With a provincial election less than three weeks away, candidate nominations are finalized for the constituencies and Spruce Woods will see three names on the ballot. Rivers resident, Michelle Budiwski, the Liberal Party candidate; Milessa Ghidoni for the New Democratic Party; and Souris’ Grant Jackson, the Progressive Conservative Candidate.
What are the key issues on your platform?
“The three main issues I'm hearing about as I'm knocking on doors are: healthcare from all age groups; and affordability, second; and then the state of our infrastructure, third,” shares Grant Jackson.
So our party leader, as well as other cabinet ministers on the Progressive Conservative team, have unveiled a series of tax measures that we feel very strongly will help positively impact affordability for Manitobans. And just a couple of examples of those, the premier has announced that she will halve income taxes, if we are reelected, she will remove the payroll tax from businesses, which will impact how many businesses are growing here and how many jobs are available.
She also announced that seniors who are on a fixed income would be able to defer their property taxes until they sell their home, making it more affordable for them to stay in their homes longer.
And the last one, which I'm really excited about, is for younger folks who are trying to get into the housing market for the first time, she will remove the land transfer tax completely for first-time home buyers.
Housing prices are very high right now, and we want to try to get as many young people, and young families, into the housing market as possible.
We've got some more initiatives coming on healthcare and you'll see more next week. But I think we recognize that there have been some major challenges particularly with the human resources side staffing in our healthcare systems. We've got to find a way to get more people into the system.
Jackson says a recruitment trip for nurses to the Phillipines, offering 300 positions to Filipino nurses for them to came to Manitoba has resulted in 157 accepted offers. “Those folks are in the process of getting their credentials up to par, registering with the College of Nurses and getting over here from the Philippines. We need to do more recruitment trips like that.
Jackson adds Manitoba needs to be training more nurses, doctors, paramedics, and lab techs in Manitoba. “So, we boosted nursing seats,” he says, “400 additional new nursing seats at all the universities and colleges across the province, so they're not all being trained in Winnipeg. Some of these additional seats are in ACC, Brandon University and College of the North. That's important to be training them in western Manitoba so that they've got a higher chance of working in a hospital here and perhaps building a family here, and staying here.”
“Largest grad class ever at the University of Manitoba's Medical School going in this year,” he adds. “127 students. We need to continue to build on that and then have the proper incentives in place so that those folks, once they graduate, they're working here in our system.”
Jackson agrees that the roads in the Spruce Woods riding are in rough shape, more specifically he has heard complaints of Hwy #2 from Souris west to Deleau, Hwy #5 north of Glenboro, and Hwy #34 north of Holland.
He notes there has been positive feedback from those travelling on Hwy #10 from the U.S. border up to Clear Lake.
"But we do need to get more done in any construction year and we're working with the Heavy Construction Association in order to do just that,” he adds.
“One of the things that they approached us with as industry they said, ‘we're having a hard time with certainty of funding. We don't know until you introduce your budget every year in March or April how much money is going to be set aside for that construction year’. And then we asked them to go and start building only a month later when they've had only that little time to staff up, get the necessary materials together and get to work,” explains Jackson.
“So, we first made a three-year, and now a 5 year, funding guarantee that as long as our government is in power, there will be $500 million in the roads budget alone, so that's $2.5 billion over five years and that gives them stable funding in order to plan ahead for what they need to do.”
“And hopefully the goal is for them to build capacity so that they're able to build more roads in any given year.”
So, we're just in year one of those five years right now. So, I hope we're starting to see some progress getting more done, but we need to continue to work with our partners in the heavy construction industry and provide them the certainty they need in order to get more of our roads done.
"We've announced we're building new bridges on #34 N and as well as that #2 highway in between Wawanesa and Glenboro and we look forward to those bridges getting going and then the roads should follow, and I'll continue to be a strong advocate for that, should I be elected on October 3rd.”
There is a great lack of doctors across the province. What steps are your party taking to be proactive in your riding?
Jackson noted boosting the residency seat having the largest graduating class of 127 students in the history of the University of Manitoba. “It may need to be higher, but we need to work with the medical system to determine that and then the government has to respond and address if there's a shortage of seats. Then we need to find a way to make it happen so that we're training more of our doctors.”
"We want to have local people who are interested in medicine. I hear too often that our local, particularly rural, kids apply and can't get into Med school here, so they've got to go elsewhere. But they're much more likely to stay here and work once they're finished their training or come back to their home communities, than someone from somewhere else.”
“So we need to continue to monitor this system closely, make sure that you know the intakes are appropriate, and that we're responding to the needs of rural Manitobans and the rural medical system.”
Secondly, just before the writ was dropped, this government signed a new contract with Doctors Manitoba. Doctors Manitoba was actually very, very positive about this deal. And the doctors that I've talked to, some from this constituency of Spruce Woods, seemed to suggest to me that family medicine in particular, there were some significant gains in this deal in terms of incentives in this deal for family medicine. So that's important for recruitment.
I know right now we're really struggling to get young graduates from medical school to come into family medicine. They don't want to practice family medicine because of what they believe is the extra burdens of that career choice. And so, we need to address some of those burdens to make family medicine more attractive for young grads.”
“My understanding, from what I've heard on the ground and from Doctors Manitoba is that this new deal does that, now it's only a five week old deal and we need to give it a little time to work.”
Jackson says family medicine doctors in rural settings are asked to cover many areas of their practice: business-owners of their clinic, administrative duties, running clinic hours, hospital visits, emergency time as well as personal care home time, thus creating more burden to heading a practice than doctors in larger centres like Brandon or Winnipeg.
“So, if we can remove at least some of these administrative burdens that’s placed on these family-practice doctors who are doing so many of these things in our community, that’s important we need to get that work done. My understanding is that this new deal with Doctors Manitoba does address some of that.”
What are your thoughts on the carbon tax and how it affects are farming community in the southwest?
"I haven't met anybody at their doors yet who said to me, you know, seeing all these wildfires that are burning across Western Canada, I'm so glad I'm paying the carbon tax. It's really helping that situation with the wildfires.”
“I mean, our climate is changing. We have to address that and we have to address environmental impacts. I want a clean environment. I love our natural spaces in this province. I want to protect them. But I don't think the carbon tax is really doing anything for that. It's just making life more expensive, for our farmers and frankly for everyone. People are commenting to me about how expensive groceries are getting and all this kind of stuff, the carbon tax is impacting all of that.”
“Unfortunately, our previous premier took the carbon tax to court, federally, we lost that court case. Our new premier has committed that should we be reelected, she will at least go to bat and try to get the court to change their mind on the carbon tax being imposed on your hydro bill, because right now we're all paying carbon tax on our electricity, which is, in my opinion, totally ludicrous because 97% of the energy that we have in our homes here is already created environmentally, sustainably, and that's by hydro-electric generation.
“So, it's not emitting. It's very environmentally friendly. Manitobans have paid up front significantly for the cost of building these massive hydroelectric dams up north. We're still paying for them with the debt that Manitoba Hydro racked up by the previous government. So, the fact that we've got a renewable energy source, and then you're being charged the carbon tax on top of it, is wrong to me and our Progressive Conservative team. And so, we're going to go to bat, to court, to try and get that at least removed from your hydro bill.”
Carbon Tax background courtesy Manitoba Hydro website:
The federal carbon charge puts a price of $65 on each tonne of greenhouse gas created by burning fossil fuels. Since natural gas produces greenhouse gases, the federal government has set a carbon charge equal to 12.39 cents that is applied to each cubic metre of natural gas Manitoba Hydro sells. The federal carbon charge can be found on your energy bill in the natural gas section. GST is applied to the carbon charge. The federal carbon charge applies only to consumption of fossil fuels. While almost all of the electricity produced in Manitoba is virtually emission free, we do buy fossil fuels for our operations. This includes diesel fuel for our fleet vehicles, and natural gas for building heat or the infrequent use of the natural gas-fuelled Selkirk and Brandon generating stations. In a typical year, higher prices for these fuels coming from the carbon charge will result in a very small addition to our overall electricity costs.
Homelessness and drug abuse continues to rise in Westman. What are your thoughts on eradicating this growing population?
“We are all seeing things in downtown Brandon that we never saw there 15 years ago, or even seven years ago when I was going to university there. I mean it just wasn't a thing. I think that there's been a lot of social issues that were perhaps partially hidden in our communities and then the pandemic kind of exacerbated them and brought them all out more into the open.
“I'm talking about housing instability or people who are housing insecure as well as homeless and as well as dealing with some type of drug addiction. We need more services in Brandon for Brandon people, but we also need more services in Brandon because Brandon does become the hub.”
“There is a perception there that at least even if there isn't enough available in Brandon, at least there are some services available in Brandon for people who are experiencing addiction, whereas in many of our small towns there isn't any service available at all. And so Brandon does become the hub for this type of service for many, many of our Westman communities.”
“People experiencing addiction don't need to be locked up in a prison cell. They also don't need to be in our emergency room all of the time unless it's an actual overdose or emergency situation but there's nowhere else for them to go. So they end up in one or the other causing delays and taxing resources out of both systems when they're not getting the service that they need there either.”
“Our government recognized this a couple of years ago, we addressed and made an announcement we were committing a couple of million dollars to build a sobering center in Brandon, there's one in Thompson right now, and there's another one in Winnipeg. They've had very positive results in helping people, going through addictions, moving through their withdrawal process and then connecting them to supportive recovery services that they need.”
“We also announced that we're committing over $1,000,000 annually to offer operational funding for this facility. So, we're going to help out with the cost of the operations as well. It is healthcare. It is the provincial responsibility to do so, and we've stepped up on that front. The John Howard Society is going to run the housing component and I believe we're still looking for an operational partner to run these supportive withdrawal management programming. As you can appreciate it would take the specific expertise and skill sets to help these people get off their addictions. They're very, it's very challenging situation.”
“So we're working through the process of identifying community-based partners who are experts in their field in order to get this facility operational as fast as we can. I think that'll make a big difference not just on what you're seeing downtown and in our communities, but also it will relieve pressure on the Brandon Police Service so that they can be actually out there going after the drug dealers and the organized crime, the gangs; just get them off the streets and get these drugs out of our communities. That's where the police should be focused, and it will relieve pressure in our emergency rooms which you're seeing significant wait times which we've got to get down. This is part of the plan to get those wait times down in our emergency room.”
Rural crime is on the rise in the Westman Region. What are your thoughts on this?
“This government has tried to work collaboratively with the RCMP to keep their detachment numbers up. I think we've added over 40 new RCMP positions and funded them since we came to office in 2016. So we want to keep building on that positive working relationship.”
“But you know, the RCMP is in a challenge right now because we're funding these positions, but they're having a recruitment issue just like everything else. They're short in bodies and they've been through some challenging years over the past three to four years with the ‘defund the police movement’ etcetera, and so they've got a recruitment issue on their hands and it's significant and they're working to address that.”
“That's why you're seeing all of these vacant positions because they're struggling to convince people to take careers in policing right now.”
"We're doing what we can to help them from a funding perspective, to make sure that the resources are there and available for them, but they've got to continue to work on the recruitment side to get their graduating classes at Depot backup to par and continue expanding them.”
“Also just on specific targeted crime initiatives, we made a number of changes to the Petty Trespass Act and the Metal Theft Act, dealing with catalytic converter thefts and other precious metal thefts on farms and the Petty Trust Act.”
“Another initiative that folks may be familiar with this government funded specific teams, they're called CREST teams (Crime Reduction Enforcement Support Team). They are six-officer teams, one in the North, one in the West district that's us here, one in the East District and one based out of the D Division headquarters in Winnipeg.”
“These folks are not involved in your, what you would call day-to-day policing, traffic enforcement, that type of thing. They are dealing specifically with organized crime in our rural areas. They're on longer term investigations trying to get organized to get after these organized criminals, drug dealing etcetera in our communities.”
“Police officers in one of our local detachments, they've also got a lot on their plate; they're trying to do long term investigations, they're trying to be present in community, they're trying to do their regular police traffic stops etcetera, they're answering 911 calls, so these Crest teams, they take a lot of that day-to-day emergent call off of their plates and they're just focused on the long-term organized crime investigations and we've seen some pretty significant results.”
“Our PC team is proud to support our police. There's no question we've got to support them. They play critical roles in our community, and we'll continue to have a positive working relationship with them going forward.”
What makes you a good fit for your riding?
Please listen to Grant Jackson’s answer to this question, as well as to his final thoughts in the audio recording below.
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