NDP government puts Manitoba health-care projects on hold

Manitoba’s new NDP government, which promised to improve health care during the fall provincial election, is putting off plans for personal care homes and other health-care projects as part of a broader review of provincial spending.

Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said Friday “a number” of health-care-related capital projects are under review because of the projected deficit the NDP government discovered after it took office.

“When we have a $1.6-billion deficit handed to us by the PCs, it’s a pretty big financial mess that our government has to clean up,” Asagwara told reporters at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Asagwara said the review will take time but did not state when it will conclude. The minister said the review will also consider what projects have staff available to work at new facilities.

The affected projects include a 92-bed personal care home planned for Lac Du Bonnet that was initially announced by the Greg Selinger NDP government in 2012 before it was cancelled by the Brian Pallister PC government in 2017 and then reannounced by Heather Stefanson’s PCs in July, before the 2023 election.

Stefanson’s government committed funding for the $65-million project, and a groundbreaking ceremony took place in September.

New NDP Premier Wab Kinew also promised to proceed with the project in August.

Loren Schinkel, reeve for the rural municipality of Lac du Bonnet, said seniors in his municipality and nine others in southeastern Manitoba don’t appreciate being used as political pawns.

“We have 65 people waiting for a bed right now in our area, and they’re paying for their hospital beds,” Schinkel said in a telephone interview.

“They deserve to be respected and to have and live out their golden years in a properly prepared, proper facility.”

The construction contract has already been awarded and a delay right now could cost $5 million, he said.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said two other personal care homes — in Winnipeg and Arborg — have also been through Treasury Board, while three others are in the planning phase.

“This is yet another cut from the NDP government that they tried to hide and let fly beneath the radar,” said PC seniors critic Derek Johnson, also speaking at the legislative building. “We can’t take any of their promises at face value.”

Asagwara did not say what other projects are under review.

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