Rapid Recap: More Health Spending in Manitoba’s Pre-Election Budget
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Today, Manitoba Finance Minister Cliff Cullen released the Progressive Conservative government’s last budget before this fall’s provincial election. Forming the foundation for Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson’s re-election pitch, the budget includes personal income tax cuts and increased overall spending, including a significant lift for the Ministry of Health. Government forecasts a $363 million deficit, down $15 million from the current 2022-23 forecast.
Budget 2023 focuses on historic help for Manitobans, with more benefits to help Manitobans make ends meet; safer streets, by tackling the root causes of crime with funds to help the homeless; healing health care, with the largest-ever increase to health; stronger communities; and investments in trade routes, infrastructure and business development.
Budget 2023 allocates $7.9 billion for health, an increase of about 9.2% over last year. Included in this is an increase of $120 million for the pharmacare program, for a total of $443 million. This funding will expand eligibility for the advanced glucose and insulin pump program. Also included is $130 million for the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force which will create more capacity in the province and implement out-of-province care options. The government is also providing multi-year capital investments in both rural and urban hospitals, as well as other health infrastructure throughout the province.
A full breakdown of the health commitments in Manitoba Budget 2023 can be found below.
Health Care Commitments
Health care is one of the central focuses of the budget this year. Clear health care priorities of the Manitoba government include improving timeliness in the system, training, retaining and recruiting health care professionals, expanding diabetes coverage, supporting seniors and investing in capital projects and infrastructure.
Budget 2023 investments include:
- $668 million more to heal health care for Manitobans.
- $130 million to reduce the diagnostic and surgical backlog.
- Continuing to invest $200 million into the Health Human Resource Action Plan.
- A $120 million infusion to the Manitoba Pharmacare Program, including extending coverage for insulin pumps for eligible adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
- $1.2 billion in multi-year capital investments in rural hospitals and other health infrastructure, in addition to renovations in Winnipeg to St. Boniface Hospital, Grace Hospital, CancerCare Manitoba and Health Sciences Centre. Specifics of these capital investments include:
- $795 million for new hospitals in Portage la Prairie and Neepawa.
- $123 million to enhance health services in Brandon, including an addition and renovations at the Brandon regional Health Centre and the expansion and renovation of the Western Manitoba Cancer Centre.
- $106 million for the expansion and redevelopment of several sites including Virden, Souris, Killarney, Shoal Lake, Arborg and Beausejour.
- $115 million for projects in northern Manitoba.
- Renovations to the adult emergency department, emergency psychiatry and additional areas of Health Sciences Centre.
- The redevelopment of the emergency department at St. Boniface General hospital, which is currently underway.
- Renovations at CancerCare Manitoba to expand capacity and strengthen services.
- Joining the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Foundation’s Operation Excellence, a $100 million redevelopment of the HSC campus increasing capacity for services.
- Funding is also being provided over five years to continue capital investment in the following:
- $350 million for upgrades and the replacement of building infrastructure and medical equipment such as diagnostic equipment, roof replacements and heating/cooling and electrical services.
- $280 million for upgrades and the installation of fire protection systems in personal care homes.
- $277 million for upgrades and the development of information and communications technology.
- Creating a new hearing aid program for seniors.
- An additional $15.9 million to advance initiatives under the seniors’ strategy.
- $55 million to implement recommendations from the Stevenson’s Report on Long-Term Care.
- Ongoing funding for RAAM clinics, including a new clinic in Winnipeg, which will be Indigenous led through a partnership with the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre.
Additional Details from the Pre-Election Budget
With public opinion polls showing the PCs trailing behind the NDP by modest margins, this budget sets out the Stefanson Government’s case for re-election. This budget speaks to fiscally conservative themes like tax relief and affordability, while at the same time expanding funding for vital programs. All this is achieved through additional deficit spending, though in a nod to fiscal hawks, this deficit was slightly lower than previously projected.
New tax relief measures addressed in this budget include changes to reduce personal income taxes, continuing to phase out school taxes and continuing to reduce the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Levy in 2024.
A new Violent Crime Strategy will receive $51.8 million over two years, which will provide support for police services as well as resources and funding for prosecution services to create additional capacity to address crime. An investment of more than $50 million in a comprehensive homelessness strategy will increase funding for overnight shelters, transitional housing and rent subsidies. The Mental Health Five-Year Roadmap receives $17.3 million with $9.4 million for 1,000 new addictions treatment spaces.
With an objective to achieve “stronger communities” the budget also features investments in child care, education, infrastructure, recreation, arts and culture, tourism and heritage projects. These include $268.5 million in capital expenditures to build, renovate and expand more schools, $76.1 million to reduce regulated parent fees for child care to $10 per day, $50 million for the Arts, Culture and Sport in Community Fund, and $10 million to support a new Parks Capital Plan.
Supporting the goal of transforming Manitoba into a global trade and transportation corridor, today’s budget also lays out investments in infrastructure and other initiatives. Some of these include $2.5 billion in trade-enabling highway infrastructure over the next five years, $147.6 million over two years in the Hudson Bay rail line to the Port of Churchill, an additional $50 million contribution to the venture capital fund to grow businesses in Manitoba, and $92.5 million in funding to support post-secondary education and the labour market.
Today’s budget kicks off the spring legislative session running through to June 1, 2023. It also officially begins the countdown to Election Day on October 3, 2023. It is expected the writ will drop on September 5, officially launching the campaign period. As of now, neither the PCs nor NDP have released a full platform.
The guiding principles of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives include universal access to high-quality and timely health care, access to resources that promote healthy living, compassionate care for those in need and meaningful support for those who are unable to support themselves.
The Manitoba NDP has been highly critical of private companies recruiting nurses and health care aides from the public sector and have pledged to invest in a strong public health system. Additionally, in response to nurse vacancy rates in the province, NDP Leader Wab Kinew has committed that building nursing capacity in Manitoba would be a priority for an NDP government if elected in the fall.
Ultimately, no matter which party takes the reins of government in October, there are still significant challenges to address in Manitoba’s health care system. Today’s budget offered the Progressive Conservative Party’s vision to tackle these problems over the next four years.