By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government is considering more belt-tightening following this week’s budget, with measures that could include cutting medicare for international students and privatizing the province’s aircraft fleet.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said Tuesday the Tories are reviewing many services, including the extension of health insurance to international post-secondary students that the former NDP government instituted in 2012.
“Some provinces have that insurance, some provinces don’t, some provinces are rethinking those insurances,” Friesen told reporters.
“We’re in dialogue and we’ll have more to say shortly about that.”
The Canadian Federation of Students said requiring international students to get private insurance or pay out of pocket for health services would be harsh.
“International students might be paying around $450 to see a doctor, which is something that domestic students would find very, very exorbitant,” said Dele Ojewole, interim chair of the CFS’s Manitoba branch.
Ojewole said when he first came to Manitoba in 2010 — before the medicare coverage was extended — he couldn’t afford to see a doctor.
Friesen also said the government is taking the next step toward privatization of water bombers, air ambulances and other flight services run by the province.
The government sought expressions of interest from the private sector last year. The response was good, Friesen said Tuesday, so the government will now ask for detailed proposals and look for a private-sector partner that could provide better value.
Friesen’s words came one day after he delivered a budget that kept a tight lid on spending, introduced a new carbon tax and forecast a cut in the provincial deficit of more than $200 million to $521 million.
The Tories have promised to balance the budget by 2024, and shave one percentage point off the eight per cent provincial sales tax before the 2020 election.
The Manitoba Liberal Party said the government should keep its water bombers and other air services in public hands to ensure services are maintained.
“The number of extreme wildfires continues to increase each year, as does the devastation they cause to our communities,” Liberal legislature member Judy Klassen said in a written statement.