Members of Manitoba's legislative assembly listen to Tuesday's throne speech. ((Lyndsay Duncombe/CBC))

Manitoba's NDP government has vowed to end the province's shortage of family doctors — a bold health-care promise in the final throne speech before a provincial election next year.

"By 2015, all Manitobans will be able to access a personal family physician at a time and place convenient to them," the throne speech, read Tuesday by Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee, said. "To achieve this, provincewide networks of care providers will be established."

Throne speech highlights:  

  • By 2015, the government promises to give every Manitoban access to a family doctor "at a time and a place convenient to them."
  • The province will buy or lease its first permanent air ambulance helicopter in the coming year.
  • A primary-care health bus will travel to remote communities to offer checkups, blood tests and other services.
  • A mental health court will be established to focus on people accused of crimes who have mental health issues.
  • A new law will be introduced to prevent criminals from getting social assistance, workers compensation and other provincial support payments.
  • A new law will be introduced to allow victims of sexual trafficking and sexual exploitation to seek compensation from offenders.
  • New targets will be set to reduce materials such as phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg and other waterways.
  • A law will be passed to ensure housing developments outside Winnipeg have adequate water and sewage services; inspections of septic systems will be increased.
  • New or expanded jails will be built with a regional focus in areas such as Dauphin.
  • Legislation will be introduced to cap administrative costs in the health-care system.

The government is already setting up a system where licensed practical nurses can deliver more medical services, Premier Greg Selinger told reporters, thus freeing up doctors to see more patients.

"Sometimes you'll see the physician, but then you'll spend your time with the dietitian or the nurse practitioner or the physiotherapist, depending on what your specific issues are," Selinger said.

It was another big health-care promise that helped sweep the NDP to power 11 years ago — a vow to end hallway medicine that, as the opposition frequently points out, was never completely fulfilled.

Selinger is making the new promise as he prepares for his first election campaign as premier. Party faithful chose him as leader last year to replace Gary Doer and, under the province's recent fixed election-date law, Selinger must go to the polls next Oct. 4.

"We are confident that we can provide Manitobans with a go-forward plan that will take the quality of life forward," Selinger said.

Benefits end for wanted criminals

The throne speech contained other health-care plans, including a promise to buy or lease the province's first permanent ambulance helicopter. The government will also set up a health-care bus that will travel to remote communities and offer checkups, blood tests and other services.

The throne speech also appears aimed at stemming some of the criticism the government has faced over Manitoba's perpetually high crime rate.

Earlier this year, the Progressive Conservatives mailed out pamphlets accusing the government of allowing people wanted on arrest warrants to continue to collect welfare.

The throne speech includes a promise of a new law to stop provincial benefits from flowing to anyone wanted on a warrant. "Social assistance, workers' comp, also victim's support services, things like that where they might be taking advantage," Selinger said.

The government is also promising to expand or build new jails to address overcrowding and to introduce a new law to allow victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking to seek compensation from offenders.

On the environmental front, the government is promising to reduce materials such as phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg and other waterways, increase inspections of septic systems near waterways and pass a law to ensure housing developments outside Winnipeg have adequate water and sewage services.

Bombers' role in stadium plans to grow

The throne speech makes brief mention of a thorn in the government's side that is not really under its control — a new football stadium for the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Construction has already started, but costs have jumped by tens of millions of dollars.

The federal and provincial governments, the City of Winnipeg and developer David Asper are at odds over who should pay the extra costs, and Selinger would not say whether the governments will proceed without Asper, who was set to contribute most of the money.

"Mr. Asper's role will be clarified when we do the final announcement. But what I think what you will see for sure is a stronger role for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers."

There is speculation the football club may slap a new charge on tickets to raise money for the project.