On April 12, the Progressive Conservative government released their budget for this year. Budgets are about priorities, and budget 2022 demonstrates that the priorities of Premier Heather Stefanson’s government do not align with the priorities of Manitobans and especially not with the needs of Northerners in the Flin Flon constituency.
This budget’s healthcare spending increase is 1.6 per cent, which is far too small to meaningfully address the dire state of healthcare in our province. A 1.6 per cent increase is a de facto cut to hospitals, ERs and front-line workers. Communities like Gillam, Leaf Rapids, Lynn Lake and Snow Lake are plagued by severe staffing shortages and service gaps as is Flin Flon, as we well know. Northern Manitobans are also getting very close to being unable to have their babies anywhere in the north. Obstetrics were cut in Flin Flon and the services remaining in The Pas and Thompson are described by the health region as being in a “very fragile state.” This PC government also refused to settle contracts for tens of thousands of health care aides, froze funds for EMS and ambulances in rural and Northern Manitoba, and froze the doctor recruitment fund.
In this budget, the PCs cut funding to municipalities which provide critically needed community services and support, forcing them to cut programs and redirect resources. They also cut the budget for highway regions, froze the maintenance budget for the next three years. This is after they already underspent the highways budget by 20 per cent in 2021 (nearly $60 million). This is bad news for those of us who have to travel on Highways 10, 6, 60, 391, 394 and other northern highways.
Budget 2022 includes no plans to address the threat to jobs in Northern Manitoba. Under the PC government, Manitoba went from ranking second best for mining investments to 37th place. So far, the PCs have offered no assistance for Flin Flon and all the workers who will be losing their jobs when Hudbay’s 90-year-old mining operation will shut down in June. There was $11 million in the mining community reserve fund, but the government refused to spend any of it to help Flin Flon. Then the PC government announced an end to the fund altogether and replaced it with the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund, which in the last two years has approved a mere $3.5 million funding for mining exploration and development. Northern Manitoba has faced thousands of job losses already, and it looks like this trend will continue as long as the PCs are in power.
This isn’t the budget that Manitobans wanted. But my NDP colleagues and I are committed to fighting for more resources in the North and for better treatment for your family. That’s why we’ll oppose the budget and keep working to fix our healthcare system, infrastructure and employment sectors at every opportunity.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 204-687-3246 or Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca.