HUDSON, Que. — If it were to become part of a coalition government, the federal NDP would push for the emergency room at the Concordia Hospital to be reopened.
"We know that people in Winnipeg really desperately need access to 24-hour emergency care," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in an interview on Wednesday, in between campaign stops in Quebec.
"We are committed to reopening the emergency room."
While health care is under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government can influence decisions because it gives the provinces hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer payments.
"Health-care delivery is certainly provincial, but health-care investments come federally," Singh said. "There's a lot of leverage we have with our transfers, to make sure Canadians can get the best care that they can," he said.
The closing of the Concordia ER has been a huge issue in the Elmwood-Transcona riding, which is held by New Democrat Daniel Blaikie. Blaikie won the seat in 2015 by just 61 votes over Tory Lawrence Toet, who is running again. The NDP hopes voters will punish the federal Tories for the decision by provincial Tories in June to downgrade the ER into an urgent-care centre.
While the NDP hasn’t set the cost or given a timeline for the promise, it could be part of the negotiations for a coalition government, depending on the results of Monday's vote. The NDP has hinted in recent days that it would be willing to work with a minority government.
Singh linked the Concordia hospital proposal with his party’s pharmacare and dental care platforms, which he said would replace the "pretty large co-pay" in Manitoba’s current medication coverage. He said there are people who skip their prescriptions because of the cost.
While the party wants both policies in place next year, and has had them independently costed, Singh did not know the precise cost of reopening Concordia’s ER. In August, the provincial NDP had estimated that cost at $4 million.
"These investments in health care nationally would help out provinces, alleviate some of the pressure and help us to achieving our goal of reopening the Concordia emergency room," Singh said.
He argued the reduction in illness from people who start taking their proper dose of medication would help save hospital costs.
He made a similar case in September, when he announced an NDP government would open a new hospital in Brampton, Ont., a suburb of Toronto, on the second day of the election campaign.
Singh had intended to make the announcement about the Concordia ER in Winnipeg on Thanksgiving, but cancelled it after the province declared a state of emergency after the devastating snow storm.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was criticized on Monday for holding a news conference at a Winnipeg hotel that housed storm evacuees. They said they feared it would require rooms that they needed, and divert attention away from their plight, though the media did not stay in the city.