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Canada: Manitoba eyes health-care help in Ottawa's coming budget

A look at federal child-care deals signed with jurisdictions across Canada

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Brenda Spearman, with her husband Wayne, has been waiting for an MRI since September. She suffers from chronic neck and back pain and needs the procedure to determine whether she can have neurosurgery. © Travis Golby/CBC Brenda Spearman, with her husband Wayne, has been waiting for an MRI since September. She suffers from chronic neck and back pain and needs the procedure to determine whether she can have neurosurgery.

Brenda Spearman suffers from chronic back pain. She struggles to walk, can't sit for longer than 30 minutes and requires the use of multiple medications to dull the sensations emanating from her neck and spine.

"Lying down is my my go-to move," says the 58-year-old resident of Winnipeg's Elmwood neighbourhood.

"I usually sleep 17 hours a day because that is the only way I can deal with the pain, and that is no quality of life."

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Spearman has endured five surgeries over the past three decades. Her neurosurgeon, she said, doesn't believe there's anything else that can be done to ease her pain.

Her general practitioner ordered up an MRI just to be certain. That was last September and Spearman only recently received word she will have that diagnostic procedure — this coming June.

"You have to have these MRIs for proof that you need a neurosurgeon," she said, adding she would love to be put on a provincial waiting list for spinal surgery.

Spearman is among tens of thousands of Manitobans who find themselves waiting for diagnostic procedures or surgeries.


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The province has created a task force in an effort to reduce the backlog for these procedures, which number more than 150,000, according to Doctors Manitoba.

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Federal pledge for help

The federal government has pledged $2 billion to the provinces to help reduce these backlogs, which grew larger during the pandemic.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said she hopes to see even more money for provincial health care when the federal government unveils its budget on Thursday.

"Every single premier is on board with calling on the federal government for more money in the way of Canada health transfers," Stefanson said Wednesday at the Manitoba legislative building.

All eyes are on Justin Trudeau's Liberals to see whether they will follow through on this commitment today, along with other health-related pledges, including promises made to Jagmeet Singh's New Democrats as part of a deal to prop up the Liberal minority until 2025.

Those pledges include dental care for middle and low-income families and more affordable pharmacare, both of which are expected to cost billions.

The Liberals have also made ambitious promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the Canadian military more robust, especially in light of the renewed challenge to the west posed by Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Here at home, Brenda Spearman simply wants some relief from her chronic pain.

"This is not how I wanted to live my life. This is not how I pictured myself," she said. "It's not how I pictured life."

The federal budget will be tabled Thursday at 3 p.m. CT.

Promising more fiscal restraint, Freeland tables a lower-spending budget focused on housing .
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