P.E.I. Greens pledge $37 million for health workers' salaries, benefits if elected

CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island's Green Party is promising $37 million to hike health workers' salaries and benefits, in its second round of health-care pledges in the election campaign.

The Greens provided the figure Monday, saying that if they're elected on April 3, the funding would go to nurses, medical lab technologists, radiation technologists, porters and cleaning staff.

Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker also said his party would ensure that health-care workers take their vacations and would help finance upgrades to workers' certifications.

The opposition Greens and Liberals have been arguing that the Progressive Conservative government had four years to improve the health system, but they say poor planning and inaction led to shortages of health workers and primary care.

However, the Tories have also rolled out health announcements during the first seven days of the campaign.

They're promising to expand a system of primary care hubs known as "patient medical homes" by adding 16 of the facilities across the province by the end of next year, with 100 full-time positions to staff the homes.

Tory Leader Dennis King has also promised that, if re-elected, his government would support health workers by providing free tuition for licensed practical nurses and paramedics.

Liberal Leader Sharon Cameron said last week that the health-care issue is “critically important” to her campaign.

In a release on Monday, the party pledged to create a dedicated department of mental health and addictions, with its own budget. The party also said it would expand the number of mental health walk-in clinics and mobile mental health units.

The releases from the Liberals and the Tories didn’t provide costs for their pledges, but the parties’ full platforms have yet to be released.

Don Desserud, a political science professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, said the opposition parties — who are trailing the Tories in early polls – need to attempt to raise the issue of health care as a key issue in the campaign.

“The question the Liberals and Greens and the NDP will ask voters to consider during the campaign is whether we’re better off in health care than we were four years ago,’" he said during an interview Monday.

"However, the Tories can respond, 'It’s taking time, but we have things under control now, and we can actually start building these medical homes and get more doctors and get a medical school going.'"

Desserud said the Progressive Conservatives are helped by the fact that Ottawa recently committed an additional $996 million over the next decade for the province's health system.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.

– By Michael Tutton in Halifax.

The Canadian Press