NDP accuses Manitoba government of health-care privatization plan again after premier talks up partnerships

The Manitoba NDP is continuing its oft-repeated accusation that more health-care services will be privatized — and this time the party is using the premier’s words against her.

The NDP highlighted a portion of Premier Heather Stefanson’s June speech to party supporters, in which she said her Progressive Conservative government is “building for the future” by looking at “innovative ways to increase capacity in our system with partnerships in the private and not-for-profit sectors.”

The PC Party posted her speech online.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says Stefanson’s words are evidence the Tories are forging ahead with plans to privatize health-care, while the public system struggles under the weight of severe staffing shortages and long waits for care.

“Knowing what we know about the PCs, knowing what we know about the people who have the premier’s ear, we know that they want to increase access to private health care in Manitoba and they’re going to continue testing the limits of private health care and what they can get away with,” he told a news conference Tuesday near the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

The Opposition leader referenced the province’s decision to send 150 to 300 spinal surgery patients to Fargo, N.D., as one example of the encroachment of private health-care into the public system.

The PC government did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment. 

In the past, the government has defended itself against privatization accusations by insisting it is committed to the public system, but help is needed while severe staffing shortages and long waits for care persist.

Kinew, however, alleged the Tories are pursuing private options before first bolstering the public medical system.

With a provincial election coming next year, Kinew said an NDP government would spend more money on health care and promote a better vision for improving the system. He said they’d also work with nurses and their representatives to stop reliance on mandatory overtime.

Kinew also suggested an NDP government could mend the relationship between the province and health-care workers.

“It could send a message that there is a new tenor, a more respectful approach to those working on the front lines,” Kinew said.

Although he expressed hesitation about the surgery partnership with Fargo, Kinew wouldn’t rule out all private partnerships, such as the procedures done with the Western Surgery Centre in Winnipeg. Kinew said he would abide by the Canada Health Act, which ensures Canadians have access to quality health care without financial or other barriers. 

In 2020, the federal health minister warned that Ottawa may keep money reserved for Manitoba if the province doesn’t prevent people from paying out-of-pocket for quicker access to diagnostic services, and prevent private nurse practitioners from charging patients for services that would normally be covered under the provincial health plan.