out with the details, this is sort of the visionary side of it,” Stefanson said. “It will be a balanced approach between stabilizing the financial situation of Manitoba Hydro while also providing affordable rates for Manitobans.”

The speech promises “significant increases” in funding for the Public Utilities Board, but provides no further information on what to expect.

The speech says more announcements about Manitoba Hydro will be made in the coming weeks.

EDUCATION

On the education front, the speech confirms the province will be creating a teacher registry along with an independent body, which the speech says will, “improve accountability and transparency related to educator misconduct in K-12 schools.”

A teacher registry is something Stefanson’s government has said it would consider, but this marks the first commitment to move it forward.

The speech also signals a step away, at least for now, from performance funding for post-secondary institutions.

“I think especially through COVID it has been challenging for some of our post-secondary institutions and I think we need to take a bit of a step back, look at those Institutions and say, ‘what is going to keep them going,’” Stefanson said.

She said her education minister will be working with post-secondary institutions on this.

For early childhood education, the speech says an increase in operating grants is planned in the new year which will support wage increases.

It also highlights a new income support program for people living with severe and prolonged disabilities. The speech says this program will launch next spring.

DOWNTOWN SURVEILLANCE AND NEW CONSERVATION OFFICERS

Community safety was another topic touched on in the throne speech. The Stefanson government is looking at a “renewed and enhanced” camera network system in downtown Winnipeg.

Stefanson said this would “augment” a previously announced pilot project from the Downtown Community Safety Partnership. She said Manitobans can expect increased surveillance in downtown Winnipeg.

“Obviously not wanting to invade in people’s privacy and so on, but we need to ensure that we are catching the criminals who are out there, that are preying on vulnerable people in our downtown communities,” Stefanson said.

Among the other commitments in the Throne Speech, Stefanson’s government is planning to hire more conservation officers and outfit them with “better equipment and technologies” to combat poaching, night hunting and road hunting.

RANCHER RELIEF, MODERNIZED WASTE DIVERSION, AND OTHER ITEMS

It teases a Trails Strategy and Action Plan, which the province says will support a network of accessible trails, and a capital plan for park investments. Details, the province said, will be announced soon.

The speech also includes a plan to help ranchers by temporarily reducing rent on agricultural Crown lands from 2023 to 2025. The speech said this will provide nearly $4 million in support.

For the northern economy, the speech says the province will reopen its Communities Economic Development Fund business loan program.

The speech includes a commitment to ‘modernize’ the waste diversion and recycling framework to divert more materials from the landfill. No further details were provided, and when asked if that will include funding for organics, Stefanson replied, “possibly.”

CTV News will update this story. 

The full speech can be read below.

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