NDP questions Pallister’s federal funding demands after Tory spending record on health care

By | September 21, 2020

The Manitoba NDP says it’s disingenuous of Premier Brian Pallister to demand more health-care funding from Ottawa while turning around and limiting spending in the same areas.

Southern Health was told to cap costs by March 31, 2019, to within 3.1 per cent of its 2016-17 expenses, according to an annual plan obtained by the NDP through freedom of information legislation.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Monday the federal government should be aware the Progressive Conservatives have a history of limiting spending on the front lines. 

“They can cry around about how they need more money from Mr. Trudeau. They can get down on their knees and beg Mr. Trudeau for more money, but I think everybody in Manitoba knows that Mr. Pallister will not spend more money on health-care in Manitoba,” he said.

Pallister was among the premiers in Ottawa last week to demand $28 billion in additional federal funding to cover their ballooning health-care costs. He’s long called on the federal government to increase its health transfers. 

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister joined several premiers in Ottawa last week to call for increased funding for health care. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“Right now, millions of Canadians are waiting for an appointment for a test, for consequential treatment, for surgery. Those delays are painful. A lump that isn’t diagnosed is not fun,” he said at the media conference.

“Every single day right now in Canada, there are people in fear directly of the consequences of delay, and their families join in that fear and their friends join in that fear.”

However, Kinew said Monday it was rich to call for more money when the Pallister government has a history of capping funding or spending less money than it said it would. The province underspent its health budgets in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

He also criticized the province for changes to health care, which he describes as cuts, such as consolidating six emergency rooms in Winnipeg to three. 

“We know, in fact, that any new health-care money that is sent to the province of Manitoba will be used to backfill cuts in other areas,” Kinew alleged.

The province couldn’t answer Monday whether other health authorities faced the same constraints, nor if the spending cap remains in place.

Instead, the government said its health-care budget has increased annually, and it is “getting value for the record level of funding.”

An email from spokesperson Brant Batters said “setting annual spending targets is a standard procedure for any government’s budget, and our focus is not only on money spent, but on tangible results for Manitobans.”

Southern Health did not respond to a request for comment and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority declined to speak.

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