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LARRY KUSCH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, surrounded by nurses at a park across from St. Boniface Hospital, announced he would pass legislation to ban mandatory overtime for nurses.</p>

LARRY KUSCH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, surrounded by nurses at a park across from St. Boniface Hospital, announced he would pass legislation to ban mandatory overtime for nurses.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said forcing nurses to work overtime has become a management technique under the Pallister government, and he promised that an elected NDP government would put an end to it.

Surrounded by more than a dozen nurses at a park across from St. Boniface Hospital on Wednesday, Kinew said he would introduce legislation banning mandatory nursing overtime — a first in Canada.

On the campaign trail

Crown corporation managers targeted – again

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister confirmed Wednesday that one of his party’s campaign promises – reducing senior management ranks by 15 per cent across summary government organizations – would include more staff cuts at Crown corporations.

Crown corporation managers targeted – again

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister confirmed Wednesday that one of his party’s campaign promises – reducing senior management ranks by 15 per cent across summary government organizations – would include more staff cuts at Crown corporations.

During their first term in office, the Tories asked Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Public Insurance and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation to trim their management workforces by 15 per cent. The Crown corporations exceeded expectations, cutting 130 jobs, or roughly 23 per cent of managers.

The PCs estimate the government would save $31 million from a new round of management cuts.

In a mandate letter sent to Manitoba Hydro this spring, Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer said she expected the corporation to "carefully examine overall staffing efficiencies.”

A Hydro spokesman told the Free Press on May 1 that “further staff reductions would significantly increase the risk of public and employee safety, of system reliability, and as well as our ability to provide reasonable levels of service to our customers.”

 

Education property taxes, Day 2

A day after the Progressive Conservatives announced they would phase out the education property tax, the Green party weighed in on the issue.

Party Leader James Beddome said the Greens would make the province's property tax system fairer by eliminating the education property tax and fund schools from corporate and personal income taxes. He said this would provide more equitable funding to schools and remove the unfair burden on property owners.

“Manitoba is currently the only province in Canada where school boards have the power to tax locally to meet divisional budgets, with local education taxes making up approximately one-third of the operating budget for public schooling,” said Beddome. “The end result is an inequitable system in which some taxpayers pay too much, some school divisions are under-funded, and students are short-changed.”

Beddome said that funding education from personal and corporate tax revenues based on a progressive income tax system would be a fairer and more appropriate way to provide funding to school divisions. Under the current system, inequities are unavoidable because of the different revenue capacities of school divisions, which in turn affects what each division can afford to spend, he said.

 

 

Advance voting slower than in 2016

Manitobans are turning out in the tens of thousands at advance polls this election, but the numbers are down slightly from 2016.

Elections Manitoba reported that 88,300 people had voted at advance polling stations with four hours to go on Wednesday. Advance voting ends today.

In 2016, a total of 110,332 Manitobans voted in advance in an election that saw the NDP lose power to the Progressive Conservatives.

The pace of advance voting this year suggests a turnout of around 100,000.

Election day is Sept. 10.

Kinew said where mandatory overtime used to be limited to exceptional circumstances, it's now being done routinely to fill gaps in staffing.

"It shouldn't be that way. It's not good for the nurses and it's not good for the patients," he said.

Kinew said because of current staffing shortages, the NDP could not institute the change overnight. But he vowed it would be done within the normal four-year governing term.

He said a government he leads would recruit nurses who have left the public health system and increase the number of training seats at Manitoba colleges.

While no Canadian province has banned mandatory overtime for nurses, a number of U.S. states have such legislation. Kinew said the NDP would review these laws and adopt best practices.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, applauded the election promise.

"At one time I can remember mandating (overtime) as being in very rare circumstances. It was not used very often and it was only in dire circumstances. And we're now seeing mandating used as a staffing tool to shore up baseline staffing," she said.

"Mandating is not sustainable," she added. "You cannot run a health care system on overtime."

Asked about the NDP promise Wednesday, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said there was mandatory overtime for 17 years under the previous government. He said the fact New Democrats are raising the issue now "shows a kind of desperate need to come up with something that will endear them to somebody."

Pallister also said mandatory overtime is a "subject of negotiation" between the nurses union and the provincial government. He said negotiations are "underway."

The MNU disputed that in a statement later in the day. "The government is not bargaining with MNU. They have refused to come to the bargaining table, and we have not received notice to suggest otherwise."

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Liberals said they agree that nurses should not be working mandatory overtime shifts.

"Nurses are being pushed to the point of burnout and it puts patients at risk," party leader Dougald Lamont said in a statement.

"However, we also know that the NDP took nurses for granted, leaving them without contracts for years at a time," he said. "We have committed to working with nurses and doctors to rebuild our health system."

— with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography