Manitoba premier-designate Wab Kinew says his plan to improve the health-care system and reduce wait times in his province can move forward without additional federal funds.
Kinew — who says he intends to form government in the next few weeks — told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday, the bilateral funding deal between the federal government and Manitoba signed last February should account for the changes he plans to make.
“I think the commitments that we have made can be executed within the existing fiscal framework,” he said.
Kinew and the Manitoba NDP won enough seats to form a majority government after a campaign heavily focused on health-care. The premier-designate has committed to adding 400 doctors over five years, 200 paramedics over four years, and 300 nurses over two years.
“Of course, we are always going to ask that the federal government contribute its fair share when it comes to health-care,” Kinew also said. “And we know that the federal share of delivering health-care has declined over the past decades, so obviously we’re going to continue to push for increased investment from the federal level.
“But there can be no excuse for inaction right now,” he added.
Provinces had long been calling for the federal government to increase funds through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) from 22 per cent to 35 per cent of health-care costs, about an additional $28 billion a year.
In February, after months of negotiations, the federal government pledged to increase funding to the provinces and territories by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years, with $46.2 billion in new funding.
The offer included both increases to the amount budgeted to flow through the CHT, as well as bilateral deals since inked with individual provinces and territories, though overall it fell significantly short of what premiers had been asking for.
Kinew said in his post-election conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week he emphasized health-care as his “number one” priority.
“He brought forward his priorities, but I was very quick to say that health-care is my priority,” Kinew said.
“I also did share with the prime minister, my view that the federal government is the shepherd of the Canada Health Act, and consequently, is a very important player when it comes to guaranteeing universal access to all Canadians.”
When asked whether improving wait times for Manitobans would include private delivery, Kinew said “it’s about finding a balance along that spectrum of the different players,” but that the way to achieve that is “by respecting the principles of the Canada Health Act.”
“And I’m a firm believer that the way that we cut down those wait times is by investing in the public system,” he also said.
Provincial and territorial health ministers are set to meet with federal government officials, including Health Minister Mark Holland, this week.
With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha and CTVNews.ca’s Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello