IT took Premier Greg Selinger 47 seconds Wednesday to explain how a re-elected NDP government would hire and pay for 200 more doctors to hang their shingles in Manitoba.

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This article was published 14/9/2011 (3686 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT took Premier Greg Selinger 47 seconds Wednesday to explain how a re-elected NDP government would hire and pay for 200 more doctors to hang their shingles in Manitoba.

He then took more than 17 minutes to blast Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen and his math on the Tory plan for frontline health care.

Selinger and McFadyen have traded shots against one another for months, but it intensified Wednesday with the combative Selinger, Health Minister Theresa Oswald standing quietly at his side, attacking the Tories for a second day on health care, a bread-and-butter issue for the NDP and one that makes up more than 40 per cent of all government spending.

Probe Research pollster and political scientist Chris Adams said Selinger's tack might offer insight into what the strategists in the NDP backrooms are plotting for this campaign.

"My thinking (is) it's a preplanned, totally aggressive move, or is it Selinger, who is running short of sleep and is sick of seeing McFadyen on the other podium, spewing off?" he offered.

Selinger's words and demeanour suggest the former.

"I'm not going to stand here and let the Opposition continually makes promises in which they do not have proper financing," Selinger said at a campaign event at Health Sciences Centre.

"It's a fairy-tale plan. It's entirely fictional. Paying for half a doctor, paying for half a nurse just isn't good enough here in Manitoba. If they're only paying for half a nurse and half a doctor, they're either incompetent or they're dishonest with Manitobans."

It didn't take long for the Tories and McFadyen to respond, saying the NDP have wrongly put all 2,165 new health-care hires promised by McFadyen into the first year, when, in fact, the plan calls for the increase to take place over six years.

McFadyen said Wednesday he and his party do not have to defend themselves against Selinger and the NDP's "sad bid smear."

"The tone has been negative for the last year," McFadyen said of the NDP re-election campaign. "What we know is that he's desperate, and that desperate people sometimes say dishonest things."

Selinger stuck to his guns.

He accused the Tories of adjusting their plan to six years only after the NDP challenged them.

"That's a fudge that doesn't do the job, either," he said, adding it also won't address the 1,000 nurses the NDP say are due to retire over the next four years.

"I'm frustrated by the fact that they're making promises that do not have any credibility," Selinger added. "They can eliminate all the regional health authorities in Manitoba and they would not have enough money to pay for the promises they've made."

The NDP say the annual cost of hiring 200 more doctors and 50 more physician assistants will be $77.3 million. On Tuesday, the New Democrats said they would spend $74 million to hire 2,000 more nurses.

The Tories said the NDP's doctor-recruitment plan was first announced almost a year ago with no progress being made until midway through the election campaign.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca