Pallister accuses Kinew of 'playing political football with cancer patients'

The Opposition NDP is stoking the fears of cancer patients by alleging their care is at risk, Brian Pallister argued on Tuesday.

NDP leader insists his fears are justified, as government launches audit of CancerCare

A sign is pictured outside, saying "CancerCare Manitoba - ActionCancerManitoba"
The NDP renewed its accusation Tuesday that CancerCare Manitoba may face funding cuts, after this Tory government already asked the organization to find $2.5 million in savings and scrapped a $300-million build, NDP leader Wab Kinew said. (CBC)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is accusing the Opposition NDP of stoking the fears of cancer patients by alleging their care is at risk.

Pallister ripped the NDP on Tuesday, one day after Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said a government audit of CancerCare Manitoba would likely lead to funding cuts.

Pallister said Kinew's tactics were similar to those used in the 2016 provincial election, when the NDP suggested a Tory government would force patients to buy their cancer care drugs out of pocket.

"They falsely spread the story that families facing cancer will have to pay for their own cancer drugs," said Pallister during question period. "Playing political football with cancer patients, Madame Speaker, the member should apologize to families affected by cancer."

NDP leader Wab Kinew, however, argued his worries are justified.

History of funding cuts 

The province previously ordered CancerCare to find $2.5 million in savings and scrapped a new $300-million facility to handle growing demands for the treatment centre. 

"The premier may not like it, but those are all facts," Kinew said. 

The Opposition party, which revealed the province's intention for an operation review on Monday, again asserted the Tory government does not have the best interest of cancer patients in mind if its review of CancerCare focuses on dollars and cents rather than patient care. 

The request for proposal states the chosen firm will review the "overall operational efficiency and fiscal performance" of CancerCare. 

The exercise seems pointless, Kinew argued, after the KPMG report already made recommendations concerning the organization last year.

"In their ask for this review, it's only focused on the money."

In a statement, the province said the KPMG report offered a broad analysis of the health-care system, while the new operational review is focused on evaluating CancerCare's performance with similar organizations nationwide.

Kinew said CancerCare is already the gold standard in terms of care. A Canadian Institute for Health Information report found all cancer patients in Manitoba received radiation treatment within four weeks, which only one other province could claim. 

Any reductions in service would be devastating, Kinew said.

"We know that this is crucial because right now CancerCare is the best in the country."


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at