Flin Flon MLA Report - Aug. 24, 2020

Manitoba government not doing their job in the north

Not surprisingly, the Pallister government continues to ignore Northern Manitoba. With the flooding that has taken place in the north, there have been disruptions that the government has refused to step in and deal with, starting with the railway shutdown to Pukatawagan that stopped grocery and other essential shipments from coming in for over a week. The high water is still around so the railways is only open for freight services, no passenger service. The rail line is of course the main mode of transportation for people seeking medical and other services when the winter road is closed.

We’ve had no commitment from the government that they will help out with the increased costs people have had to deal with because of the shutdown.

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The government and the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) failed the people of Leaf Rapids by deciding to shut down the health centre, rather than moving to bring in more staff. This closure, had it lasted the anticipated two weeks, could have been disastrous. There is only one ambulance in the area and the next nearest hospital is three hours away. If more than one person had needed urgent or emergency care at the same time — the second person would have been out of luck. 

I reached out to see if the nearby runway was suitable for a possible medevac transport — but nobody at the NRHA  seemed to know. This shows how rash and irresponsible this government and the NRHA was in their decision to close the health centre. They didn’t even make sure there was a backup option available.

Fortunately, the joint efforts of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and Ongomiizwin Health Services (OHS) were able to supply medical personnel to the NRHA. This joint effort led to the centre re-opening after just a week of closure. Thank you to MKO and OHS for stepping up where the government failed.

Although these groups did great work, it really should be the job of the government to sort out these issues. Are we going to be shutting down essential services every time there is an issue that the government doesn’t want to fix? Are we going to have to borrow the resources of First Nations because the government won’t step up and provide the services they are supposed to?

The provincial Department of Indigenous and Northern Relations has asked northern communities under their purview like Cross Lake and Norway House to keep track of all the increased costs related to COVID-19. Yet, they have not committed to covering these costs. This is frankly absurd. The government needs to do its job to support Manitobans. I have written a letter to Minister Eileen Clarke requesting the provincial governments commitment to covering these increase costs. 

Finally, the government’s back-to-school plan is lacking. This is true all around the province, but the plan fails to consider the unique situation of northern schools. We don’t know yet what “cohorts” really mean. There is no guidance on how these cohorts are supposed to work when kids are on buses, in after-school programs, or, in the case of the Frontier School Division, when there are kids coming from all over to stay in residence in Cranberry Portage.

The government doesn’t seem to be worried about sending tens of thousands of kids back to school. Yet, Mr. Pallister doesn’t think it’s time to have some oversight on his actions by calling the legislature back into session in September. 

Pease continue to reach out to my office to make us aware of your concerns at Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca or 1-204-687-3246.

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