Bonuses to retain, draw back nurses part of Manitoba Liberals’ 2023 election pledges

Bonus money for health-care workers, enhanced reconciliation efforts, a tougher-on-crime stance and a comprehensive K-12 nutrition program will highlight the Manitoba Liberal Party’s platform for the upcoming provincial election.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont gave a sneak peek into what the party intends to run on during this year’s provincial election to party members at the Best Western Airport Hotel in Winnipeg on Saturday, as part of the Liberals’ annual general meeting.

Healthcare has been front and centre in provincial politics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and part of the Liberals’ healthcare strategy is to offer $10,000 bonuses for Manitoba nurses and those who return into the public system.

“There’s no overnight solution but there are things we can do right now to make it better and that’s what this platform is all about,” Lamont told CBC.

A room full of people listen during a panel discussion.
Members of the Manitoba Liberal Party look on during a panel on health care. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The shortages of nurses and doctors in both urban and rural centres, largely due to burnout and people choosing to leave the health-care profession for other sectors, as well as lengthy emergency-room waits have been well documented, he said.

“We need to care for the caregivers,” Lamont said, adding that the current Tory provincial government did not include any funds for healthcare staff retention in their latest budget.

The St. Boniface MLA also said $5,000 will be offered to others in the healthcare system, such as lab technicians, and home care and emergency medical service workers.

“This is just one plank of an entire healthcare platform.”

Platform also targets reconciliation, nutrition, crime

As an act of reconciliation, Lamont said the Liberals would also return $338 million in federal child benefits to First Nations children in CFS, which a Manitoba judge ruled was improperly withheld last year.

“Thousands of children in the care of CFS were having money taken away from them that was supposed to be used for them, and the NDP and PCs just took it,” Lamont said.

A universal nutritional program for Manitoba kids in kindergarten to Grade 12 is also a part of the Liberals’ platform, so “no kid starts the day hungry,” Lamont said, and they plan to introduce a searchable, public registry of beneficial ownership to stem crime in Manitoba.

“There’s human trafficking and money laundering that occurs in Manitoba because our business industry is so much of a black box that criminals are able to hide their transactions.”

‘Real change’

The Liberals currently occupy just three of the 57 seats in the Manitoba Legislature, a far cry from the 18 held by the Manitoba NDP and 35 held by the governing Progressive Conservatives.

Liberal supporter Laurel Gardiner says there are two major issues that need fixing in the province.

“I think the two main priorities should be reconciliation and improving the healthcare system in Manitoba,” she told CBC.

A woman speaks into a microphone.
Laurel Gardiner says she’d like to see reconciliation and the healthcare system be prioritized by the next provincial government. (Radio-Canada)

Fellow supporter Glorian Chartrand told CBC that poverty rates and the Indigenous population are both high in the province, which requires a strong focus from government.

“The priorities of these groups of citizens should be absolutely at the forefront in the coming election.”

The Liberals haven’t had more than three seats in the legislature since snaring seven in the 1990 election. Two years before that, the party won 20 seats and became the Official Opposition.

Lamont is hoping to change that this year, and said his party is offering Manitobans “real change.”

“Being a Manitoba Liberal is an act of conviction.”