Manitoba

New Democrats try to ban health-care taxes

The NDP wants to make sure the idea of a health-care premium is never so much as floated again.

Progressive Conservative government mentioned the idea in 2017

No health tax should ever be enacted in Manitoba, the provincial NDP says. (CBC)

The NDP wants to make sure the idea of a health-care premium is never so much as floated again.

The Opposition party will introduce a bill in the Manitoba Legislature on Wednesday that would ban taxes on health care.

Last year, the Manitoba government publicly mulled a health-care premium, saying it would help maintain services after Ottawa scaled back the growth rate of health-care funding it sends to the provinces.

The province soundly rejected its own idea a month later when an online survey concluded taxpayers had no interest.

However, Premier Brian Pallister did not rule out introducing a health-care premium in a second term. 

"It is a major issue because it's something that we know the premier has talked about," NDP Leader Wab Kinew told media.

"We've seen that he's done this dramatic 180 on the carbon tax, with no warning whatsoever. Who's to say he wouldn't do the same thing on an issue like health-care premiums?"

Worry persists

Brianne Goertzen, provincial director of the Manitoba Health Coalition, said Manitobans haven't forgotten about the trial balloon Pallister floated, and they're still worried. 

"They want to know that their government will fight for universal health care," she said. 

NDP health critic Andrew Swan said other provinces have learned that health premiums are not popular.

The B.C. government is planning to eliminate its premium in 2020, while Alberta flirted with reinstating a premium in 2015 before Rachel Notley's government put the kibosh on it when it was elected.

"We think that other provinces are doing the right thing. We want to make sure that Manitoba never does the wrong thing," Swan said.

In 2016, the NDP also put forth a bill calling on a ban for health-care premiums. The motion never passed.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the Opposition is rehashing old talking points to divert attention from actual issues.

Pressed on a health premium, Friesen didn't explicitly reject it, but he said the government has been clear on the matter.

"It's not my plan," he said. "My mandate from the premier is clinical outcome improvements, better results for Manitobans — better care, sooner."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.