This summer, Manitoba’s healthcare system was dealt a blow when Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government announced sweeping public service cuts including the shuttering of emergency rooms and liquidation of hundreds of frontline staff positions. The changes stem from recommendations outlined in an external ‘value-for-money’ report drafted by KPMG, an accounting firm well-known for tax shelter fraud and its role in Ontario’s sell-off of Hydro One. The measures will shrink the civil service by 8 percent, close four of five of Winnipeg’s QuickCare Clinics, and scuttle a $4.2 million program designed to incentivize medical students to set-up practice in rural communities. There are also plans to transfer outpatient adult physiotherapy services to private practitioners, and shut down a widely successful Mature Women's Clinic which provided innovative menopause care to both both low- and high-risk patients.
Despite initially promising not to cut government spending, Pallister has displayed contempt for working Manitobans by rolling back and jeopardizing the frontline services they depend on. By 2020, seniors will represent nearly 18 percent of the province’s population. What impact will aging demographics have on the delivery of care? How will poorly resourced health infrastructure affect our most vulnerable citizens? Such questions must be addressed. Yet the government has refused to release KPMG’s healthcare review until the end of May, 2018.
Austerity abrogates the responsibility of elected officials to adequately represent their constituents, offloading pivotal decision making to the market, or unaccountable profit-seeking institutions.
“If you want to privatize something and destroy it,” said Noam Chomsky, “a standard method is first to defund it, so it doesn't work anymore, [eventually] people get upset and accept privatization.”
As Pallister swings the axe in the spirit of cost savings, many Manitobans are concerned about the breadth of change to some of their most cherished services. What’s at stake is nothing less than the foundation of a healthy and equitable society, one in which ‘efficiencies’ matter less than the imperative of providing higher quality care for all, without exceptions.
Harrison Samphir is a writer and policy analyst based in Ottawa. His work has appeared in CBC.ca, the Huffington Post, rabble.ca, Ricochet, Truthout, and the Winnipeg Free Press, among others. He has served as Canadian Dimension’s web editor since 2014, and holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Sussex.
This article appeared in the Autumn-Winter 2017 issue of Canadian Dimension (The ‘Sharing Economy’).