Listening to those on the front lines of health care is key for Liberal candidate for Steinbach, Cyndy Friesen.
Her experience of spending nearly 100 days in five hospitals since February motivated her to seek election under the Liberal banner.
“I’ve witnessed how broken our health care system is,” she said. “I spent countless hours in emergency rooms, urgent care, waiting for tests, seeing specialists.”
While she declined to share the condition that led to her health care issues, Friesen said she wasn’t originally scheduled to have the surgery until 2025, a two-year wait.
Luckily for her, the cancellation meant she got in much sooner, and she’s still on the road to recovery from her June 8 surgery.
“It’s not ideal to be running a campaign, but given my experience, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing,” she said.
Friesen said there are solutions, but no one is listening.
“The common denominator in all the hospitals I spent time in was that we have solutions, short-term, long-term, and no one wants to listen,” she said. “They are frustrated, burned out. Many said they would like to go public but risk losing their jobs or being reprimanded.
The long-time community volunteer is well known to many in the constituency. She spent 12 years as a Hanover School Division administrator and has been on the Agape House board for eight years. She is also a winner of the Manitoba Honor 150 award.
Friesen is no stranger to election campaigns either. She ran for city council in 2018 and as a Liberal in Fort Rouge in the 2019 provincial election, facing NDP Leader Wab Kinew and then Green Party Leader James Bedome. She finished fourth with 13.1 percent of the vote, behind the two aforementioned candidates and the PC Party’s Edna Nabess.
As he recovers from surgery, Friesen estimates he will be about 70 percent recovered by Election Day and fully recovered by the end of the year.
“I can’t run the whole campaign,” she said. “I can’t knock on doors, but I’ll do what I can and keep in mind that I’m still recovering.
Part of this campaign is a reminder of the seriousness of the healthcare crisis.
“We have 6,000 to 10,000 people in Steinbach who don’t have a family doctor,” she said.
And while that’s often attributed to growth, Friesen said that’s not a good excuse.
“We’ve been growing for 20 years,” she said. “It didn’t just happen overnight.
And while 44 nurses from the Philippines were recently assigned to Southern Health, Friesen said not one was placed in Steinbach.
Friesen said that COVID is also no excuse for the fact that the health care problems were apparent long before.
She said the Liberal government would bring in bonuses of up to $10,000 as an incentive for home care and health workers who left after burnout or retirement to return.
“We also want to see nurses return to the public health care system versus the private one,” she said.
Proper utilization of nurses is also a priority for Friesen, who said they often face challenges of not being able to get guaranteed hours or jobs without extensive travel.
Continuous addiction treatment referrals across the province would also be a priority.
Addictions are a serious issue for Friesen, who said she would like to see a RAAM (Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine) clinic open in Steinbach.
With seven in Manitoba, Friesen questions why Steinbach, the province’s third-largest city, has none.
“I don’t understand why smaller communities like Portage, Selkirk, Thompson have these clinics and we don’t.”
Friesen said the Liberal Party is also committed to being fiscally responsible.
“The PCs and NDP are literally running on the same fiscal platform of deep tax cuts when we already have a huge deficit,” she said. “The Manitoba Liberals are the only party that has refused a big tax cut to be fiscally responsible.”
The Liberals would eliminate the property tax credit in some cases and maintain the credits as an affordability measure for lower-income Manitobans, small property owners, Manitobans with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes.
“At the end of the day, there’s only one taxpayer, so it’s still coming out of your pocket somewhere,” she said of the property tax credit.
Friesen said compensation payments from the federal government have increased by 19 percent to $3.5 billion this year alone and have doubled since the PC government took power in 2016. Still, she said the PC government has amassed a total deficit between 2016 and 2023 of 5.2 billion dollars. $10 billion to the provincial debt, which now stands at $31.1 billion.
The loss in revenue from the tax cuts is $1.8 billion a year, according to Friesen, who said it has a big impact on the $22 billion budget.
“I think people should be aware of what the financial situation really is,” she said. “Both parties are offering all these tax cuts, but they have to offset them somewhere. That’s what makes us different.”
The Liberal Party would also stop Sio Silica’s plan to mine silica sand through an aquifer in southeastern Manitoba.
“Regarding this project, as outlined in the Clean Environment Commission’s report, we stand with residents in believing that there is too much risk and that there is a real possibility that Manitoba’s largest and freshest underground aquifer could be at risk,” she said.
Friesen said attention needs to be paid to education, which requires adequate funding. She pointed to the Hanover School Division, which was forced to cut 25 teaching positions in its last budget due to lack of funding.
The Steinbach constituency has not been an ideal seat for provincial Liberal candidates so far, with LeAmber Kensley only receiving 4.8 per cent of the vote in 2019. The best they ever did was in the 1990 and 1995 elections, when Cornelius Goertzen came in second. PC candidate Albert Driedger with 16 percent and 15.1 percent of the vote.
That doesn’t faze Friesen.
“People want change,” she said. “So many people have been affected by the cuts over the past seven years.
Friesen said she is putting 100 percent of her energy into the role of MLA.
“Whatever I take on, I promise to do the best I can,” she said.
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