NEWS
05/17/2016 14:32 EDT | Updated 05/18/2017 01:12 EDT

Manitoba health-care services to be excluded from government-wide audit

WINNIPEG — A highly touted provincewide audit designed to cut $50 million in Manitoba government spending won't include front-line health-care services, but that doesn't mean they will be spared the knife.

The new Progressive Conservative government put out a tender Monday seeking someone to conduct the audit for no more than $750,000.

The tender, which outlines the government's expectations, said the delivery of health-care services will not be included.

At about $5.6 billion, health care makes up just over 40 per cent of government spending.

Premier Brian Pallister said health spending would be tackled in a separate review.

"A broader review of health-care expenditure is in order and we're going to be doing that," he said, adding he wants to hear from front-line workers. "I want that involvement big-time."

The Tories made the audit a centrepiece of the party's successful election campaign in which it swept to power for the first time since 1999.

Pallister declared on the first day of the campaign that "there are no sacred cows" when it comes to cutting government spending.

The tender said all spending other than health care should be assessed based on whether the costs are reasonable, give the most bang for the buck and achieve intended goals.

The audit is the first step to gain better control over the growth in government spending, the tender said.

"Core government spending has risen at a rate of 5.1 per cent annually over the past 10 years while core government revenues have grown at 3.8 per cent," the tender reads.

"Of particular concern is the degree to which actual spending growth exceeds planned growth."

The tender said the government wants recommendations on where to cut by October. The goal is to eliminate waste, duplication and to improve management controls.

Whoever conducts the audit should also leave departments with "the tools they need to objectively assess their program expenditures on an ongoing basis," the tender said.

NDP finance critic James Allum said the Progressive Conservatives won't be able to cut government spending without affecting front-line services.

The last time the Tories were in power, Allum said they cut front-line health care positions and appear to be on the same track.

"They fired 1,000 nurses the last time they were in government and we fully expect them to go down the same path again, if not this year then next year," he said.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, said there is very little waste to cut either in health care or in other public service departments.

"Our members are stretched as far as they possibly can be," Gawronsky said. "I really want to know where they're going and what they're doing."