Only two of four candidates running in the upcoming provincial election showed up at a forum to share their platforms and discuss local issues.
Incumbent Progressive Conservative Party candidate Cameron Friesen and Green Party candidate Mike Urichuk faced questions from residents at an All Candidates Forum on August 21 at P.W. Enns Centennial Concert Hall.
New Democratic Party candidate Robin Dalloo and Liberal Party candidate David Mintz were not present at the forum.
In his opening statement, Friesen said when he was first elected, his government inherited a mess from the previous NDP government. “I will always remember the first day as Finance Minister, sitting in the office with Premier Brian Pallister,” he said. “And he looks at me and kind of grins and says, ‘So, are you sure we wanted this job?’”
Friesen said their plan for Manitoba was straightforward: fix the finances, repair services and rebuild the economy. He said they have kept their plan by reducing the PST to 7 per cent, reducing emergency room wait times and reducing the provincial deficit by 60 per cent.
Urichuk’s opening statement included issues that he said he wants to address, like climate change, poverty, reconciliation, senior care and child care.
“[We will] make sure that whatever public services we offer meet the needs of our citizens and will last well into the future,” he said. “In order to do this we need to make sure that funding is consistent, predictable and long-lasting for institutions, workers and also for the clients, customers and patients that access these services.”
Most important for Urichuk was the idea of local voice in local decisions.
Both candidates were asked about investments in education (in regards to a new school in Morden) and how they would advocate for a new school.
Urichuk said Morden has the highest density of students per square foot in Manitoba. “I believe that there’s no disagreement that Morden needs a new school and needs it quickly,” he said. “Letter writing campaigns have happened, there have been marches and protests that have happened to make sure that education is funded properly. Ensuring that we have adequate sustainable funding for these larger public services is mandatory in order to make sure that our education meets the needs of the people.”
Urichuk said it will depend on who else gets elected, but said there is no debate that the school is needed.
Friesen said the PC Party committed to 20 new schools in Manitoba. “Morden is number one on that list,” he said. “I do want to make clear that when it comes to decision making, under the NDP for 17 years it was just Candyland for everyone and we got to a $1 billion deficit… We will build a new school in Morden.”
Residents also brought up their concerns about the healthcare system and overworked nurses.
Friesen said press releases from the NDP about nurses being fired are not true. He said the Manitoba Nurses Association declined to make it mandatory for nurses to report where they worked, and so many were assumed to be not working at all.
“There are 300 more nurses working now in Manitoba than there were last year,” he said. “There is a job for every nurse that wants to work in this province in a better healthcare system.”
Urichuk said nurses are being forced to work too many overtime shifts. “That’s the issue, that’s the problem,” he said. “That’s the working condition that people want to address by having local voices, but if we don’t address that concern we’ll have people coming into the profession and talking about how stressful it is, and then we’ll have fewer and fewer nurses throughout the years come into the profession, which will continue to hurt our healthcare system and not make it better.”
The provincial election takes place on September 10.