Health is a hot topic in Manitoba's coming election.

According to CBC's Vote Compass it's the second most important issue to voters following taxation. Among women voters, it's actually the most important issue.

Monday debate

James Beddome, Inez Vystrcil-Spence, Sharon Blady and Myrna Driedger join the CBC's Chris Glover for Monday's debate. (Donna Lee/CBC)

In the first of five debates on election issues this week, CBC Manitoba brought together candidates to talk about health care.

James Beddome (Green), Sharon Blady (NDP) and Inez Vystrcil-Spence (Liberal) joined the CBC's Chris Glover in a live chat between 6:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. and took readers' questions on everything from ambulance wait times to how the parties promise to keep more doctors in the province.

The Progressive Conservatives chose not to take part in the online chat, but health critic Myrna Driedger took part in a televised mini-debate during CBC Winnipeg News.

Missed the live chat? Read the questions and answers in our recap below:

All this week, CBC Manitoba is hosting a nightly debate on the election issues facing voters. Chris Glover will be joined by representatives of the political parties on CBC Television and online from 6:15 to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday. Join the live chat and engage with the parties and other voters by visiting

This debate is in addition to, and does not replace, the leaders' debate that will be broadcast live on CBC Television on April 12.

From persistent criticism of hallway medicine to chronic lengthy wait times in emergency rooms, health care has been a constant debate in the provincial legislature for the last two decades or more.

A 2015 report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) measured ER wait times across the country. Winnipeg hospitals had the longest wait times in Canada.

The national average was 3.1 hours before visitors saw a physician. Concordia Hospital had wait times up to 7 hours — the longest in the nation — with nearly 10 per cent of individuals having to wait longer.

On other measures, Winnipeg hospitals have done well. Wait times improved for coronary artery bypass grafting, CT scans, and cardiac nuclear imaging in 2015, according to a Wait Time Alliance report. Waits in Manitoba for cataract surgery and MRI lengthened.

Opposition parties have also raised Manitoba ambulance costs as an issue in the campaign. A CBC Marketplace survey showed that the province has the highest costs in the country.

The Conference Board of Canada graded Manitoba among the lowest ranking provinces in a 2015 report that assessed a number of health care indicators.

Manitoba did score well in several categories, including suicides and mortality due to heart, respiratory, and nervous system diseases. The board suggests the low grade is partly due to the poorer health of the province's large aboriginal population.

Manitoba report card

  • Self-reported health: A+
  • Mortality due to heart disease and stroke: B
  • Mortality due to respiratory diseases: B
  • Mortality due to nervous system diseases: B
  • Suicides: B
  • Self-reported mental health: B
  • Life expectancy: C
  • Mortality due to cancer: C
  • Mortality due to diabetes: D
  • Premature mortality: D
  • Infant mortality: D-

SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada

Federal government documents show that quality of life for First Nations people living in Manitoba is among the worst in the country.

Their life expectancy is shorter than other Manitobans by eight years, and two-thirds of the province's aboriginal children live in poverty.

To combat this, the province has been investing in numerous programs including Healthy Baby and the Northern Healthy Food Initiative.