NDP banks on health-care dissatisfaction in Fort Whyte

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Subash Bahl, who has lived in Fort Whyte for decades, has often voted for a Tory in the southwest Winnipeg seat in which the governing party has a stronghold.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2022 (316 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Subash Bahl, who has lived in Fort Whyte for decades, has often voted for a Tory in the southwest Winnipeg seat in which the governing party has a stronghold.

But as the byelection approaches to fill the seat vacated by former premier Brian Pallister, Bahl said his support has shifted due to his deepening dissatisfaction with the state of health care.

At 69 years old, Bahl said his quality of life has deteriorated to the point of applying for medical assistance in dying because he can’t get timely treatment for severe back pain he has endured for more than a year, without relief or a diagnosis.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS NDP leader Wab Kinew with Trudy Schroeder, NDP Candidate in Fort Whyte during a press conference on on surgery backlogs in the province.

“I can’t live with this pain anymore,” Bahl said during a press conference hosted by New Democratic Party candidate Trudy Schroeder and leader Wab Kinew in Fort Whyte.

“At every step there have been delays: delays in getting MRI test, meeting with surgeons for consultation, getting surgery appointments, and even getting steroid injections to help manage the pain,” Bahl said. “I should not have to wait in agony for the health care my tax dollars support.”

The senior — who voted for Pallister but has supported New Democratic candidates in the past — attributed the delay in treatment to healthcare reform launched by the Tory government, which was elected in 2016.

“Usually I vote for a provincial government depending on their agenda,” Bahl said. “The PCs have only been concerned with cuts, cuts, cuts.

“They are not interested to fix the system, and the medical system is the most important system to fix, especially for seniors like me,” he said.

During her first press event on the campaign trail, Schroeder railed against the Tory government saying her neighbours did not vote for patients to be abandoned or for the healthcare system to be cut to the bone.

“Now, when we need health care, the system can’t deliver it, people are waiting months and years to get the life saving surgeries they need,” said Schroeder, the former executive director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. “Families are watching their sick loved ones getting transferred to far away places and even out of province for care.”

“Fort Whyte families may have voted for Brian Pallister in the past, but we know that we can do better in this area,” she said.

Frustration over the government’s pandemic response and the growing surgical backlog could see more Fort Whyte voters mark their ballot for the NDP in the byelection, University of Manitoba political studies professor Royce Koop said.

“It’s a place on which the Tories have real weakness,” Koop said, describing the NDP’s strategy to sway voters by slamming the Tory’s health-care record as hugely effective. “The question is whether it’s enough to bring them over the top.”

Koop said there is a good chance Fort Whyte will once again choose a Progressive Conservative representative despite significant dissatisfaction with Premier Heather Stefanson.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Subash Bahl, Fort Whyte resident, said his quality of life has deteriorated to the point of applying for medical assistance in dying because he can’t get timely treatment for severe back pain he has endured for more than a year, without relief or a diagnosis.

The byelection has not been called yet but must be held on or before March 29.

Polling conducted by Angus Reid earlier in January put the premier’s approval rating at the lowest in the country at 21 per cent. The same poll showed just one in five Manitobans approved of Stefanson’s handling of the pandemic.

And while the Tories could see a historically low number of votes as residents cast their ballots in protest or to express their disapproval, it’s unlikely to be enough for the seat change hands, Koop said.

The PCs have two strong candidates vying for the nomination: former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Obby Khan and former federal Conservative candidate Melanie Maher, he added. Meanwhile voters in Fort Whyte typically gravitate toward the Tory’s “bread and butter” policy areas, namely low taxes and affordability.

Having a candidate with name recognition like Obby Khan is a further blow to parties hoping to establish a foothold in the constituency that has voted conservative for two decades, Koop said.

“People feel good voting for him,” Koop said. “There will be a lot of goodwill towards him if he runs.”

The PCs will hold their nomination meeting on Feb. 10 and a candidate will be announced on Feb. 12. Meanwhile, the Manitoba Liberals have selected former Blue Bomber Willard Reaves to carry their banner.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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