I hope all of you have had the best start possible to the year 2022, despite the recent challenges Manitoba has been facing due to the ongoing pandemic. With the recent rise of COVID cases due to the omicron variant, it is more important than ever for everyone to do our part to protect our own health and the lives of everyone we come in contact with. As the recent local case numbers show, we in the Flin Flon/Snow Lake areas cannot hope that the virus will pass us by.
However, there is no excuse for this Progressive Conservative government to abandon their responsibility to keep Manitobans safe during this difficult time. Recently, Premier Heather Stefanson told Manitobans that “the government can’t protect everybody out there” and “it’s up to Manitobans to look after themselves.” This is not the type of leadership Manitobans want and need while we are facing the biggest increase in cases and hospitalizations that our province has ever seen. In all this, the North is once again at the back of the line when it comes to receiving the resources and support necessary to protect our residents from COVID.
For instance, contrary to Minister Reg Helwer’s assertion that N95 masks were shipped to all MLA offices in Manitoba, none were received in Flin Flon. Moreover, it would have been very difficult to widely distribute the masks just from one office as northern constituencies are spread over vast distances. This shows, once again, a complete lack of understanding of the needs of the North.
Another major failure of this PC government has been its ability to test people for COVID. Unlike Saskatchewan, the Manitoba PC government did not order a sufficient supply of rapid tests from the federal government, nor did they come up with a comprehensive way to distribute or report rapid tests. So, we have no way of accurately determining how many people in Manitoba are COVID-positive. This also makes it difficult to for people to access COVID supports and services such as insurance or healthcare. All this could have easily been avoided if the government had better prepared.
To top it all off, the PC government shut down the Leaf Rapids Health Centre in December with no indication when it might reopen. Local residents were forced to drive hours to Lynn Lake or Thompson to access basic healthcare. I wrote to the premier and minister of health as well as holding a press conference with NDP leader Wab Kinew calling for its reopening. Following the presser, the health region announced it would reopen Leaf Rapids Health Centre on Jan. 24. It is my hope that local residents don’t have to experience this closure again.
Even though the premier has said Manitobans are on their own, the NDP team and I will continue to stand up for all Manitobans and demand that this government provide the support and resources we need to get through this wave and to ensure all Manitobans have access to health care close to home.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office at 204-687-3246 or Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca.