Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives made their first health-care promise of the 2023 election campaign on Monday, pledging more money to recruit workers.
Rochelle Squires, the PC candidate for Riel, stood south of Grace Hospital in Winnipeg and promised to spend $30 million a year recruiting more workers. Two-thirds of the money would go toward workers in the Winnipeg health region, with the remainder for workers elsewhere in Manitoba, she said.
Squires said the PCs have hired more than 2,000 health-care workers in recent months, including 300 internationally educated professionals from the Philippines.
“All of them are homegrown health-care professionals in the province of Manitoba. A lot of them are new recruits and a lot of them are coming from other jurisdictions through our recruitment plan we initiated earlier in government,” Squires said.
She said after the PCs are re-elected to a third term, she could provide a breakdown of where the workers came from and where they are placed in the health-care system.
Some of the workers from the Philippines are not yet in Manitoba, Squires said.
Staffing levels in health-care facilities continue to cause a strain across the system after the COVID-19 pandemic, with some advocacy groups saying doctor shortages in the province reached an all-time high this year.
The PC pledge comes two weeks into a campaign in which the New Democratic Party has made a health-care announcement almost every day.
Kevin Klein, the PC candidate for Kirkfield Park, called the NDP too inexperienced to remedy problems with health care.
“We all remember what happens under an NDP plan. Back will be the days of a typical governing NDP, when we had the worst wait times in Canada,” Klein said.
Minutes later at the same park, NDP Union Station candidate Uzoma Asagwara said the PCs had two terms to improve health care.
Asagwara said they found it interesting the Tories are now addressing health care.
“It’s noteworthy Premier Heather Stefanson and the health minister, Audrey Gordon, didn’t bother to show up to this announcement on health care that they made today. The premier and the health minister have been hiding from their record on health care,” Asagwara said.
Stefanson did not speak at the morning announcement because she was preparing for a debate. The premier is slated to make a health-care announcement Monday afternoon.