Health care concerns dominate first day of new legislative session in Manitoba

MLAs from across Manitoba returned to the legislature Wednesday for the first of 45 sittings during the final session before the provincial election.

The three-month session gives the governing Progressive Conservatives an opportunity to try to claw back some of the popularity polls suggest the party has lost since the start of the pandemic.

The opposition parties, meanwhile, signalled they intend to prevent any potential PC resurgence by drawing attention to Manitoba’s health-care struggles.

Concerns about health care dominated the first day of the session, which took place in the shadow of the death of a patient awaiting care at the emergency ward in Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre.

The opposition NDP and Liberals peppered Premier Heather Stefanson and her cabinet with questions about the HSC incident, home care deficiencies and rural hospital closures.

“I keep hearing from people across Manitoba — in Winnipeg, in rural Manitoba and in the north —and they’re praying they won’t get sick and they don’t have to go to a hospital because they don’t think they’re going to be safe there,” Liberal leader Dougald Lamont told reporters outside the legislative chamber.

“Manitobans are hearing about the needs in our health-care system and we’re energzied to come back to the chamber and fight for a health-care system that works,” added NDP leader Wab Kinew.

Stefanson, meanwhile, promised Manitobans there will be good news in store in the provincial budget Finance Minister Cliff Cullen is set to table on March 7.

The province has in recent weeks made a series of spending announcements. The premier hinted there will be more.

“We’ve been out listening to Manitobans, hearing what they want to see. We know they have challenges with affordability issues right now, so we’ll continue to move forward on that,” she said.

The legislature sits 44 more times over the next three months.

A provincial election is slated for Oct. 3. Stefanson said she has no intention of calling an election earlier.