New Manitoba cash for Winnipeg this year helps pay for PC election pledge

The only new provincial money flowing to the City of Winnipeg this year allows the Progressive Conservative government to fulfil a campaign pledge to reduce ambulance fees.

WRHA will further subsidize ambulance rides in order to keep retail cost down to $425

Manitoba is providing Winnipeg with more funding to cover a drop in ambulance fees, while other funding for the city remains frozen. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The only new provincial money flowing to the City of Winnipeg this year allows the Progressive Conservative government to fulfil a campaign pledge to reduce ambulance fees.

On April 1, the cost of an ambulance trip in Winnipeg dropped to $425 as the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service complied with a provincial directive to reduce the cost for consumers.

Premier Brian Pallister promised to cut Manitoba's ambulance fees in half during the 2016 provincial election campaign. The drop to $425 represented a 19-per-cent cut.

"Our mandate was to make sure ambulance fees were affordable for Manitobans living right across the province," Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a statement in March. 

The city's budget, however, pegs the cost of an ambulance trip this year at $529, an increase of $7. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is making up the $104 spread, at least for passengers who don't have insurance to cover the retail cost of a ride.

"The province will provide support to the regions to address the difference between the previous rate and the reduced rate. The regions will then adjust funding for their service providers," a spokesperson for Goertzen said Wednesday.

It's unclear how much the province will spend on the city. The WRHA plans to tally up the costs for the additional ambulance funding four times a year, Goertzen's office said. 

The first-quarter ambulance funding has yet to be determined, said Winnipeg communications manager David Driedger.

Nonetheless, it constitutes the only additional provincial funds for the city in a year when Manitoba has effectively frozen its transfer to the city at the same sum as the transfer in 2016.​

A spokesperson for Goertzen said the additional ambulance funding "is separate from other provincial funding to the City of Winnipeg." 

That cash is being provided in what Indigenous and Muncipal Affairs Minister Eileen Clark calls "a single basket" of funding, with the city given the latitude to spend the money as it pleases.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has nonetheless said the 2017 Manitoba budget will cause the city pain because the funding freeze does not cover inflationary increases in the cost of delivering services and fixing infrastructure.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service makes approximately 46,000 ambulance trips a year, not including transfers between hospitals. The city could not say how many of those trips involve uninsured patients whose rides would require subsidies from the province.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.