Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government promised to improve health care, tackle crime and set up new oversight for teachers in a pre-election throne speech Tuesday.
The annual speech, which outlines the government's priorities for the coming year, pledges 1,000 addiction treatment spaces and new infrastructure to upgrade or replace aging hospitals.
The province also plans to increase the involvement of the private sector in delivering diagnostic services and surgeries.
Premier Heather Stefanson said other provinces have been able to cut into diagnostic and surgical backlogs during the COVID-19 pandemic by using private providers within their jurisdictions.
"We've had to go out of province, and sometimes even out of the country to deliver those services," Stefanson said.
"And unfortunately that should have been able to be done here."
Any expansion of the use of private providers will continue to be within the single-payer medicare system, she added. She pointed to previous examples under the former NDP government, such as a contract with a surgical centre in Winnipeg to conduct magnetic resonance imaging.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government should not be focused on the private sector.
"We should be investing in public health care here in Manitoba."
The throne speech frequently mentions crime, as Winnipeg has seen a record number of homicides.
The government promised more cameras for downtown surveillance, more money to fight gangs and new efforts to combat child exploitation. The plan also calls for more conservation officers to crack down on illegal hunting.
Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said the crime messaging was an attempt to distract public attention from health-care troubles with a provincial election slated for next October.
"Their commitments to health care are … totally inadequate," Lamont said.
In education, the government plans to set up an online teacher registry that will allow the public to see if a teacher has been sanctioned for misconduct, similar to one in Ontario.
The government will also establish an independent body to govern teachers. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection welcomed the move as a first in Canada.
"It will create a place that parents can go and report concerns, where they don't have to go directly to the school," said Noni Classen, the centre's director of education.
The teachers' union said it is committed to student safety but wants to work out details such as the definition of misconduct and the protection of privacy rights.
The throne speech also touched on the future of energy rates, which is shaping up to be an election issue.
Manitobans currently pay among the lowest rates in North America for electricity, and Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro has sought substantial rate increases to deal with a debt load that has ballooned in the last 20 years due to cost overruns on some megaprojects.
The Public Utilities Board, an independent regulator, has granted smaller annual rate hikes than the utility has sought, and the NDP has promised to ensure rates are frozen. They have not explained how that might be done and have said details will come closer to the election.
Stefanson said her government will keep rates affordable while helping the utility be financially stable, but would not provide specifics.
"We will be coming out with the details in the weeks and months ahead with respect to that," she said.
The throne speech also promised new funding for non-profit groups that help people facing homelessness and the delivery of a long-promised income-support program for people with severe disabilities.
The throne speech kicks off a new session of the legislature, which will break for the holidays on Dec. 1.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.