Manitoba premier again asking feds for help with refugees ‘The sooner the better’

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Manitoba premier Brian Pallister is again calling on the federal government to help his province deal with an influx of asylum-seekers, saying they need help immediately.

Pallister has been publicly asking for help for weeks — even as people are expected to continue to walk across the border from the United States into his province. More than 200 have arrived so far.

READ MORE: Pallister announces $180,000 in supports, emergency housing for asylum seekers

“We haven’t had a response favourable to that request but we are hopeful,” he told Vassy Kapelos in an interview on The West Block.

“It’s about two-and-a-half times the levels we’ve ever experienced before, and that makes it really tough on our front-line people and our resources are stretched to the maximum now.”

He warns that conditions are likely to become more dangerous for refugees as spring arrives. “We’re lucky that no one has died and we have a flood situation now too — potentially a very high-risk situation for people in the area, let alone those who would choose to walk across a field to come to Canada.”

Manitoba needs help now, he said. “A week ago would have been good, but the sooner the better.”

Left out of health care agreements

Manitoba also remains the only province that hasn’t signed a bilateral health agreement with the federal government.

Last fall, the federal government said that it would limit health transfer increases to three per cent a year — half of what was set out in the last long-term agreement with the provinces.

To convince provinces to sign, the federal government offered them individually extra money for specific programs, such as funding to combat the opioid crisis in B.C. and Alberta, for example.

But Pallister said his province needs a “partnership” with Ottawa that provides long-term funding for health care. “It’s not a sustainable proposal,” he said.

READ MORE: Ottawa’s offer on health funding for provinces falls short: study

“Our population is aging. Technology is developing. Health care needs are going to grow and we need to be ready. Health care is the number-one concern for Canadians and so we’re very concerned that this short-term approach, kind of a bit of a divide-and-conquer, is not the way that we want to deal with health care as an issue.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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