The Lifeflight Air Ambulance program should be given an assurance of stability in a government announcement that they will maintain it as a publicly owned and operated service.
Earlier today, I asked in Question Period about the Lifeflight Air Ambulance. The approach taken by the Pallister Conservatives has created a lot of uncertainty in this critical program. This has affected the pilots, the doctors and the nurses, and most recently the aircraft maintenance engineers. I raised my concerns today. My questions and the government's responses are below.
Lifeflight Air Ambulance - Public Operation of Service
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): The government has had many, many months to make up its mind with respect to the RFP to have a non-government operator of the Lifeflight Air Ambulance service.
The result has been a lot of uncertainty and disruption. This has already caused uncertainty and problems with respect to pilots, doctors and nurses, resulting in extra costs.
When will the government restore stability to the Lifeflight Air Ambulance service by indicating that its status will remain as it has been for many years: a first-rate, excellent publicly operated Lifeflight Air Ambulance service?
Hon. Scott Fielding (Minister of Finance): There's a process that's set up, and we want to ensure good value for taxpayers' dollars are accomplished with this. We also want to make sure that good servicing is a part of it. That's all part–this process to make Manitoba a better place.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, the government has added to the instability of the Lifeflight Air Ambulance service. I understand that there is now an urgent need to address not only pilots, doctors and nurses providing service but also the aircraft maintenance engineers as well.
The government could quickly resolve these issues by announcing that it will keep the Lifeflight Air Ambulance services as a high-quality, public service of which all Manitobans can be proud and that will ensure individuals in need in northern Manitoba can get the service they need.
Will the government say so today?
Mr. Fielding: There is a process in place. We think it's important to get evidence. We–it's important to understand what costs are and, more importantly, the most important thing, for Manitobans, we want a comprehensive service, a service that's going to support Manitobans. That's what this process is about, and we're going to find out through that process, through the RFP.
It's laid out; it's comprehensive; and it's open and transparent, something that the NDP government knew nothing about when they were in government.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Keewatin Air Proposal
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, numerous compounding factors have contributed to the uncertainty. I understand that Keewatin Air, which may be one of the private sector applicants to take over the Lifeflight Air Ambulance service, had a recent plane crash on April 24th in Gillam.
Apparently the aircraft left Winnipeg with an insufficient quantity of fuel on-board the medevac flight, as the document I table indicates. This accident is a further reason for uncertainty for people to be part of the medevac team.
I ask the minister: Is Keewatin Air, or one of its associated companies within the Exchange Income Corporation, involved in any way with a proposal in response to the government's RFP?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): Oh, on the medevac issue, the member is attacking the human beings who were involved in the preparation exercises. These are civil servants he's attacking in his preamble. That investigation's under way, and there shouldn't be an advance finding by the member or anyone else of any wrongdoing or incompetence by civil servants who may or may not have been doing their job effectively or well. So I would urge the member not to presume wrongdoing while investigation of the incident is still under way, Madam Speaker.
The report of the investigation to date says the following: "Initial data gathered by the TSB indicates that the aircraft departed CYWG with an insufficient quantity of fuel on board for the intended flight." This report is to be found at this link: https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20190424-1
It also needs to be clarified that there is no indication at this point that civil servants are in any way involved in any aspect related to the Keewatin Air crash, and it is not clear why the Premier is suggesting I am attacking civil servants.