Three names will be on the ballot for Brandon West; Former Chief of Police, Wayne Balcaen (PC), Bill Marsh (GPM), and Quentin Robinson (NDP).
I recently asked Wayne Balcaen the following questions, in keeping with the election coverage thus far with Westman candidates.
What are the key issues on your platform?
I have several key issues and simply because I've worked within the public sector for the last 33 years and I know the concerns that I've heard as the former Chief of Police with Brandon Police Service and you know, a member of our community for the last 51 years. So, the issues that I'm hearing when I'm at the doors, and in no particular order, are Affordability (that is certainly a top of mind for people), Healthcare, as well as Education and Crime Control. Those are the four big ones that I'm hearing about.
There is a great lack of doctors across the province. What steps are your party taking to be proactive in your riding?
Certainly, everyone is looking for proper health care, and health care that is going to be available immediately here and not hours away down the road or months away in time. So, I know that from our government, there's a $400 million health human resources plan to attract the health care staff, to train new healthcare staff, and retain existing employees through better wages, technology, training and investments in these employees.
A historic $7.9 billion commitment in Budget 2023 to healthcare and I believe, and it's actually the largest funding in Manitoba history, $1.2 billion in healthcare infrastructure for new or improvements to facilities, including right here in Brandon, $136 million investment in the Brandon Regional Health Center, both the new construction and Cancer Care Manitoba. And increased training seat capacity for nurses and physicians, and this year is the largest ever class enrolled at the University of Manitoba this term.
So, you know, there's going to be ongoing funding help here. So, I'm certainly very confident in the healthcare area.
What are your thoughts on the carbon tax and how it affects are farming community in the southwest?
Although it’s rural, and affecting the farmers, Brandon's economy is based largely on a rural economy as well, and farming is certainly a huge area here, and the cost for farmers affects us all. So, you look at all of the Ag industry in Brandon and how we support a rural community here of about 180,000 people is what I've always predicted within our surrounding areas.
So, this carbon tax to me is hitting farmers and producers in so many different ways; on all of their supplies. Not only that, but also on their fuel, making sure that their deliverables are taxed throughout their whole production, including delivery. And that's why this government is certainly fighting Ottawa on the carbon tax and trying to make sure that it's eliminated.
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?
So, homelessness and drug abuse, as you put in the question, continues to rise in Westman, and you know I was witness to that over the last 33 years that I was in the police service and certainly the last six years as Chief of Police and making sure that that was at the forefront of all of the work that we are doing.
So, myself, I know being ingrained in this and listening to the concerns, that’s why I'm very supportive of the PC government and their work towards this. They created the first ever stand-alone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and that was created in 2021, and the reason that was created was to start combating some of the issues that we see with mental health, which leads to homelessness, which leads to addictions. All these different areas are kind of in that symbiotic relationship with each other when it comes to all of the issues that people face on that.
So, this government also opened a number of clinics across the province, including here in Brandon, to help thousands of those in need yearly. They’re investing large sums in helping individuals through these crises and trying to get them rehabilitated.
People that are addicted to these substances certainly need the help and well-being of the community So that's why our government has also invested in 1000 new publicly funded treatment spaces, and I think that's about $8.7 million. Three million was invested to increase access to child and youth mental health services across the province.
So, if we do some of the upstream work here with the youth, we're hopeful that this will have a large impact as we move forward. We know it will, scientifically, it shows that time invested in the forefront is certainly going to help downstream.
And you know, near and dear to my heart, Brandon will soon be home to a Sobering Assessment Center in conjunction with the John Howard Society. Additionally, this government provided about $2 million investment to the City of Brandon, and I know they're dedicated to much more including ongoing operating costs.
So, if we tackle some of these areas, we're certainly going to make sure that Brandon and the surrounding district, because a lot of people come here from those areas, we will certainly be set to help out.
Now, I also know that with the addictions, there’s different communities and different areas within the community that are helping them. And if we look at homelessness, there's also been support from the government to help out areas in Brandon like Samaritan House Ministries and The Blue Door and these areas with funding. To allow for more beds.
Last year, this government also provided additional funding for the overflow trailer so that when the numbers reached capacity at the Samaritan House Ministries, people could go to the overflow. As well, not only did they sponsor that, but they also sponsored the security that went with it.
So, you know that's certainly in the forefront of everybody's mind and making sure that that we can do what we can to help those that need a hand up.
Rural crime is on the rise in the Westman Region. What are your thoughts on this?
My history has been in the police services and I'm quite aware of the issues that happened in the crime world and so this year the PC government has provided additional $2.2 million to the Brandon Police Service and this funding will help go towards obviously combating crime. They have funded completely the build of the holding cells at the Brandon Police Service and with that combined with the Sobering Assessment Center that will continue to assist people who are arrested and held in custody until transferred to a provincial facility.
There's also funding agreements with multiple provincial wide agencies for special either investigations or to support victims of crimes. For example, there's a partnership with Tobin Center, the Manitoba Criminal Intelligence Center. We get funding from the province for guns and gang strategy. So, this is continued funding that will continue to increase our ground level officers here, as well as there's been lots of investment in restorative justice initiatives which again are upstream and allow people some off ramps from the criminal justice system.
So, if you look at our community mobilization, Community Mobilization Westman here in Brandon that was started many years ago and we certainly support 100% both financially and the human resource-wide, but it it's a number of service agencies that get together, meet twice weekly and try to determine individuals or families that are in the cutely elevated risk.
That way, once they're identified, we can bring services to them, go and knock on their door and bring a team of service providers to help navigate all of the areas that they're having difficulties with and with this assistance, it cuts all the red tape and allows that direct impact to the families. So the social return on investment studies that we undertook several years ago, we're getting about $4.52 return on every dollar invested. And they're so it's keeping people in the emergency room, just keeping people on the phone in the doctors. It's reuniting families with their children, all of those areas.
So, it has to be a holistic approach to crime, not just a 'heavy' on crime, although I believe that there's certainly those individuals that really need the hard-on-crime approach. But there's often many individuals that need guidance in other areas, to get them out of the Criminal Justice stream.
I don't think homelessness is one of the big areas that drive crime.That’s a spin-off of other social issues. But some of the areas that are certainly driving crime rates are addictions and the methamphetamine crisis that has happened over the last several years. But there's also other areas that drive crimes. Looking at property crime, a lot of it is affordability and again addictions where people are doing thefts or stealing from vehicles or stores, retail theft is on the rise. We’re just making sure that, you know, that those people are supported and given the help that they need so that we can start reducing this. And again, the violent crime has grown certainly because of addictions and dependency on some of these drugs.
What makes you a good fit for your riding?
Please listen to Wayne Balcaen's answer to this question, as well as his final thoughts below.