Manitoba elects First Nations premier following promises for more healthcare workers

Edana Robitaille
Published: October 12, 2023

Manitoba made history last week when the province elected Canada’s first First Nations premier.

Wab Kinew, leader of Manitoba's NDP, was elected on October 3 and will replace Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson. He is a former rapper, author, journalist and was the first director of Indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. He was elected as leader of the Manitoba NDP in 2017.

Despite the historic significance of his election as a First Nations premier, Kinew is widely believed to have won the election due to highly specific promises to improve the provincial healthcare system.

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To follow through on these promises, Manitoba will likely need more newcomers to fill vacant positions.

For example, Kinew has promised to hire 300 nurses and 400 physicians over four years and establish a task force to lead a recruitment campaign.

He has also promised to hire 200 paramedics by the end of his first term, speed up the accreditation process for internationally educated health professionals and restore health coverage for international post-secondary students.

Manitoba recruiting from abroad

The number of healthcare professionals that Kinew has promised to hire aligns with a report released last summer by Doctors Manitoba. The report says that, in addition to hiring from overseas, the province should also consider healthcare professionals from the United States.

Manitoba is currently leading a recruitment effort for nurses from the Philippines. The province says it will assist nurses living in the Philippines in navigating the immigration process and provide paid licensing and bridging education where necessary. It will also provide paid travel to Manitoba, accommodation allowance, and workplace orientation, mentorship, and one-to-one support.

In an announcement last July, the province said more than 300 internationally educated nurses from the Philippines had accepted offers of employment to work at various sites throughout Manitoba.

Immigrate to Manitoba

Manitoba has historically been a leader in Canadian immigration strategy. In 1998, the province launched the first Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in Canada.

The PNP is an economic immigration program managed by each Canadian province and territory (except Nunavut and Quebec, which has a separate agreement with the federal government).

The program allows provincial governments to select candidates for immigration who will best serve to fill gaps in the provincial labour force and strengthen the local economy.

In its first year, the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) welcomed 418 new immigrants. In 2023, Manitoba has an allocation of 9,500 nominations.

The program was considered so successful from its early days that other provinces adopted PNPs and it is now the most prominent option for economic immigration to Canada. The Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025 shows that by the end of 2025, 117,500 immigrants will be admitted per year through the PNP.

Throughout 2023, Manitoba has been increasing the number of PNP draws that select candidates in specific in-demand occupations such as healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, hospitality and more.

The province has also introduced a Strategic Recruitment Initiative for employers in Manitoba who are facing a shortage of skilled workers. It was through this initiative that Manitoba had its largest PNP draw of the year on September 28, when 1,072 candidates were issued Letters of Advice to Apply.

The Initiative works similarly to the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). If an employer can demonstrate an urgent need for skilled workers that cannot be filled by the local workforce, they may be eligible to hire candidates from the Manitoba Skilled Workers Overseas stream of the MPNP.

Indigenous population in Canada

Statistics Canada data from Census 2021 shows that there are 1.8 million indigenous peoples in Canada, which accounts for 5% of the overall population.

Over 55% of them live in western Canada. Kinew's election is an important milestone in representation for First Nations people in Canada.

Further, the census found that there are 90,990 Indigenous people in Winnipeg, representing the highest number of indigenous people in any city in the country. There are 63 First Nations in Manitoba, including 6 of the 20 largest bands in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement congratulating Kinew on his historic win and spoke to him the following day about improving healthcare and housing and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Canada has recently begun taking steps toward reconciliation with indigenous people throughout the country for racially motivated abuse they have endured since the country was first colonized by European settlers.

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