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This article was published 7/5/2019 (1149 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Pallister government came under attack Tuesday for spending an "eye-popping" amount on consultants in the three years since taking office.
According to a list compiled by the Opposition NDP, the government and its Crown corporations have ordered more than $23-million worth of studies by private consultants — up from $16 million when the Free Press first drew attention to the issue in November.
The latest contracts include a $3-million Manitoba Hydro marketing and customer service unit review, $750,000 for the province's K-12 educational review, $287,000 for a KPMG look at the use of public/private partnerships in the construction of Manitoba schools, and $700,000 for health-care consolidation and streamlining. It also includes an estimated $1 million for a yet-to-be-awarded contract for the review of CancerCare Manitoba.
Premier Brian Pallister defended the use of consultants, saying they've helped his Tory government vastly reduce the provincial deficit by helping to find efficiencies and eliminate waste and duplication.
"That takes work, and that work involves asking smart people for their views," he said.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the $23 million would have been better spent on health care and education. While some use of consultants is justified, the Progressive Conservatives have gone overboard, he said.
"It's an eye-popping figure," Kinew said. "It's just too much."
In grilling the premier on the issue in the legislature, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns) said the government has not been listening to Manitobans who are opposed to its austerity agenda.
"To put (the $23 million) in perspective, that amount could keep Seven Oaks (General Hospital's) ER running for three years," Fontaine said. "It could keep Concordia (Hospital's) ER running for three years."
Concordia's emergency room had been scheduled to shut down in late June, although the timing of the closure is now in doubt while that decision and others are being examined by consultant Dr. David Peachey at a cost of $100,000. The Seven Oaks emergency room is slated for closure in September.
Last fall, the Free Press tabulated close to 20 studies and reviews commissioned by the provincial government. It was not an exhaustive list — all governments engage outside experts on numerous issues — but included some of the more high-profile efforts by the Tories to enlist help to shape policy and/or drive costs down.
Since then, by the NDP's count, an additional $7 million worth of studies have been requested by government and Crown corporations.