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This article was published 1/9/2019 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Provincial NDP Leader Wab Kinew announced he would cancel $15.7 million in private home-care contracts, which the Pallister government introduced in 2017, and put the money into public home care.
The contracts with WeCare and ParaMed Home Health Care expire in 2020. Kinew said they cost much more and provide lower-quality service than the $1.7-million annual hospital home team home care program that the Conservatives cancelled two years ago.
"Mr. Pallister has moved much more aggressively toward privatization," Kinew said in the Fort Garry living room of a couple who receive home care. "The NDP has always tried to strengthen the public health care system. Pallister, going back to (former premier Gary) Filmon, they’ve tried to privatize. And we think that’s the wrong approach."
Kinew, flanked by Fort Garry candidate Mark Wasyliw, said public home care doesn't need a profit. The redirected funds would be used to boost wages and training of home care workers, and lead to less turnover.
The Conservatives criticized the NDP approach; a spokesperson for health minister Cameron Friesen said, "Wab Kinew and the NDP are more concerned about whether home care workers have union cards than ensuring people get the treatment they need when they need it."
"To be clear, the priority home program expanded on the previous hospital home team program," the statement continued. "By every measure, the program has been a success."
With just over a week until election day, the NDP has entered a pivotal stage of its campaign to form government.
A Probe Research poll commissioned by CTV and the Free Press showed the Conservatives led the NDP by an 11-point margin among decided and leaning voters provincewide (40 per cent to 29 per cent). But in Winnipeg, which has 32 of 57 constituencies, Kinew’s party trailed the PCs by a single percentage point.
"The old adage is that you only believe the polls on election day," Kinew told reporters. "I think a lot can change in this next week."
Sunday afternoon, the party got a boost when federal leader Jagmeet Singh made an appearance at the legislature. Singh participated in the city’s celebration of Nagar Kirtan, a Sikh custom. Singh, who is the first Sikh federal leader in Canada, addressed the crowd of thousands.
Singh, alongside Kinew and a number of NDP candidates, mingled with the crowd, which filled the entire legislative grounds. Candidates from other parties, including Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, were nearby.
"Here in Manitoba, we’ve seen the Conservatives cut health care and education," Singh told the crowd. "This election is about choosing someone on your side."
Also on Sunday, the Liberal party announced its "zero-barrier" plan for post-secondary education.
It includes boosting funding to the provincial access program by $5 million, which amounts to a 50 per cent increase over the current level.
Leader Dougald Lamont said his party would guarantee a tuition freeze relative to inflation, reform eligibility requirements for student aid and introduce measures to recruit more women into trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. The party didn’t provide cost estimates to achieve those ends.
Lamont was joined by Tanjit Nagra, the party’s candidate in Fort Richmond who is a two-time president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union. Nagra said during her time at UMSU, during the Pallister government’s term, tuition increased at a five per cent plus inflation.
The Liberal plan, Lamont said, would freeze tuition, making a degree more affordable and attainable. He said the current student aid program has too many barriers, forcing many would-be applicants to take loans.
"Basically, right now, all sorts of people who want a degree can’t get one," Lamont said. He also pointed to his party’s guaranteed minimum income proposal as a means of making post-secondary education more accessible.
The NDP said the party has promised a tuition freeze and the restoration of access bursaries.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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