Massage therapists are one step closer to becoming regulated health professionals in Manitoba.

On Tuesday, the province announced the Health Professions Advisory Council has recommended massage therapists be able to self-regulate under the Regulated Health Professions Act.

"We couldn't be happier with the minister's decision … We've been waiting a long time for this," said Sheila Malloy the executive director of the Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba.

The association had applied to be included in the act two years ago.

On Tuesday, provincial officials announced their application to be included in the act was recommended for approval.

The act covers health care professionals in Manitoba such as doctors, dental hygienists, midwives, chiropractors and others.

It requires them all to establish their own regulatory bodies with standards of practice, codes of ethics and competency guidelines.

"You'll recognize if someone's called a registered massage therapist, it means they're qualified to be that," said Malloy. "We've had problems in the past in this province and across Canada as a matter of fact who are not qualified calling themselves that and we had no legal way of dealing with that kind of thing."

GST/HST break on massages?

The change also means massages could eventually be exempt from GST in Manitoba and GST and HST in several other provinces.

"The minute that we have five regulated provinces, we are able to apply for the federal government as a health care," said Malloy, adding that Manitoba would be the fifth province.

Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland-Labrador have all regulated their massage therapists. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia are working on legislation to regulate the profession.

"For someone on a small income or a senior they can't consider that medical they can't write it off, so that's obviously the next great step," said Malloy.

Malloy said it will likely be years before everything is in place, but massage therapists have been working for decades to get the approval, so this is a big step forward.

The next step will be for the association to develop guidelines for self-regulation.

They're working with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada to come up with educational standards for massage therapists, determine whether there should be different levels of competency, identify credentials and prior learning needed for membership and review the anticipated costs and expenses for members.

"From a Manitoba's perspective you're reassured you have a qualified registered massage therapist," said Malloy. "The larger picture is we will be able to advance this as a health care federally."

The Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba and the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada represent about 1,325 massage therapists in Manitoba.