Manitoba’s next provincial government faces difficult decisions on post-pandemic priorities, including an overstretched healthcare system, unprecedented labour shortages, and municipalities that are increasingly facing broader responsibilities without requisite increases in funding.
Our diverse, affordable, and growing municipalities are one of our province’s greatest advantages, and successful communities underpin a robust provincial economy.
Over the past decade, communities including Steinbach, Winkler, Niverville, and Winnipeg have led the way in sustained population and economic growth. There are, however, opportunities spread throughout our entire province. If we focus on the building blocks of a strong community, we can leverage this success to generate opportunities for growth all throughout Manitoba.
This is why it is so important that the next provincial government takes the following four steps to ensure the provision of services and systems that are critically important to the business community and all Manitobans, including healthcare, child care, and predictable funding for municipalities.
Manitoba has the lowest number of family physicians per capita in Canada. The physician shortage is even more acute in rural and Northern Manitoba, making it more difficult for Manitobans to find a family physician and access acute care services.
Findings from the annual Doctors Manitoba physician survey highlight a concerning trend that over the next three years, 51 per cent of physicians plan to retire, leave Manitoba, or reduce their clinical hours. If this occurs, it will exacerbate an already serious shortage.
Accessible healthcare is important to all Manitobans, including to the business community, and reliable, quality care is essential to rural and northern economies. Healthcare is an economic issue because without a strong healthcare system, we cannot support the attraction of new residents and businesses, we are unable to promote tourism with confidence, and we restrict Manitobans’ ability to age in place.
Therefore, we are asking the next provincial government to implement all five recommendations with supporting actions from the joint Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Doctors Manitoba October 2022 report titled Manitoba’s Physician Shortage: Physician Recruitment and Retention Recommendations from the Rural & Northern Health Summit.
Child care must be considered critical infrastructure in Manitoba. An affordable, accessible, and high-quality early learning child care framework is necessary to support workforce participation and economic growth.
The Government of Manitoba has committed to developing 23,000 new child care spaces across the province by 2026. If these spaces cannot be staffed by qualified Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), the physical infrastructure will not serve its purpose, and we cannot serve Manitoba’s economy nor its families.
According to the Manitoba Child Care Association, there is an estimated shortage of 1,000 ECEs in Manitoba. This shortage is making it difficult for parents to return to work after they’ve had a child.
It will be imperative that the next provincial government ensure that Manitoba has the necessary supply of trained ECEs to support the implementation of the Canada-Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care Agreement by expanding training options, improving access to ECE programs through added financial support, and ensuring that ECEs are well-compensated for the important work they do.
Manitoba communities are expressing serious concern over growing crime rates in their communities. The prairie provinces experience higher rates of rural crime compared to other areas of the country and several Manitoba municipalities are concerned about the lack of police presence throughout their communities. Policing and public safety is the fastest-growing cost for municipalities, and it now exceeds 20 per cent of municipal spending.
We are asking the next provincial government to ensure that Manitoba municipalities have the resources and predictable funding they need to create safe communities.
Regardless of where you live in the province, municipalities have a daily impact on your life. Local levels of government have increasingly been navigating a combination of downloaded responsibilities and underfunding, which has created significant challenges for municipalities across Manitoba.
The next provincial government must meet the challenges of the future by establishing a simplified, fair, and predictable funding model for municipalities. This will ensure that local governments can invest in the essential municipal services that Manitobans demand, including core infrastructure, economic development, and reliable broadband.
It will be imperative that Manitoba’s next provincial government focuses its attention and efforts on sufficiently growing the economy to generate the tax revenue they need to invest in the programs and systems that matter most to Manitobans, including healthcare, child care, and social services. If we fail to prioritize these challenges, we will be missing an incredibly important opportunity to grow Manitoba’s economy and to create a prosperous future for all Manitobans.