Manitoba

Winnipeg plans to stop funding ambulance service next year, will ask Manitoba to cover the cost

Winnipeg won't devote any of its own money to ambulance service next year as part of Mayor Brian Bowman's gambit to force the province to pay for what he describes as a health-care service.

Mayor says city should stop devoting tax dollars to what he calls a provincial health-care service

The city and province are heading into another ambulance funding squabble. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Winnipeg won't devote any of its own money to ambulance service next year as part of Mayor Brian Bowman's gambit to force the province to pay for what he describes as a provincial health-care service.

City council's executive policy committee voted Wednesday to ensure the 2019 city budget allocates no city revenue to emergency medical services.

The last city-provincial ambulance funding deal, which expired in 2016, saw the city and province share half the cost of emergency medical services that were not covered by ambulance fees.

The committee also voted on Wednesday to direct city staff to strike a new ambulance funding deal that will see the province cover all of the costs that are not covered by ambulance fees.

"Ambulance is something that, as you know, is a health service. It's provincial jurisdiction," Bowman said at city hall following the final EPC meeting planned for 2019.

"Winnipeg city taxpayers have been subsidizing that service despite the fact the City of Winnipeg is a contractor for the provision of those services for the province. Subsidizing areas of provincial jurisdiction is something that I don't think is appropriate."

Since the last ambulance funding agreement expired on April Fools' Day in 2016, the city has been unable to reach a new deal with the province and has operated under the old one, Bowman said.

By the end of 2018, the city expects to devote $11.4 million of its own revenue to pay for $68 million worth of ambulance services, according to the city budget.

Mayor Brian Bowman says Winnipeg property taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing ambulance service, given that health is a provincial responsibility. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The two levels of government have also squabbled over the provincial transfers under the old deal. That led finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) to propose unloading the service to the province.

That idea is no longer on the table. Bowman told EPC Wednesday morning the city is prepared to continue serving as a contractor, provided Manitoba covers the entire tab.

Bowman refused to say what Winnipeg will do if the province does not agree to the city's demand.

"That's a hypothetical question," Bowman said.

The provincial government has been asked to comment.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, which represents about 350 Winnipeg paramedics, urged the city and province to settle their differences.

"Winnipeggers shouldn't have to worry about their emergency medical services," MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said in a statement Wednesday.

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