NDP pledges to fight Manitoba election on health care
Wab Kinew speculates health-care premiums would be back on the table under PC government at campaign launch
Wab Kinew wants this year's Manitoba provincial election to focus on the damage he says Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative government has inflicted on health care, and how an NDP government would fix it.
Kinew and his Manitoba New Democrats launched their election campaign on Wednesday morning, flanked by his family, party candidates and dozens of supporters carrying signs featuring the party's new campaign slogan — "For All of Us" — at St. Vital Park in Winnipeg.
In making his pitch to voters ahead of the Sept. 10 election, Kinew positioned himself as the leader to stop the chaos he says the health-care system has endured during a consolidation that closed three of Winnipeg's six emergency rooms.
"A big part of what we want to do in this campaign is to form a government that can repair some of this damage, that can reopen emergency rooms and improve health care for people across the province," Kinew said.
"It's also about modernizing health care and ensuring that health care is there for Manitobans for generations to come."
NDP would reopen 2 ERs
The NDP leader said his party would reopen the emergency departments at Seven Oaks and Concordia hospitals, but said too much time has passed to reverse the ER closure at Victoria.
The emergency rooms at all three Winnipeg hospitals were converted to urgent care centres as part of the Pallister government's health care overhaul.
Wednesday's launch event came on the first possible day that the election campaign could officially start. Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has until Aug. 13 — which is 28 days from the Sept. 10 voting date — to drop the writ.
Pallister announced the Sept. 10 election date in June, ending months of speculation regarding an early election.
Kinew also renewed speculation on Wednesday that a re-elected PC government could revisit the idea of a health-care premium — an idea that the PC leader previously floated, but withdrew.
At the time, Pallister said he wouldn't institute the new tax at any point in his first mandate.
"Even as he was being forced to back off on the way out the door, he said, 'Not in the first term.'" Kinew said. "Now he's running for a second term, so you know what that means."
Later in the day, Pallister said Manitobans flatly rejected higher premiums when his party asked in 2017, and so does he.
"If you want higher taxes, you've got the NDP for that," he said.
The NDP leader said Manitobans are optimistic about the future of their province, but do not see the party currently in power as embodying that vision.
"When they look at the government that's running things down on Broadway, they wonder what the heck is going on," Kinew said.
"Nobody in 2016 voted to close emergency rooms. Nobody in 2016 voted to pick fights with other levels of government, and nobody in 2016 voted to hand MPI over to insurance brokers," he said.
"So this campaign for us is going to be a campaign for all of us, and it's a campaign for us to take back government."
Platform release coming
Although the election period has yet to officially begin, the three leading parties have periodically made campaign-style announcements.
To that end, Kinew pledged to release a "comprehensive and fully costed" election platform on Thursday.
Without revealing much of his plan, Kinew said he would reach a balanced budget within a similar timeline to that promised by Brian Pallister, who pledged to balance the budget by 2024.
"I think Manitobans are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see the NDP platform this time around, with a heavy focus on affordability and ensuring that families can get by and have a little bit extra money at the end of the month."
The party is expecting to have its full slate of 57 candidates nominated by this weekend.